A car commercial currently airing on UK television for the Hyundai i20 appears to steal the work of at least half a dozen street artists in just 30 seconds. Here’s the ad:
I guess this just goes to show you what advertising executives mean by “inspiration”.
How many stolen pieces can you spot? Spoilers after the jump.
Let’s start at the top…
1. The Monkey stencil and 2. The boom box using a drain pipe for one of the speakers.
Thanks to Martyn Reed and Nolionsinengland for figuring out that these two pieces were likely based off of work by Dotdotdot and Banksy respectively. In the ad’s “making of” video, we see that the pieces were executed by JPS and it is implied that they are JPS’ concepts, but that seems to be a lie (UPDATE June of 2019: This seems a particularly egregious lie on the part of Hyundai. In May of 2019, JPS claimed to Vandalog for the first time that the boom box is not his work, but was added to the ad later without his knowledge. So, looks like he may have been taken advantage of in this project too.). See JPS’ response to all this in the comments on this post.
3. Now it gets easier for me… The cat balancing on a chain barrier.
4. Mirror guy. Okay, this next one I had to search for a bit, but once I saw the answer, the bite was obvious…
5. The Cheerleader. This is where it gets good…
It’s Sandrine Estrade Boulet again! This time, it seems Hyundai was “inspired” by her Pom Pom Girl.
6. The teeth. Perhaps the easiest one for longtime Vandalog readers…
Sweet Toof of course, with his many, many pink gums and pearly whites on garages and security shutters. Really, the teeth are like Sweet Toof’s logo. What happened here is like if Hyundai put a big Nike swoosh on the garage and then said they’d never heard of the brand.
7. The saluting bollards were another tough one, until I got curious… Would Hyundai steal from the same artist three times before the commercial was even halfway through?
The answer, of course, was yes. Looking through Sandrine Estrade Boulet’s site, I came across Army Street. Hyundai simply took a piece of political street art and made the slightest change, turning it into a family-friendly to sell cars. Nice work.
8. The 50-foot woman. Okay, while Tristan Eaton did paint a mural referencing Attack of the 50 Foot Woman in Berlin last year, I’m gonna give this one to Hyundai. Instead of just stealing from street artists, they parodied of an iconic movie poster.
9. The Tentacles are iconic.
These are by Filthy Luker. No, really. Instead of just stealing the concept, Hyundai hired Filthy Luker to create one of his tentacle installations, and the artist even posted the installation on his Facebook page.
10. The leaves on the crosswalk seemed really really familiar to me, but it took me a moment to remember why.
This one is a pretty clear copy of Patrik Prosko‘s Genius Loci, except that Hyundai completely reversed the meaning of the piece from “Damn, look at how civilization and cars and roads conquer everything, even at the expense of beautiful nature,” to “Damn, look at how this fantastic machine conquers everything, even nature.” Thanks to Isaac Cordal for this tip.
11. The eyeglasses in the snow, perhaps the worst theft of them all.
What’s really shameful about this one is that p183 died in 2013, so Hyundai could not have possibly gotten his permission for the piece. I suppose we can hope that Hyundai reached out to his family, but I doubt it.
12. The bather, which Hyundai tries to pass off as an original creation by Marco Sobreviela.
Now, I’ll concede that some of these pieces are more blatant rip offs than others, but in context, it looks like Hyundai was trying to rip off specific pieces of street art.
So what do the artists (those directly involved in the ad and those who weren’t) think of all this? We reached out to as many as we could.
When Filthy Luker was approached about participating in the ad, he saw it as a chance to make a buck doing something he likes to do anyway, so he says, “I just went over, did my thing, took the money, ate the tapas and ran.” He did, however, get some insight while he was there:
I asked them if all the original street artists weren’t coming how were they were going to recreate all these pieces? They said they weren’t going to be copying them as such but “emulating”the work themselves. I guess it is a lot more fun, easier and cheaper to make the art yourself than bring all the original artists from all over the world. They even told me that it was simply cheaper to rent my stuff than to try to recreate it!
While he did get paid to be in the ad, Filthy Luker is no Hyundai shill, adding “It upsets me that they didn’t make agreements with anyone. Did they even try? I have had calls from a couple of angry artists, but there’s not much I can do for them.”
When we reached out, it was Sweet Toof’s first time seeing or hearing about the ad. Here’s his reaction:
I had no idea of the ad. I don’t watch TV or drive a car. Nothing to do with me Don’t know who did the work. Looks a bit of a rip off… It’s wak!!!
Unlike Filthy Luker, I guess they thought it would be cheaper to hire Isaac Cordal than straight up steal his work. Too bad he wasn’t into the idea, although that hardly mattered to Hyundai in the end. Cordal says, “A Spanish ad agency contacted me and I refused to be part of the ad because I don’t want to have my work linked to a car company. After that, they made what they wanted and the result is quite obvious.”
So what was the harm in stealing his work? Cordal explains:
This ad affected my work in a negative way because my work is about the opposite of what it represents to appear in a car advertisement. A lot of people that follow my work are disappointed or confused. I’m very frustrated with people using the creativity of others to benefit themselves. The things we do are for everyone, not to sell cars.
Interestingly, Oakoak doesn’t seem upset. While he had made something similar, he doesn’t see the work in the ad as a rip off of his own, especially compared to how Sandrine Estrade Boulet and p183’s work was used.
Sandrine Estrade Boulet’s work was not licensed by Hyundai for the ad, although there was outreach. Her agent says that “a production company in Spain call us 2 days before the [shoot] to ask if we were available, to work for free.” Simply put, they call the ad, and the blatant theft of Boulet’s work, “a shame.”
So far, Patrik Prosko has not returned our request for comment, but it’s worth noting that Hyundai doesn’t mentioned him (or p183) in the making-of video description, so I suspect that Hyundai did not get his permission before shooting the commercial either.
Jon Blud, the ad’s art designer, defended Marco Sobreviela/littletu’s piece:
Issac Cordal was contacted but did not do want to take part. We also realized that his work was too dark. We also had littletu a local artist from Barcelona as an option and we asked him for a water piece. And what he came up with is what see [sic]. A lot of artist have used the theme of submerging objects in water. Please take a look at the two artists and you will see they are not at all similar in style only in scale!!!
Frankly, that answer is bullshit. Blud asked Cordal to be involved. He couldn’t get Cordal, so he got someone who could replicate Cordal, but happier. The style and scale are similar, and Blud only reached out to Sobreviela after he realized he needed someone to replicate Cordal’s work.
We also reached out to Dom&Nic (the ad’s directors), and Marco Sobreviela for comment, but we have not heard back.
So, to recap: Hyundai undeniably and unapologetically stole a bunch of street art for a commercial while trying to make it look like they were supporting artists.
Note: This post was updated on May 4th for typos, requests for comment that were answered after the article’s initial publication, and feedback from readers about other pieces of street art that Hyundai may have sought to replicate in this ad.