Client: The Norman Rockwell Museum (Stockbridge, MA); HIgh Museum of Art (Atlanta) PR Team: The Kreisberg Group (New York)
Client: The Norman Rockwell Museum (Stockbridge, MA); HIgh Museum
of Art (Atlanta) PR Team: The Kreisberg Group (New York)
Campaign: Repositioning Norman Rockwell from illustrator to American
Time Frame: April 1999 to present
Budget: dollars 200,000
Norman Rockwell has been revered by millions of fans since his first
cover for The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. A chronicler of Middle
America, his paintings of rosy-faced children and sentimental moments
are still easily recognizable to almost all Americans.
But in spite of his popularity with the general public, Rockwell has
long been shut out from the world of high art, dismissed as an
illustrator rather than a legitimate artist. The Kreisberg Group, a New
York-based agency, was enlisted to help reposition Rockwell and create
interest in his first major retrospective, set to open at Atlanta’s High
Museum of Art in November 1999. The exhibit was displaying Rockwell’s
322 Saturday Evening Post covers and 70 oil paintings.
The Kreisberg Group was charged with immediately revamping Rockwell’s
image. ’We wanted to not only promote the tour but also put Rockwell and
the issues surrounding his work on a national stage,’ says Kimberly
Rawson, spokesperson for the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge,
One objective was to get critics and the regular art museum crowd to
recognize Rockwell as a high artist. Picasso, Matisse and -
Art critics were certain to call the idea into question or even dismiss
it. An intensive media campaign was planned to educate writers in the
arts on the subtleties of Rockwell’s works.
In debating Rockwell’s status as an artist within the press, the goal
was to gain national media exposure for the exhibition. The Kreisberg
Group was also charged with managing the launch at the High Museum of
Art to draw in a wider audience.
Over 100 reporters and art reviewers were briefed on the exhibit and the
new position Rockwell should have in the art world. Dave Hickey, a
well-known art historian, lectured at the Art Directors’ Club in New
York on Rockwell’s style as compared with Renaissance artists. ’He was
able to put Rockwell into a new context and validate the work as high
art,’ says Luisa Kreisberg, president of the Kreisberg Group.
The agency provided journalists with contacts, including Rockwell family
members, friends and models, unearthing a more complex picture of
Rockwell’s life and work. As an icon, Rockwell has been traditionally
associated with sentimentality and American apple pie ideals. The launch
provided journalists and visitors with another look. Peter Rockwell, one
of the artist’s sons, was on hand to discuss his father and some of his
dysfunctional family memories. A few of Rockwell’s models were flown in
for the opening as well.The Kreisberg Group argued that his paintings
were technically complex, providing nearly photographic detail and
excellent composition steeped in the tradition of narrative
By the end of November 1999, articles ran in The New York Times,
Newsweek, The Economist and Time. The New Yorker, the ultimate bastion
of high-brow culture, ran a four-page article on Rockwell’s new status.
ARTnews ran a front cover and article on Rockwell.
Coverage was not relegated to the usual places. Given Rockwell’s
popularity with the masses, the exhibition garnered interest from People
magazine, whose four-page spread detailed the artist’s life.
CNN, NBC’s Today show, CBS Sunday Morning and NPR also covered the
The Kreisberg Group was able to not only change the perception of
Rockwell, but also build great anticipation prior to the show’s launch.
About 240,000 people went to the exhibit - the most visitors the museum
has had for a three-month show.
As the retrospective travels across the country over the next two years,
the museums will perform most local media relations. The Kreisberg Group
will provide support as needed, particularly when the exhibit makes its
final stop in New York at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in November