The Osborne Bull: Advertising As Art

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


"Poster design was his life's passion," she says. He won awards,and his colleagues' recognition. "His work was of extraordinary quality," comments satirical artist and writer Antonio Mingote. Later Prieto also began to do book illustrations and jackets alongside his daytime job for Azor, the advertising agency.

Ives Paralon / "Many countries have a significant advertising culture yet none of them have an icon as unique as the bull."

But clashes at work led to his dismissal in 1965. From then on he dedicated most of his time to numismatics, working at the Fabrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbres (Royal Currency and Stamp Mint). He once described coin design as "purified sculpture" and went on to win an international reputation in the field. The British Museum holds examples of his work. 

Once again he had won recognition for raising craft to art, but only outside Spain.


Curiously the law that threatens the bull has also given it greater power.

"As other hoardings have been pulled down, its symbolism and emotional power have been emphasised," says Agapito Pageo of España Abierta, the cultural association organising the campaign to save the bull, and re-vindicate Prieto's authorship.

Osborne took the first step in the fight to save the hoardings when local courts, acting on the European laws, handed them a fine for a bull standing in the north-western region of Asturias. The appeal before Spain's Supreme Court is pending and a sentence in favour of Osborne might save all the bulls, or the Spanish Ministry of Culture might step in and define the bulls as art rather than advertising.

"For modern European civilisation it is more important that a Ministry of Culture protects the bull than, for example, Miró," comments Ives Paralon, a member of the French Colbert Committee of Design. "Miró means museums and that means art business. But the bull is everyday life, blood, new energy. There are many countries with a very significant advertising culture yet none of them have an icon as unique as the bull."

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