Lexus Joins the Art World

To tout the launch of its new sedan, the automaker hosted a four-city exhibition tour that combined photography, video, and architectural installations.

February 13, 2007, 12:00 AM EST

For its four-city mobile exhibition, Lexus had product specialists on hand to give guided tours of the car.

Photo: Dan Maddox

This winter, Lexus opted to promote its latest high-tech gem by replacing the car-dealership look and feel with the 460 Degrees gallery, a traveling exhibit of giant art installations that hit Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Chicago over five months. Aiming to attract an affluent and chic demographic—specifically a younger set that may be more in tune with, say, BMW, Mercedes, or Audi—Lexus aligned itself with cutting-edge contemporary artists to procure pieces for the “light and speed”-theme gallery.

“We are elevating Lexus in the direction of being more of an experiential brand,” said Lexus media manager Andrea Lim, who oversaw the planning and production of 460 Degrees. “Reaching our audience in a more intimate manner allowed for consumers to experience Lexus in a whole new way.” While in the past Lexus has dabbled in experiential and lifestyle marketing tours, this was the brand’s first foray into the art world.

The gallery visited each city for two weeks, taking over raw spaces in high-traffic areas. “Because we were going for short-term leases, it took anywhere from six months to three weeks beforehand to secure a venue,” said Lime Public Relations and Promotion partner Jim Anstey, who selected the gallery venues, built out and installed the exhibits, and handled PR. “Location, location, location—it was key to this event.” While the galleries featured several works of art, the focal point was artist Arne Quinze’s wooden wave, constructed from 3,300 pinewood planks and 26,600 nails. The structure was positioned differently in each city depending on the space (in Miami it was a rooftop installation), but it always hovered around the spotlighted LS 460. A photography series from Miranda Lichtenstein was also on-site, as was a video installation from Pascual Sisto that was the Barcelona-born artist’s homage to American car culture. New York curator Sebastien Agneessens rounded up the artists, who arrived two weeks before each city’s opening party to install their works.

In its various locations, 460 Degrees hosted launch parties that brought in celebrities—Ashton Kutcher and Jason Lee rubbed shoulders with Lim in L.A., Ludacris posed in the car in New York, and Donald Trump Jr. announced his wife was pregnant at the gallery—in addition to events hosted in conjunction with media partners such as Details, Wired, and Travel & Leisure. Views of the wooden wave from the street often lured in foot traffic (the gallery was open to the public by day) and, in Miami, television news crews. In addition to viewing the art installations, guests had the chance to sit in the LS 460, play with the car’s touch-panel screens, and learn about its ability to parallel-park itself (with a little help from the driver’s foot on the gas). One guest in New York was so overcome with the car’s high-tech capabilities that he offered to pay cash on the spot. (Not surprisingly, the offer was declined.) While test-drives weren’t available in L.A., New York, or Miami, they were requested so often that Lim added them to the Chicago event. Overall, the gallery reached several thousand consumers in each of the four cities.

Courtney Thompson

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