The Osborne Bull: Advertising As Art

El Mundo / el Dominical, Madrid, and The European  London, 1994 (2,300 words)
Versión en español  


Manolo Prieto was vociferous not only in defence of the bull, but also his right to be recognised as its creator. When Keith Haring made a miniature bull covered with graffiti,  Prieto commented sadly, "It's as if, just because someone painted a moustache on a portrait I painted, it's no longer mine."

Paula Antonelli / "The bulls are especially interesting because they aren't ephemeral like advertising posters."

Insult was added to injury by Haring's bull immediately being considered a work of art. Today it is held by MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), New York.

Undoubtedly, though, there is a tacit if not spoken admission of the quality of Prieto's work. The fact is that Spanish politicians and civil servants, as well as the public, overwhelmingly want to save the bulls.  The problem is finding the right political and legal mechanisms to reclassify it as something other than an advertising hoarding to avoid all the bulls, bar half a dozen set well back from the roads, being pulled down.


"We understand the bull as much more than an advertising hoarding. There's a lot of evidence in testimony from artists and on the street," says Claire Filhol, of Osborne's marketing department.

But precedent still needs to be set in Spain.

Most art professionals elsewhere have no doubt it is a justified step. "It's exemplary advertising art, naïf and straightforward," says Paula Antonelli, curator of the prestigious design collection at New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). "The bulls are especially interesting because they aren't ephemeral, like posters. They're more like statues placed in the countryside. If we were to be offered one, it wouldn't be a question of whether or not we would accept it, but in which department we would keep it – Painting, Sculpture or Design?"

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