The Coveted Red Dot

Mike Marcus has started a great new project where he’s painting red dots on pieces all around London (galleries put red dots next to pieces that have been sold).

Photo by Sandrine Plasseraud
Photo by Sandrine Plasseraud

Here’s an excerpt from Mike’s blog post on the project, which makes some very valid points on the state of street/urban art:

Like many fine artists eventually do, I have reached a point where I want to devote myself to my practice full time. In order to do this, I need to make enough money through public funding and print sales to cover my needs for rent, food, art materials and the occasional beer. Obviously the urban art scene is a good place to target because so much money is being spent. For this reason I devoted much of the past month to marketing myself in this sector.

As this period draws to a close, I have to say that I have been left a little disappointed. Of the long conversations I have had with collectors and dealers, I have come to the conclusion that the scene wants to consume (both commercially and intellectually) safe art. Because of the supreme lack of imagination shown by its aficionados, todays urban art seems to be a retrospective of yesterdays street art, a parody of itself.

What happened to the radical movement where we could say what we wanted without being moderated by galleries? Weren’t we meant to be subversive? These days it seems that we are more conservative than the art establishment which we reacted against. Somewhere during the change from “street” to “urban”, the movement lost its passion and subsequently its message.

I think Mike is right about this (to an extent). His work is certainly on the controversial side, and I think some of his most controversial stuff is his best. Unfortunately, it also gets ripped off the walls after 30 seconds and I don’t know many street art collectors who would want to put such controversial work in their homes.

Mike has decided to push the boundaries, and street art says he’s pushed too far. Isn’t that the point of street art? Are street art fans getting complacent and boring?

Anybody go to Pictures on Walls today? I enjoyed it, but after reading Mike’s post, I’m starting to see it differently. What boundaries were being broken? Isn’t that what attracted us to street art in the first place? Artists were tearing down the art establishment by giving away their art, now they are trying to become the art establishment.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love street art, I just think we need to be careful. Street art needs to remember what it is supposed to be. I love that street art took over the Tate Modern, but the Tate needs to adapt to us, we shouldn’t adapt to suit it.