The story of Walter White, your favorite high school chem teacher turned meth kingpin, will come to a close when Breaking Bad ends its series run in 2013. Fans have had the chance to capture a lasting piece of the show over the past few months, however, with "The Breaking Bad Art Project."
"Breaking Bad is really art in itself," says Jensen Karp, co-owner of pop culture-inclined Gallery1988, who’s Breaking Bad-themed art show opened on August 20th. "I look at the episodes the same way I look at museum and gallery shows. Each piece of dialogue or moment has been selected for a certain reason and it’s just so good. Vince Gilligan has created a show that can be celebrated with others’ creativity, and that is very rare for TV."
During the lead-up to its fifth season premiere this past July, Breaking Bad's creativity was celebrated chiefly through BreakingGifs.com, a site fronted by comedian Paul Scheer. BreakingGifs.com turned out to be more than just an outpost for animated images of Jesse Pinkman as Nyan Cat, though. The site was the centerpiece of a larger campaign; the GIFs acted as clues which sent fans out on a digital and physical scavenger hunt leading to 16 prints by top artists and graphic designers, depicting moments from the show.
The campaign was engineered by Gallery1988's Karp, who works directly with studios like Paramount and Universal to create organic, mostly art-related campaigns. The project that put him on the map, though, was the spiritual predecessor to the Breaking Bad effort: the campaign for the final season of Lost.
Launched at Comic Con in 2009, this effort also used Scheer (a friend of Karp’s and a fellow pop culture fanatic) as a figurehead for mysterious website Damon Carlton and a Polar Bear (which now sells unofficial Lost art and shirts.) Like BreakingGifs.com, each week, the site leaked out a new clue for a location, and at that location a cool collectible with a URL was revealed. These URLs would then link to a screenprint that went on sale soon after. The project was a success, and it was something Karp decided to repeat this year.
"Breaking Bad is my favorite show on TV and I had a very distinct idea for it, one that mirrored what I did for Lost, which is an online and real-life scavenger hunt that leads fans to limited edition screenprints, all celebrating the show, done by 16 of my favorite artists/graphic designers," he says. "Sony let me pitch the idea, then brought me on board, and it’s been a great experience. We’ve been doing that for three months, sold out of everyone, in an average of like six minutes each, and now this show is the final event."
In addition to unveiling the final poster in the series, "The Breaking Bad Art Project" features original works by 20 artists—paintings, prints, sculptures, plush, all celebrating the show. The artists, all Gallery1988 regulars and favorites such as Lora Zombie, Rich Kelly, and Rhys Cooper, were all told to create something related to the show, but with no guidelines beyond that. Overall, the project is a sterling example of how a viral campaign can do more than create temporary awareness for a property; when orchestrated properly, it can take on a life of its own.
Have a look through several pieces in "The Breaking Bad Art Project" in the slide show above.