The Critic Laughs

I’ve long admired Richard Hamilton’s 1968 artwork entitled The Critic Laughs —(see: Art & Dental Hygiene)— but I never knew about the television commercial he made promoting it as a luxury product…

from “The Shock of the New” (Via: Rob Walker, apropos of As Real As It Gets)

It was filmed as part of the 7th episode of Robert Hughes’s 1980 documentary television series, The Shock of the New because Hamilton didn’t want to be interviewed. (Although he wound up being interviewed at length, nonetheless…)

Hamilton introduced his expensive, witty multiple The Critic Laughs (1971-72) and then showed the bizarre, amusing film intended to publicise it. This film simulated the style of a TV commercial; the female star of the “advert” was Loraine Chase. (It seems Hamilton had not wanted to be interviewed and so, as an alternative, he had suggested the idea of a spoof advert. This was how the film came to be specially made by the BBC for Shock of the New.)

John Albert Walker
Arts TV: A History of Arts Television in Britain


Since the interview form held no appeal for Hamilton he proposed to the producer that he should make a ‘TV commercial’ advertising ‘The critic laughs’ and he wrote a script for his product. The story-board calls for a beautiful young woman to enter a luxurious bathroom bearing a gift for her partner who, bemused at the sight of the assembled teeth and electric brush, realises that the vibrating object is more for Her than for Him. Meanwhile the voice-over says the following:

‘For connoisseurs who have everything … At last, a work of art to match the style of modern living … “The critic laughs” A perfect marriage of form and function… created for you and yours by Europe’s caring craftsmen in an exclusive edition of only sixty examples. “The critic laughs” … Feel the thrill of owning… “The critic laughs.” ’

Richard Hamilton, Tate Gallery Catalogue, 1992


Product, package and promotion material is the cycle of the consumer goods industries. Nothing in my experience and practice suggests that this same cycle does not apply to that category of human activity we label “art”.

–Richard Hamilton (1922–2011)

“Europe’s caring craftsmen” is a wonderfully constructed bit of adspeakmaybe a good name for a band? (In the commercial, the voice-over actually says “Europe’s most caring craftsmen”—making the phrase more hyperbolic and competitive.)

(See also: Dentures & Peppermint Packaging, Package Design & Chattering Teeth and Respirer)


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