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When Soap Becomes Art

September 30, 2008

Iconic brands move from the soap dish to the art world.

When Soap Becomes Art

Iconic brands move from the soap dish to the art world.

By Christine Esposito
Associate Editor

Nothing says you’ve made it like being presented with a bust of yourself—especially one made of Ivory soap.

That’s just what VH1’s Alison Becker was given when she came to Cincinnati in early September to shoot an episode of VH1's Top 20 Video Countdown. The VH1 production team shot an array of Cincinnati landmarks, including one in which Ms. Becker—and her Ivory soap likeness—are on the deck of City View Tavern with the world headquarters of P&G in the background.

Alison Becker was beside herself during her visit to P&G.
Carved by Robert Kling, a former master sculptor for Hasbro, the Ivory masterpiece weighed 40 pounds and took 15 hours to perfect. Jessica Hansman, brand manager, and Gabriel Hankin, assistant brand manager for Ivory soap, were on hand to present it to Ms. Becker.

Created in 1879 by James N. Gamble, Ivory soap—touted as 99.99% pure—has been a family favorite ever since. Yet the venerable P&G product isn’t the only bar making waves outside the washroom. Another soap has art aficionados in a lather in New York City.

On display at the Reeves Contemporary gallery is Ambrosia, an art installation that uses 20,000 Neutrogena facial cleansing bars. Artist Danielle Julian-Norton used the well recognized amber bar soaps to create 7-foot high walls that run 40 feet long and 12 feet wide in a wave-like shape. Not only do viewers see how a simple object can create a beautiful and unique environment, but the soap’s scent and translucency are said to add to the experience.

Danielle Julian-Norton created a striking sculpture with Neutrogena's Amber Bar.
"We are excited to support and help bring to fruition this unique display of art. The Neutrogena Amber Bar has always been an iconic symbol, and we are overwhelmed to see how this installation has captured an entire sensory experience," said Stefano Curti, general manager of Neutrogena.

"It is the clean identity, amber color, fresh scent, bodily reference, striking surface and translucent aesthetic that inspired me to create Ambrosia," Ms. Norton said in a statement. "Without the support of Neutrogena I would not have been able to create such a large scale installation with these exceptional properties."

To further support Ambrosia, Neutrogena is making a donation to the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation in honor of each guest who visits the installation for the duration of the exhibition, which runs until Oct. 4.

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