Nowadays, we’re all used to the idea of galleries having a shop, a fact recognised by Banksy in the title of his film Exit Through the Gift Shop, a truth-bending commentary on the modern day relationship between art and commerce.

In the future will become as familiar with the idea of seeing a gallery in a shop?

Diesel certainly seem to think so – at least if their Shibuya store, which houses its very own gallery, is anything to go by. Their latest exhibition, billed in bright cinematic lights on the shop front, is a collection of source materials, props, interviews and behind the scenes material from the set of Spike Jonze’s latest film, I’m Here.

The range of fashion brands available in central Tokyo seems almost endless. Competition is fierce. Even a brand like Diesel could struggle to stand out in this saturated environment. But by turning part of their retail space into a gallery, they’ve helped make a visit to their store a very different experience, giving passing trade an extra incentive to pop in and the chance to take a break from the hard grind of shopping.

Besides enticing potential customers into the store where they’re more likely to open their wallet, the exhibition also does a good job of feeding into Diesel’s carefully cultivated image of anarchic style. Here, Spike Jonze and his latest work seems a fitting partner, with his surreal approach to film-making – very evident in the props on display – somehow feeling appropriate for Diesel’s slightly off-kilter approach to fashion.

What was less obvious at the exhibition was the integral involvement of another brand. Absolut Vodka actually funded the production of I’m Here, although there was little sign of this at the exhibition beyond a small logo on one of the signs. This is in keeping with the approach that they seem to have taken throughout this process, having handed creative direction completely over to Spike and only getting a mention in the credits in the same way that any other producer would.

The half an hour film is still available to watch online on its own – unbranded – website at http://http://www.imheremovie.com/

Be warned, ‘showings’ are only every two hours and and you’ll need to order a (free) ‘ticket’ in advance to watch the half hour film. As a fan of Spike Jonze’s other work, I’d say its definitely worth the wait (and so would many others judging by the IMDB reviews).

The work that Absolut and Diesel have done together with Spike Jonze is a great example of how brands and artists working together can create genuinely interesting stuff and push marketing way past the interruption of traditional advertising. Questions will continue to be asked about whether artists will be able to maintain their values whilst being funded by brands, a phenomenon that is only set to grow.

This campaign goes to show that, with a proper grounding in shared values, both creators and customers can stand to gain something positive from the process. Perhaps the only real question is if – in Absolut’s case – they can justify the ‘effectiveness’ of spending their money on ‘entertainment’ rather than ‘advertising’ given their low-key involvement in the process? Judging by the quality of the work they’ve produced here, let’s hope so!

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