Lexus Rolls Through Masterpieces of Art in This Strange Yet Charming European Campaign

CHI & Partners' surreal canvas

We’ve seen artsy advertising before, but this is ridiculous.

Luxury car marker Lexus just launched a European campaign that brings famous paintings and sculptures to life. In the ad below, from CHI & Partners, a modern couple drive a new NX sedan through re-creations of scenes from memorable works by Johannes Vermeer, Vincent Van Gogh, Jeff Koons, Piet Mondrian and George Seurat.

Their trip ends in a detailed, full-scale mockup of the diner from Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks,” of course!

If you can name each piece represented in the spot, then your art history degree was worth every penny.

“As Lexus is famed for its exquisite design credentials, we felt it would be fitting to pay homage to some of the world’s greatest works of art,” says CHI & Partners joint executive creative director Micky Tudor. “It’s been a pleasure to see such a simple idea delivered so beautifully. The attention to detail is phenomenal, and the work has been crafted to within an inch of its life.”

The commercial’s framing device is so unusual for the category—and so smoothly staged by Stink Films directors Jake Knight and Ryoko Tanaka (aka Ne-O)—that it transcends its own strangeness and radiates considerable surreal charm (despite lacking works by any actual surrealists!).

Alas, the tagline, “The Art of Standing Out,” is no masterpiece.

You know, if Van Gogh were alive today, he’d probably work as a commercial illustrator and drive a Lexus. And if Andy Warhol were still around, he’d dump Campbell’s Soup over his agent’s head for not getting his celebrated cans into this campaign.

Ah well, plenty of artists didn’t make the cut. And here, by and large, is the reason why:

“The most important thing for us was that the artworks would be famous enough to be easily recognizable, but we also needed to be able to recreate them realistically in the urban landscape,” says agency account manager Oliver May. “That rules out a lot of modern abstract and expressionist art. And we also wanted to have a mix of the old and new. At one time or other, I think we considered nearly every famous modern work of art from the last 200 years—but ultimately we chose the pieces we did because they are truly iconic and helped to tell our story.”

Given the intricacy of the project, broad strokes or a paint-by-numbers approach simply wouldn’t get the job done.

“The directors’ and art department’s brief was to create believable modern interpretations of the artworks while staying as close to the original paintings as possible,” says agency producer Andy Roberts. “We paid incredibly close attention to casting and wardrobe, built the entire ‘Nighthawks’ set from a CGI model so we could control perspective, used an intricate set of wires to hang the Van Gogh flowers in the correct positions, and shot Bathers with a mixture of plates—anything we could do to retain the detail and not interrupt the flow of the ad.”

• Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring”
• Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”
• Koons’s “Balloon Dog”
• Mondrian’s “Composition A”
• Seurat’s “Bathers at Asnieres”
• Hopper’s “Nighthawks”

Brand: Lexus Europe
Client: Michael Tripp, Marketing Director

Agency: CHI & Partners
ECD: Micky Tudor, Yan Elliott
CD: Monty Verdi
Creatives: James Crosby
Planner: Paulina Goodwin, Matt Bamford-Bowes
Executive Producer: Charles Crisp
Producer: Andy Roberts
Business Director: Tom McCoy
Account Director: Anastasia Terzeon
Account Manager: Oliver May
Project Director: Ant Borkett

Production Company: Stink
Director: Ne-O
Producer: Juliet Naylor
Production Manager: Zoe Acourt
Executive Producer: Jon Chads
Director of Photography: Stuart Graham
Set Designer: James Hatt
Service company: Papaya

Post-Production & Visual FX: The Mill
Executive Producer: Ian Berry
Producer: Tom Manton, Simon Bath.
Lead Flame artist: Gareth Brannan
Colourist: Seamus O’Kane
Lead CG: Philip Maddock
2D Artists: Sole Martin, David Wishart
Matte Painting: German Casado, Cameron Johnson

Editors: The Quarry
Editor: Jonny Scarlett
Editor Assistant: Patrick Walsh
Producer: Charlie Morris

Recording Studio: Clearcut Sound Studios
Sound Engineer: Chris Wigglesworth
Music Company: Dave Goulding @ Wake the Town

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@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.