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Ash to Art

Ash to Art | Glasgow School of Art | JWT
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Industry: Public interest & Non-profit
Media:Design & Branding
Market:United Kingdom
Style: Minimalism

In May 2014, The Glasgow School of Art was devastated by fire. It was one of the UK’s most iconic buildings and home to its most successful art school. The building itself was a work of art. Tragically, the fire destroyed the Mackintosh Library, one of the world’s most famous Art Nouveau interiors and the masterpiece of visionary Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The Glasgow School of Art is an internationally renowned institution and has produced more winners of the Turner Prize (the UK’s most prestigious contemporary art prize) than any other school. After the fire, the School received limited financial help from the UK government and needed a transformational idea to raise funds and publicity for the rebuild.

Ash to Art. Our idea harnessed the solidarity of the artistic community by sending ash from the fire to 25 world-famous artists, and asking them to create a new piece of art, which would then be auctioned at Christie’s, the world’s biggest auction house, to rebuild the School. Each piece of ash was given powerful meaning and context by a label identifying it as ‘Bookcase. Charles Rennie Mackintosh. C. 1909’. These powerful reminders of a much-loved art school touched the hearts of even the most charity-fatigued artists. The use of that classic art school material – charcoal – to reincarnate the School, struck a chord with artists. One of the artists said, “it was like receiving the ashes of a dear friend” and another said, “it released the smell of the fire”. In supplying them with simply a raw material, we gave artists an open brief allowing free reign for their self-expression.

Ash was the unifying element in a body of artwork that saw it used in radically different ways.One artist crushed it to create a pigment. Another artist entombed it in Perspex. Another immortalised it by casting it in bronze. One artist had it lacquered by Japanese craftsmen. Another interred it in a funery urn. Another mummified it with fire-damaged student union posters and book bindings. Some simply drew with it.We then amplified the artwork, driving a global audience of high net-worth individuals towards an exhibition and finally an auction. We targeted highly-engaged collectors by harnessing the reach of galleries on social media. As a result, Christie’s received bids from 28 countries worldwide, raising £706,438.Press and OOH pushed art-lovers to a website that showcased the artwork. The project was commemorated with an animated film drawn entirely in ash, and a book that incorporated the ash into its pages.

When a destructive fire wiped out the past, present and potentially the future of one of the UK’s most important centers of creativity, the global artistic community felt a flood of emotions. Shock. Grief. Sadness. We wanted to harness the emotion of this artistic community to raise money and publicity to rebuild the School.

In May 2014, The Glasgow School of Art was devastated by fire. It was one of the UK’s most iconic buildings, and home to its most successful art school. By taking worthless ash and turning it into 25 priceless works of art, we transformed its fortunes. Ash was the integral element of the project, central to every expression of the idea. It formed the emotive mailer that inspired artists to get involved. It was the common starting point that produced a diverse body of artwork, encompassing every discipline from painting to printmaking, from ceramics to sculpture. It became posters and press ads and rekindled interest in an art school in need of funds and publicity.

3 years after the fire, The Glasgow School of Art became big news again as our auction captured the attention of art lovers from around the world. The artists produced an inventive, diverse body of work that immortalised the old building, elevating the humble by-product of the fire into a legacy of 25 iconic pieces of art.The 3 day exhibition brought over 10,000 people into Christie’s and received mass coverage and positive reviews from key influencers in the artistic community, reaching 42% of the UK population. The auction was live streamed and drew global attention, attracting bids from 28 countries worldwide. The auction resulted in total sales of £706,438, and with further pieces still to be sold, our total is expected to be well in excess of £1 million helping us generate an ROI of over 1:700,000.
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Other credit:Creatives: Giles Hepworth, Bill Hartley
Head of Art: Dave Dye
Creative Producer: Kate Duncan
Entrant Company: J. WALTER THOMPSON, London, United Kingdom
Head of Art, Dave Dye, J. Walter Thompson London
Creative Producer, Kate Duncan, J. Walter Thompson London
Creative, Giles Hepworth, J. Walter Thompson London
Creative, Bill Hartley, J. Walter Thompson London
Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2017
Shortlist Media
Charities & Non-profit
Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2017
Shortlist PR
Integrated Campaign led by PR
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