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Why One Artist Is Turning Major Chains, Like Ikea, Into Cuckoo Clocks

Hadley Keller
Photo credit: Hadley Keller

From House Beautiful

Finnish artist and activist Jani Leinonen has made a career of criticizing capitalism through cheeky riffs on—and controversial interactions with—big global brands. In 2011, he made headlines for organizing the "Food Liberation Army," which stole a statue of Ronald McDonald from a Helsinki McDonald's and demanded the chain answer its questions to ensure his safe return. In more recent years, Leinonen has taken to incorporating corporate branding in unconventional ways—like creating stained glass art using the iconic fonts of brands like Fanta, Toys-R-Us, and more. In a new exhibition, the artist turns his eye to the world's most famous discount furniture store: Ikea.

Photo credit: Hadley Keller
Photo credit: House Beautiful

In the work in question, the company's iconic blue-and-yellow branding is swathed not on a massive furniture warehouse, but a tiny, intricate, classic Swiss cuckoo clock. The Ikea clock is part of a series which includes cuckoo clock versions of brands like Starbucks, Prada, Hermès, and—of course—Leininen's frequently parodied McDonald's.

Ten of these works are currently on display at the 5-star Kulm Hotel in St. Moritz, the ritzy Swiss resort town. With the exhibition—which hangs in the hotel's grand lobby, where guests are hard-pressed to ignore their clucks and chimes—Leinonen suggests the gentrification of the Swiss town: the traditional, handmade Swiss clocks are branded with global corporate logos.

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"The forms of ancient Swiss architecture can still be seen under the freshly painted surfaces, advertisements and signs of the corporations," Leinonen says of the installation, in which "different worlds collide: old and new, progress and tradition, future and past, development and destruction. The installation is about time and its effects on a small village in the Engadin—or anywhere in the world."

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