Vodka Visions: Absolut Commissions Artists to Transform Williamsburg

At first, the idea of brands underwriting artists to create large-scale works seems kind of wrong. After all, aren’t artists supposed to be totally independent, free to do their own weird things without the crass interference of money? But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. After all, artists have relied on patrons and benefactors for centuries. And instead of some stuffy duke or prissy countess doing the bankrolling, these days it’s cool companies like Absolut that produce cool products I enjoy, like vodka. And so my existential crisis about covering Absolut Vodka’s artistic takeover of one block of North Sixth Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn–arguably the hippest block on the planet at the moment–lasted all of 7 seconds before I decided that the project–they’re calling it the "Open Canvas Initiative"– was cool, and I’m glad it happened. After all, how else can you get some of the most interesting artists working today to get together and create a wide-scale art free-for-all that anybody can enjoy? Best of all, they were left to do their own things, without a corporate logo in sight. 

And so on June 22, "Transformation Day," Absolut took over N. 6th between Wythe and Kent and let a bunch of artists go nuts, and funky things happened.

Things like Dev Harlan‘s "Parmenides 1" (main image), a large, multi-surfaced, semi-spherical sculpture with loops and lines and shades of black, pink, and blue that suggest to me the idea of infinity–and kind of make me want a martini, because I associate the purity of vodka with outer space. 

All We Need

Things like an 80-foot-long crocheted yarn fence by artist OLEK called "Forgotten Barrier" (above), which espouses the very reasonable message: "All we need is love and money." Seriously, love’s great, but so is a nice apartment to keep that love warm and dry. 


And things like Rostarr‘s "Magnus Solo (The Big Surge)," which recall the calligraphy-based art of Retna, and seems to contain a message that gets more profound the more you try to interpret it. Best to stand back a bit. 

There were other great artists involved too, watch the video above and peruse the microsite they created to see them all. If you’re really into it, get your art-loving self to San Francisco this August to catch the next installment.

In the meantime, you can make some mixological art of your own with the following recipe for the Absolut Open Canvas Cocktail, which sounds pretty good, despite its pinkness. It’s vodka, lemon, Pom, and club soda. It looks refreshing, delicious, and downright inspiring, and I wish I had one in front of me right now. I’m convinced I could accomplish great things. 

Open Canvas Cocktail

[Absolut Open Canvas Official Site; More by Victor Ozols; Follow me on Twitter]