Concept by Mercedes

In this essay, Greg Allen explains that “the debate over Jeffrey Deitch’s increasingly depressing tenure at MOCA overlooks one of the most damning incidents: Transmission LA: AV Club, the Mercedes-Benz exhibition curated by Mike D that suddenly displaced and delayed the opening of Philipp Kaiser and Miwon Kwon’s Land Art show, Ends Of The Earth.”

He writes, “Maybe it’s been underexamined, misunderstood, or just quickly condemned as a “marketing spectacle.” But I think [it’s] an unusually pure embodiment of the programming vision Deitch and his patron Eli Broad hold for MOCA, and for art itself. But that means Transmission LA also expands—and complicates—the comfortable moral outrage against Deitch and MOCA; because the forces and assumptions that gave rise to it—art as leisure, entertainment, consumption experience, luxury good and corporate branding project—are already operating across vast swaths of the contemporary art and museum world. […]

Deitch’s show, conceived by [Mercedes’ branding initiative] The Avant/Garde Diaries…turns out to be more than a crankin’ exploration of “how visual art is informed by and inspired by music”; it’s also one step—sandwiched between “leaked” PR photos and an official unveiling at the Beijing Motor Show—in the highly orchestrated marketing campaign for the launch of the new, mid-sized version of the CLS 4-door coupe.

Which is not to imply that The Avant/Garde Diaries was created by Mercedes just to launch one new mid-market sedan; it’s really a platform for shifting the cultural perception of the Mercedes brand itself. Taken as a whole, The Avant/Garde’s Diarists appear to be rebellious, creative, successful, in their late 30s and early 40s, prone to wearing large plaid, white with a token Asian—and almost exclusively male. It’s an aspirational lifestyle profile from which you can neatly reverse engineer the Mercedes driver profiles the company’s trying to counterbalance… [and] an attempt to make peace with a generation and culture which once considered Mercedes-Benz the contemptuous Other, the target of their scornful, youthful mischief, and bring them—and their upscale families—into the corporate fold.”