Buyers and sellers haggle over prices. They discuss condition. And often they share what they've heard about an object's history. A best guess, a gut feeling, or prevailing wisdom can guide a deal. A case in point is Bob Richter's purchase of a 7-UP thermometer at the First Monday Trade Days flea market in Canton, Texas. In the 1960s, the 7-UP company's Uncola campaign targeted a younger demographic by embracing bright colors, current day slang, and free-form figures. The campaign generated billboards, posters, thermometers, and even patches to sew onto jeans. Many of these objects have since found their way into the hands of dealers and eBay sellers, who connect the colorful style with the artist Peter Max. Weeks after, Bob met with Max and the 74-year-old artist revealed that he'd never made art for 7-UP. The MARKET WARRIORS production team contacted a representative of the advertising agency that helped create the Uncola campaign and he concurred with Max; a group of other young artists created all the artwork. Commercial art often hinges on an ability to connect an iconic style with a brand. Though Peter Max didn’t contribute to Uncola, the campaign gained inspiration from a fantastical style that he’d popularized to the max. Read on to find out how Max inspired Bob Richter...
Peter Max is a pop culture icon, and he’s also a really nice guy. I know this because I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with him recently in his New York Studio. With his dreamlike celestial creations, Max is known for manifesting colorful galaxies and creatures that are both inviting and beguiling. Work by Max is quite accessible, thanks to the myriad of products with his designs, from posters to puzzles, which were mass marketed for years. His work is evocative of a time, yet also quite timeless.
My journey leading to this interview began by filming. I told Max I purchased an item he designed at the flea market there, and he gleefully high-fived me. I was drawn to the piece probably because I grew up with older siblings who had Peter Max posters, sheets and other items. Since Max licensed his work to so many companies, even average American households like mine had access to his celestial creations.
What I learned very quickly from Max is that it seems with him, the journey really is the destination. He told me that while he appreciates his completed work, he’s at his happiest when he’s in the middle of creating, so he has many projects going on at once. “Being in the creative moment, I love much more than the finished piece,” Max said. “As I create art, it is like a love affair. My days go by loving what I do.”
Max is an artist and a businessman — a rare and wonderful combination. In recent years, Max has gone big, with his work gracing the stage at the 2000 Woodstock Concert, an airplane, and coming this spring, a cruise ship that will take to the seas with his work proudly at the helm. With Peter Max, there are no limits.
I told Max a bit more about the actual piece was that I purchased in Texas. I mentioned it was the 7-UP outdoor thermometer. Max smiled at me and said, “7-Up copied me. I never worked with 7-Up. At the time, my stuff was so popular that it was copied.” It turns out that the soft drink capitalized on the “style” of Peter Max. You know what they say is the most sincere form of flattery…
After purchasing the thermometer, I personally searched auction records, and every listing for the exact piece attributed to Peter Max. Since I had the great opportunity to go directly to the source, I am here to tell you that the thermometer I purchased was NOT a Peter Max.
I am grateful for that faux Max thermometer, however, because it led me to this interview. As it turns out, my journey with Peter Max is one I’ll not forget. I left inspired, energized and pretty gleeful. Even though it seems I bought an imitation, it feels like I got a pretty amazing return on my investment by getting the opportunity to meet this dynamic man.