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Artists Find Alternate Uses for Billboards in Los Angeles

With a surplus of unsold billboard spaces dotting Los Angeles, artists are using the empty spaces as canvasses for new forms of public art.
March 10, 2017, 8am PST | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Billboard owners in Los Angeles and other cities across the country challenged by too much supply and too little demand have found a new life for their vacant advertising spaces. Jori Finkel of The Art Newspaper reports on the ongoing arts programming organized by The Billboard Creative and others to use some of these vacant billboards to display works by contemporary artists. Similar programs by LAX Art and the U.K.'s Art Below have placed art on regular and digital billboards across Los Angeles.

Mona Kuhn, the photographer who organised The Billboard Creative shows for the past two years, says the format is a natural for the city, going back to the 1960s when artists such as Ed Ruscha were painting billboards on canvas. “We live in a car culture; our largest audience is not sitting still but commuting,” she says. “Some of our locations have 200,000 cars passing weekly.”

As Kuhn explains, the city has so many commercial billboards that The Billboard Creative was able to rent surplus sites at a heavy discount from companies Out Front and Clear Channel in December, their slowest month for attracting advertisers. She adds that plans to take the project to San Francisco or Detroit have not panned out yet, partly because there are fewer billboards available.

Finkel notes that art integrated into billboards as a permanent component is also being pushed in West Hollywood, where digital billboards on the Sunset Strip are required to program for 13 minutes of video art displays every hour.

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Published on Friday, February 10, 2017 in The Art Newspaper
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