Pop artist Ron English has been posting public works — most of them illegal billboards — for years now. He claims to have done more than a thousand of them. Some of them are amazing, insightful and poignant. He did one which showed Jesus Christ with a bottle of Bud and the text, “The King of the Jews, For the King of Beers.”
A billboard created by popaganda artist Ron English
In Houston, Texas a few weeks ago — and suspiciously around the same day that a new exhibition began at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, which included the work of Ron English — another billboard with a similar message appeared.
A billboard that appeared June 21 in Houston, Texas
According to the Houston Chronicle, “English denied any direct connection to the Houston billboards and said he no longer posts illegal signs in Texas, where legal penalties are far stiffer than in the Northeast.” In Texas, it’s a misdemeanor carrying up to six months jail time and a $2,000 fine.
Clear Channel Outdoor, a division of Clear Channel the giant media conglomerate who has all but ruined radio in our lifetime, owns the billboard, which is not much of a surprise since they own almost all of them you see. “A company spokesman said, the billboard — like at least two others in the past two months — was hijacked” and not paid for. Billboards the size of the Jesus one (6 by 12 feet) run from $300-500 per month, according to Clear Channel. After about two weeks, the Jesus billboard has now been replaced with a paying customer’s advert.
Apparently it’s wildly popular — love it or hate it — and the billlboard’s tagline is currently one of the top searches on Google. Technorati reports over 1,600 (make that 1,601) posts about the billboard.
Also from the Chronicle article:
What does it mean? The faux-Budweiser ad points to the unscrupulous nature of advertising, Ryan Perry, who works at the Station museum, said. “I think it says that nothing is sacred. That if Jesus sells beer, advertisers wouldn’t mind using him.”
Frankly, the two look dissimilar enough that it would be surprising if it turned out English did it, though I suspect the vandals were aware of his art and the exhibition in town. Personally, I find almost all advertising insulting and annoying so I find things that poke fun at it the best kind of social commentary. This is what the magazine Adbusters is dedicated to doing and I think Ron English’s swipes at modern advertising are likewise necessary to expose the lengths to which corporations will go to hawk their wares. The fact that this one was about beer was just icing on the cake.