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How to Combine Classic Art With New Technology at Events

LG Electronics' Art of the Pixel gala doubled as an award dinner for a student art competition and a product launch for the brand's ultra high-definition OLED televisions.

By Anna Sekula November 11, 2014, 7:30 AM EST

Photo: Todd France Photography

LG Art of the Pixel Gala
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In an ambitious move, LG Electronics U.S.A. created its first competition for student artists to introduce its new ultra high-definition 4K OLED (organic light-emitting diode) televisions. The new media contest, dubbed the Art of the Pixel, challenged students from nine art schools to create digital work using the new televisions for a chance to win a $50,000 grant. And on September 17, the consumer electronics company hosted the Art of the Pixel gala at Gotham Hall to both announce the winners and officially unveil the 77- and 65-inch TVs.

“The Art of the Pixel was developed out of the desire to build a deeper relationship with our target consumer and knowing that we had something really special from a product perspective with the 4K and OLED TVs,” said Dave VanderWaal, head of marketing for LG Electronics U.S.A. “We wanted to figure out what this particular consumer segment—influencers with a social platform and penchant for early adoption—were passionate about. In doing this research, we found that our target consumer, the 'innovation tier,' had an emotional connection to art. ... As we started getting into the art world, we focused on those that were interested in advancing art—that's when we started to reach out to the nation's top art schools to support their art programs with a grant and the Art of the Pixel was born.”

With nearly 300 entries, a judging panel that included new media artist Mark Tribe, and a public vote online, LG's competition was narrowed down to nine finalists whose work was shown at the gala. Key for the event's producers—a team comprising LG's internal agency, HS AD, and Barkley Kalpak Agency—was finding a way to promote the TVs as a new canvas for creating art as well as integrate the brand's new technology into the venue's neoclassical architecture.

“We wanted to use the gala to create a moment for all of the attendees (consumers, key trade partners, press, celebrities, the students, and their schools) who share a common interest in the advancement of art. Keeping that in mind, we also wanted to showcase our products while leveraging the amazing environment that Gotham Hall presented to us,” VanderWaal said. “We, of course, wanted a commercial message to be achieved, but made sure that the delivery was organic and natural—not forced.”

Mixing a museum atmosphere with the products, organizers showcased the artwork on the high-definition TVs and fabricated classical style pedestals for the products to sit atop. Each art piece was accompanied by a description, which, rather than being presented on a placard, was displayed on an LG G3 smartphone.

For a more immersive feeling, LG employed video projections on the walls, using the images to match the progression of the evening. During the reception, that meant keeping the imagery simple—logos for the brand and the event—so guests would focus on the artwork. Visuals shifted to the competition's submissions as guests sat for dinner; changed to high-resolution images of famous paintings, like Sandro Botticelli's “The Birth of Venus” and Vincent van Gogh's “The Starry Night,” and quotes from students during the entrée; before switching to the work by the Art of the Pixel's finalists for the winner announcement. For the latter, the producers applied more complex video mapping techniques to make it look as though the walls were being chiseled and to add a little more drama to the proceedings.

After Pacific Northwest College of Art student John Summerson was named the Art of the Pixel's winner—his school also received a $50,000 grant to support arts education—British singer-songwriter Sam Smith took the stage to sing some of his hits.

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