Tourism, Art Stars and Consumption: Wyland’S Whales

Shay Sayre, California State University, Fullerton
ABSTRACT - Tourism, as a major industry in the U.S., has as its focus luring travelers to a location where their trips are consummated with purchases that commemorate and validate their visits. Characterized by Belk and Costa (1991) as Aprestige-seeking through the collection of unique, exotic or unusual travel destinations and experiences,@ tourism fosters purchases of souvenirs. In tourist cultures, tourists experience an exotopy: leaving home, coming into contact with a cultural other, and returning home with some sign of gain [souvenir] reflecting the experience (Bakhtin 1981; Harkin 1995). Tourists’ souvenir purchases memorialize and authenticate their experiences (Hahn 1990) in the form of displayed trophies. As part of their #quest for the authentic’ (Cohen 1990), travelers seek out locally produced arts and crafts.
[ to cite ]:
Shay Sayre (2001) ,"Tourism, Art Stars and Consumption: Wyland’S Whales", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, eds. Mary C. Gilly and Joan Meyers-Levy, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 347.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 28, 2001     Page 347

TOURISM, ART STARS AND CONSUMPTION: WYLAND’S WHALES

Shay Sayre, California State University, Fullerton

"I have seen the future of public art. It swims. It smiles. It is the spirit of our times."

Steve Mannheimer, Indianapolis Star, 1997

ABSTRACT -

Tourism, as a major industry in the U.S., has as its focus luring travelers to a location where their trips are consummated with purchases that commemorate and validate their visits. Characterized by Belk and Costa (1991) as "prestige-seeking through the collection of unique, exotic or unusual travel destinations and experiences," tourism fosters purchases of souvenirs. In tourist cultures, tourists experience an exotopy: leaving home, coming into contact with a cultural other, and returning home with some sign of gain [souvenir] reflecting the experience (Bakhtin 1981; Harkin 1995). Tourists’ souvenir purchases memorialize and authenticate their experiences (Hahn 1990) in the form of displayed trophies. As part of their #quest for the authentic’ (Cohen 1990), travelers seek out locally produced arts and crafts.

Producers of these crafts strive to provide such an experience for tourists with localized art that is symbolic of both the traveler and the destination. Together, artist and traveler act as integral components of the emic sociology of tourism that includes perspectives of the various participants in the tourist situation. In situations where art production and sales functions exist, reciprocity between artist and patron is an important component of successful consumption activities (Pearce 1982).

Recently, massive cultural interaction has evolved tourism into a para-tourist phase (Wollen 1996) where artists, who began with local color motifs, have commodified their art for mass-market sales. A complex relationship exists betwen urban vernacular, tourist art and para-tourist gallery art that fosters #art stars.’

This paper focuses on a single artist who has combined eclectic media with a growing consumer thirst for place souvenirs into a multi-million dollar business: Wyland of Laguna Beach, California. Wyland’s art has become what Wollen calls a "hybrid aesthetic in which the new corporate forms of communication and display are constantly confronted by new vernacular forms of invention and expression" (1996). This research was conducted to answer the question, "What is the role of tourist art in the supermarket of travel?" By deconstructing Wyland, who has developed an ecology of whale-wall murals and figurative art, we may better understand the role of consumption in the tourist experience.

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