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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

All the World's a Vodka Bottle at Absolut Exhibit




Going to the "Absolut Cities of the World" exhibit is a recovering alcoholic's worst nightmare. Look left and there's a bottle of vodka hidden in the Kremlin, look right and a reindeer is offering you a dram with its antlers, while behind, a derrick seems ready to spout the hard stuff at you.


In the shape of Absolut's distinctive bottle, vodka floods the world at the Moscow Union of Artists Exhibition Hall. The stout bottle, with its T-shaped neck, weasels its way into doorways and bridges from Amsterdam to Vladivostock.


The 53 examples on display are drawn from the city series of an advertising campaign that is nearly 20 years old. Conceived by the Paris-based TBWA advertising agency, the simple idea -- the bottle with a link to a city or an associated word -- forms an elaborate series of visual puns that can either make you groan out loud or smile with admiration. Pop art master Andy Warhol was even inspired to paint his own interpretation of the ad.


"Absolut Berlin" is made up of a piece of the historic wall. Pigeons flock in the shape of a bottle in a city square in "Absolut Venice." The players in a fussball game are miniature bottles wearing the uniforms of Inter and AC Milan.


But some of the cleverest ads are for the Russian series.


A giant icebreaker plows forward in "Absolut Arkhangelsk" leaving a distinctive bottle-shaped tail behind, while in "Absolut Magnitogorsk" a flow of melted metal pours into the required shape. Most impressive though is "Absolut Potemkin," winner of a Clio, the ad industry's equivalent of an Oscar. This reshapes Sergei Eisenstein's famous Odessa steps scene from "The Battleship Potemkin" so that the crowd rushing down in revolutionary panic -- minus the runaway baby carriage -- funnels down the steps in an orderly Absolut fashion.


The creators of the Russian ads didn't actually have to go anywhere near Tyumen or Magnitogorsk. Like the other 500 or so Absolut ads, they were created using computer technology at the TBWA offices in Paris.


The only real photos on display are those of Itar-Tass photographer Igor Nosov, who was commissioned to find Absolut-like shapes around Moscow. Ten of his photos are on display, and some of them are easily as good as the computer-generated images. Architecturally based, they include the windows of St. Basil's Cathedral to the remarkably Absolut-like doors of the General Staff headquarters next to Arbatskaya metro station. Nosov said he was glad he captured a range from "a symbol of old Russia to Brezhnev classicism."


"Absolut Cities of the World" runs until July 10 at the Moscow Union of Artists Exhibition Hall, 2 Starokonyushenny Pereulok, Bldg. 1. Nearest metro: Smolenskaya or Arbatskaya. Open from noon to 6 p.m.