In these types of partnerships, artists seem to more closely align with the sort of branding typically pursued by celebrity athletes, actors, and musicians: They are signed not only for limited-edition engagements with their aesthetics or craft, but also for their larger personas—their brand. An artist like Brantley embodies not just a fantastical and adventurous aesthetic, but fantasy and adventure itself; Arsham is both a sculptor of sleek monochromatic monuments and sleekness incarnate. Their branded selves become what the author, scholar, and economic analyst Naomi Klein called “transcendent meaning machines,” communicating both a visual style and a worldview that underpins it.
This shift in emphasis from the artist’s work to the artist’s identity and personal style might be a consequence of the directness that social media engenders.“Now more than ever, artists are setting the tone because of social media and various other ways they can directly engage with their audiences,” Silverman said of the partnerships artists choose to pursue. “They get to be who they are, tell the world what they believe in, and do what they want to do.”