There’s a lot of study about how the prevalence of emojis are changing the way we communicate. Linguists debate what we gain versus what we lose when we express sadness by texting a crying face rather than saying, “I’ll miss you.” But emojis aren’t just about communication–they can be art, too.
That’s the premise of a fun little campaign from Cantor Fine Art gallery in Hollywood, anyway, which for the past couple of weeks has been using its Instagram account to share emoji-fied versions of the world’s greatest artists and their work–from Magritte’s Son of Man to Vincent van Gogh to Georgia O’Keeffe’s skulls to Keith Haring to Jackson Pollack. The breadth of the project is a big part of the fun (Damien Hirst works surprisingly well as an emoji!), but the campaign’s faithfulness to both the artists and the emojis is what really elevates the project. Emojis are a part of our culture and how we communicate now, for better or for worse, and while seeing a cute lil’ Andy Warhol in sunglasses sipping from his can of Campbell’s Soup is a fun gag, it does also raise the question of what a pop culture-obsessed figure like Warhol would make of this contemporary visual language. That’s a fair bit of heavy lifting for a quirky campaign intended to draw attention to a fine art gallery in Los Angeles whose current show is called “Please Touch the Art,” and it’s the least pretentious way possible to get us thinking in those terms.