1980 Chrysler Ad With Frank Sinatra and Lee Iacocca Inspires NYC Art Show

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Gerard Byrne’s seven-minute video “Why It’s Time for Imperial, Again” is brilliant, funny and remarkably prescient, writes Ken Johnson in the New York Times.

It could almost be a Beckett play, Johnson writes. In fact, the dialogue between two actors in the video comes from an interview between Lee Iacocca, then the chairman of Chrysler, and Frank Sinatra. It was published as an advertising supplement in the November 1980 issue of National Geographic magazine.

The video plays on a flat screen in an installation on New York's Lower East Side. It consists of  chatter between a salesman and a potential customer, played by a pair of notably wooden actors. As they stroll along a much-littered railroad track and have coffee in a downscale diner, the salesman describes the new Chrysler Imperial. His pitch is oddly stilted, as if he had memorized it from an advertising brochure.

“Frank,” he points out, “The only option on the Imperial is a power sliding roof. Every luxury is standard. We have more luxuries standard than any car in America.” Frank asks softball questions and offers responses like, “It looks rich, Lee.” 

Byrne, an Irish artist, made the video in 1997, and Johnson believes it remains relevant as a meditation on consumerism, urban decay, the energy crisis and the automobile industry. Its presentation  in a former Chinese deli by the curators Rose Lord and Mari Spirito of Protocinema, a nonprofit exhibiting enterprise, also invites timely thought about trade relations between the United States and China today.

For more information on the art house hosting the video, click here.

Want to buy a copy of the ad? It's cheap. Click here.

Read more:  New York Times
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