Sad news to report: Very Nearly Almost, the UK’s premier magazine covering street art/graffiti/muralism…, is shutting down after 10 years.
VNA was an early inspiration for me when Vandalog was just starting out. I would devour their interviews. VNA privileged the voice of the artist, publishing in-depth interviews with street art superstars like Shepard Fairey, as well as people who probably don’t get quite the same chances to take deep dives exploring their work. A few times, I’ve been fortunate to contribute to VNA as an interviewer. Actually, an interview with Case for VNA might have been the first time that someone else published my work.
The community around VNA, a community of contributing writers, photographers, and even artists who collaborated on limited edition covers, is a testament to the importance of the magazine and the genuine love and excitement with which the VNA team approached their work.
So here’s the thing… if you want to promote things made by Mr. Brainwash and Alec Monopoly, I suggest you do it far away from art blogs. Of course, I can’t say what they do is not art, because clearly it technically is an art-like thing, and when something it considered “not art,” it is all too often later regarded as groundbreaking. However, what Alec and Brainwash do is five steps backward. It is, at best, pop art solely for the sake displaying money and celebrity. If Donald Trump collected art (other than, of course, portraits of himself) Brainwash and Alec are the artists that he would collect. They are unabashed displays of wealth, for no other purpose than the display of wealth. These are the guys who show up to your high school reunion wearing a Rolex on both wrists, just because they want to tell everyone that they are wearing a Rolex on each wrist.
Yes, in this particular case, these two artists are choosing to raise money for charity, but have you ever considered why that might be? BP sponsors the TATE in London. Why? Not because they are good people, but because they are looking for a way to look like good people. (Thankfully, Liberate Tate has brought a stop to that.)
I have had Alec tell me to my face that his art is a joke, a money-making/get-laid scheme and nothing more. He knows it.
I have literally threatened to quit two jobs when the question of working with Brainwash was raised, and I was prepared to do it. Actually, one of them I did quit for a few days until they decided not to work with him.
But wait! Perhaps you think: Well, Brainwash is a fun man bringing art to the people. I can’t really convince you otherwise until a recording comes out saying “fuck ‘the people,'” but I don’t think it will because I think that Brainwash is just an idiot and who believes his own hype and doesn’t see how his work is at best misguided and at worst damaging. The one and only time I’ve ever written positively about Mr. Brainwash was when he made a pro-Obama poster, because he accidentally ended up on the right side of history and with a budget to hire a halfway-decent graphic designer to put him there. But with Alec, he’s never hidden it. You may look at Alec and think: He’s “subverting the idea of the Monopoly Man, laughing at Wall Street.” Alec thinks he’s being subversive too, but he doesn’t understand the meaning of the fucking word. Like, he literally believes it means the opposite of what it means. He’s an ostentatiously oblivious piece of shit. Coincidentally, this piece I wrote about Alec a few years back mentions healthcare and elaborates on my perspective.
I could kind of give a fuck about Kim Kardashian and Michael Buble. I mean, if people want to own a thing that a pop star touched and that thing raises money for charity, great. But no art site could possibly care, except for the clicks it would generate.
All the best with the Baycrest Foundation. I can’t quite buy a brain, but I hope that my modest personal contribution is helpful.
It was recently suggested that Vandalog doesn’t do any reporting or write much anymore, and that’s part of why we suck. It’s true that I haven’t been posting as much lately. In part, this is because I didn’t want to just regurgitate the same press releases and photos that all the other major street art blogs are also regurgitating. I only want to write something when I have something exclusive or something to add, which might not be every day. Plus, at the moment, my apartment has no internet connection, which makes things a bit difficult. That should be fixed soon, and posting will probably start to happen more regularly. As for reporting, if an ad agency wants to buy Vandalog and pay all of my bills for no apparent reason, I’d be happy to take your money and spend more time on “proper” reporting. In the mean time, here’s what I can say from Philadelphia with a day job and without a proper internet connection…
Saber and Zes recently painted a mural for Branded Arts in LA. It’s huge, and I really like it. I tend to find Saber’s work hit or miss, but I this one is a major success. I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about legal versus illegal work, illegal work versus the buff and graffiti versus street art. This mural addresses all of those topics on a grand scale.
Shok1‘s mural for The L.I.S.A. Project NYC is no more, things are a bit more complicated than that… Before Shok1 painted that spot, there was a really beautiful tag there by Serf. Over time, the rest of the wall got tagged up, and the singular tag was no longer looking so hot. Additionally, we at The L.I.S.A. Project NYC got permission to put a mural at that location. Shok1 was in town and we were itching to work with him, so he got the spot and painted a great piece. Before Shok1 painted though, I reached out to Serf to give him a heads up, and let him know that we would like to find a wall for him and Mint if he was interested in the idea. I don’t normally do that when we cover illegal graffiti with a mural, but I had a lot of love for this particular tag. That was in April. Recently, Shok1’s mural was tagged up, so we quickly buffed out the tag. It was clear that this mural’s life had ended and something new was in order. We called up Serf again, and arranged for Mint and Serf (aka Mirf) to paint something. Their idea was to create a wall that looked almost abstract but full of graffiti, like a bombed-out wall of an abandoned warehouse. It might not be clear to random passersby whether the work was legal or illegal. Kind of like the (slightly more controlled) shutters that SMART Crew painted recently as part of their installation in Chinatown, although Mirf were working on this idea before the Chinatown piece was completed. Turns out, some people don’t like murals that look like illegal graffiti, even if the wall was originally home to actually illegal graffiti that was going unbuffed. Neighborhood residents complained. We knew the mural would be temporary, as the property owner was about to install advertising on that wall, but we thought it would at least last more than 48 hours. Now, the wall has been buffed black and a street-level advertisement has been installed… It looks like this. Animal New York has more on the story. While I’m bummed to see both Shok1’s work and Mirf’s work gone already, that wall has been a learning experience and an interesting experiment of sorts for us at The L.I.S.A. Project NYC. There was illegal graffiti on the wall, then Shok1 painted a colorful mural. That was replaced by a legal mural that looked like illegal graffiti by the same same artists whose illegal graffiti had graced the wall previously without complaint, and suddenly residents had a serious problem with what they were seeing. The truth is that we at The L.I.S.A. Project NYC are often in close communication with property owners, realtors, building managers, restauranteurs and shop-owners when we put up murals, but rarely do we connect with a building’s residents. Usually, this isn’t a problem, and we have received a lot of positive feedback from residents even when they have not been consulted before a mural goes up, but occasionally we have problems like these. Should we slow down our process and always seek input from a building’s residents and nearby neighbors, or should we keep going as is, giving artists more freedom but always risking a negative reaction after the work is completed? A balance has to be struck, but I’m not sure exactly what that balance is. Every mural program and every mural site is unique, so there are no easy answers, but it’s something we have to continue to think about…
Mighty Mo, Rowdy, Gold Peg and Horror of Burning Candy have put together a show opening June 27th at the Leeds College of Art. Should be a good one, particularly since Mighty Mo’s work has gone in a very surprising and interesting sculptural direction over the last two years or so.
Two more upcoming shows of note are the Crash and Anthony Lister solo shows at Jonathan Levine Gallery in NYC.
The (unauthorized)Banksy retrospective on at the moment at Sotheby’s in London is well worth stopping by. Banksy’s comment on the exhibition (“As a kid I always dreamed of growing up to be a character in Robin Hood. I never realised I’d end up playing one of the gold coins.”) sounds about right though. It’s hard not to be taken aback by the prices at this exhibition, including almost £100,000 for a single print. And yes, that piece sold, as have others. So while prices may be high, it appears there is demand, even if the buyers aren’t always the most Banksy-literate bunch. One comment I overheard from a visitor to the exhibition is telling. But hey, for those of us who just want to look at some good artwork, it’s a solid show. There are pieces I don’t think I’d ever seen before, and many museum-worthy bits that I’m not sure when I’ll see again. For that reason, it’s worth stopping by. And hey, at least the works at Sotheby’s are (mostly) authenticated by Pest Control (someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I think one or two of the test prints are without authentication…), and there are no street pieces. So if you are looking to spend a couple hundred grand on a Banksy at the moment, you could do worse than Sotheby’s, like this forgettable and unauthenticated maybe-formally a Banksy for $40,000+.
Max Rippon (aka Ripo) and Roa are currently showing at Stolenspace Gallery in London. Ripo’s show in the front room is solid, but I wish there were more works on paper, or works that are more physically complex. The real highlight from Ripo is this painting on handcut paper, but it’s the only piece like it in the show. The rest are canvases like this one with amalgamations of text in strips or slices of varying size. Nothing wrong with those, but I don’t think the fully showcase Ripo’s talent. Roa’s show is among the best I’ve seen from any street artist in a long while. At first glance, yes, it’s what you’d expect from Roa: Animals in black and white or in varying states of decay on wood, plus some moving parts that allow the viewer to change up the paintings a bit. Honestly, I went to the show to see Ripo’s work and see friends, not expecting to be too amazed with Roa’s work. It’s good and all, but I figured that I’d seen it 100 times before. I was wrong. Graffoto’s review and images (and Stolenspace’s images) provide some idea of what Roa did, but really you just have to walk through the show. I hope someone with a steadicam goes in and makes a beautiful video exploring the space. Still, I’ll try to explain… You can’t just look at the work in this show and call it a day. You have to walk around it and see it from every angle. One piece, London Mole Installation, is made up of four piece of wood, arranged like this with different images of a mole, each running across two of the wooden panels, so that as you walk around the piece, you effective get at least 8 significantly different compositions of the mole depending your angle. But that is just a warm up for Osborn Bat Installation, a 3-piece installation involving mirrors and painted wood panels. Each of the three pieces is interesting on its own and sort of a mini version of London Mole Installation, but then the three pieces also come together to form compositions depending on your angle. You might be reading this and think, “Well duh, you look at installation art from different angles and it looks different,” but this goes beyond that, because every angle you look at this work from actually feels like a complete and different composition. The piece is like a puzzle, except that each piece of the puzzle is interesting on its own too, and the puzzle fits together in a myriad of interesting ways. Really, you just have to walk through this thing. If you happen to be in London, do not miss this show. It proved to me that Roa is not just a guy who can simply by written off as painting the same animals over and over again in the same style. He’s much more than that.
According to The Art Newspaper, The Sincura Group now says that they never meant to sell any of the Stealing Banksy? works at auction for charity, as they had initially claimed, and that the whole auction and media circus was really just to test the waters for a museum of street art, to open in London next year. The Sincura Group’s statement says that some of the works were for sale, but it is unclear which ones. This seems to contradict what Baxter said in an interview with Vandalog where he was quite clear that a portion of the sale of every piece advertised as for sale at Stealing Banksy? would benefit charity.
So, nothing was for sale, or at least some pieces advertised as for sale really weren’t. The Sincura Group spent months promoting an event that they said would benefit many charities, but it was a lie. And now they are promoting a new project based of that that first project, and we are supposed to believe them. Fool me once…
I think this latest twist adds a new layer of crazy to an already ridiculous situation. At best, it is, as a Time Out blogger wrote, “all an unfathomable mind game.” At worst, it is falsehoods and a lack of transparency piled on top of more falsehoods and a lack of transparency. Essentially, The Sincura Group said that they would raise a bunch of money for charity by selling Banksy artwork and then practically did a 180 to say, “Gotchya! It was all just a social experiment!” Maybe they got the idea from BNE. Why would anyone continue to take The Sincura Group seriously or associate themselves with people who do things like this? Does anyone actually think that all of this is a good, or ethical, idea?
Sorry for this somewhat long, probably confusing post, but this has proven to be a long, confusing series of events. Now, the question I have is this: Was a museum really in the cards all along, or was the auction a complete failure, forcing The Sincura Group to come up with a plan b for all of these street pieces? I don’t no whether to laugh or cry at the entire situation.
Back in February, there was an auction in Miami that included the sale of street pieces formally by Banksy. Shortly before that auction took place, Caroline Caldwell interviewed the auction house’s representative, a so-called “street art expert.” We decided that since the auction felt like a joke and the very claim of “street art expert” sounded like a joke, we didn’t want to ask serious questions, lest that might suggest that he was worth taking seriously. But we did see an opportunity to have a bit of fun at the expense of their “expert,” so Caroline interviewed him in a style befitting The Daily Show or The Colbert Report.
Not everyone agreed with our strategy. A few people criticized us for missing a chance to ask hard-hitting questions about an important topic. While we don’t believe that the salesman we were interviewing would have said anything insightful about the sale he was promoting, we do agree that it would be great to ask thoughtful questions of someone who facilitates the sale of street pieces. Recently, we had that opportunity.
Next week in London, The Sincura Group will be holding a similar auction of street pieces formally by Banksy. That’s the same company that last year successfully sold the Banksy “Slave Labour” wall at auction for just over $1 million. They’ve titled their auctionStealing Banksy? and it will include approximately 18 works, at least 7 of which are street pieces formally by Banksy that have been removed from their original locations, some of them specifically removed for this sale.
The difference between Fine Art Auctions Miami, the auction house with the “street art expert,” and The Sincura Group is that The Sincura Group does not come across as a complete joke. The Sincura Group has publicly tried to address some of the logistical and ethical issues surrounding the sale of street pieces. By titling their auction Stealing Banksy? and calling it a “project exploring the social, legal and moral issues surrounding the sale of street art” rather than just an auction, they try to position themselves as observers to a phenomenon that they want to see debate about, rather than facilitators and promoters of the ethically questionable market for street pieces. They have releasedstatements about their work, making what they do appear to be a somewhat transparent, thought-out and ethically sound process while acknowledging some criticisms like rational people. If you’re just a casual observer, they do an alright job looking like the good guys, a group of people willing to engage in thoughtful debate.
That’s why we decided to interview Tony Baxter, Director of The Sincura Group, and this time, we thought it was appropriate to ask real questions to challenge the way The Sincura Group bills themselves. Caroline wrote the initial draft of our questions, which we then edited and added to collaboratively. Because our time is limited by the fact that we are not a professional news outlet but rather full-time students, we decided to conduct the interview over email. Email is not the ideal format for something like this, but it’s better than no interview at all.
Frankly, RJ finds some of Mr. Baxter’s answers misleading, but he’ll save more of his thoughts on that for tomorrow, when we will publish a response to this interview on Vandalog (UPDATE: Here’s RJ’s response). In the mean time, here’s the interview…
Fine Art Auctions Miami, the auction house that almost sold Banksy’s “Slave Labour” and “Wet Dog” pieces in 2013, is back at trying to sell street pieces. This time though, it’s not just Banksy’s whose street art and murals that they’ve put on offer. In an auction that took place this evening, FAAM have included cut up segments of concrete and metal that were removed from the street and contain what were once works by Banksy, Faile, Kenny Scharf, Bambi, Aiko and Terror161/J.SON. I say that these chunks of the street include what were once street pieces by those artists because the pieces have been removed from the street, destroying the context of the work. Kind of selling a ripped apart corner of the Mona Lisa. In Bambi’s case, it appears that she has given permission for the work to be removed and sold, so maybe that’s still her artwork. J.SON was unaware of the sale of the piece of metal containing his former artwork, but I do not have comments from the other artists, though I find it highly unlikely that they approved of the removal of those wall segments or this auction. Yesterday, Caroline posted an interview with FAAM’s resident street art expert, and today we have the auction results…
Below, I’ve got coverage of the street pieces that were up for sale, but it wasn’t just street pieces for sale. If you want to see more highlights, I was live tweeting the auction, so you can read some of the other results on my twitter or here.
Some of you might be thinking “Hey, those were for the public to enjoy!” or “Why should an unaffiliated auction house profit from the work/legal risks of these artists?” Good questions. But consider this… Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a literal piece of New York City from the safety of their home?
Ethical qualms aside, FAAM contacted Vandalog with an opportunity that we just couldn’t pass up: An interview with the auction house’s official “street art expert” Sebastien Laboureau of Moonstar Fine Art Advisors. Since many published authors and curators with extensive knowledge of street art and graffiti still don’t consider themselves experts, I decided to see what I could learn from a real street art expert…
Caroline Caldwell: At what point would a street artist be considered a ‘sell out’? If possible, provide examples.
Sebastien Laboureau, Street Art Expert: Art has a market, and street artists also sell their works, as long as artists stay true to their personal style and create from their hearts the concept does not apply. Recently many works from street artists sell at auctions, and in galleries because this art is contemporary and talks to a wide audience and public. Banksy is the leading street artist, and he sells hundreds of works everywhere in the world every year at increasing prices.
CC: The Banksy’s “Bandaged Heart Balloon” from her residency in New York City is a portion of the wall that was physically removed and transported to Miami. How do you suggest or imagine people display large pieces like this in their homes?
Expert: Street art is amazing in the way that there is no set medium, street artists can work on canvas, metal, walls, doors. The beauty of it is to keep it in its original medium, we find that collectors enjoy buying and displaying street art because it feels like the work is created in their home.
CC: How much of the art available in this auction was actually relocated from the street to the auction house?
Expert: Quite a few came directly from the streets, including two Banksy walls, a metal roll down gate by Kenny Scharf, and another large security gate by Lady Aiko & Terror 161. The great thing about these works is most of them were created in the street and will live a second life now. They will be preserved for eternity.
CC: If a street artist paints work on a canvas, should it be considered ‘street art’ or just ‘art’?
Expert: I do not feel the need to differentiate between the two, all is art, street art is art regardless medium it is created on.
CC: What is the difference between a ‘street art’ and a mural?
Expert: Street art is a style of painting and a mural is large scale work done on a building, one is genre and other is a medium.
CC: Who was the first authentic street artist to refer to themselves as a “street artist”?
Expert: The reality is that street art has always been around us. Some say street art was born in the late 70’s in New York City through graffiti art in public places. Some called it vandalism, some are still calling it vandalism… THIS IS ART!
CC: Should street artists in New York have NYC at the end of their Instagram handle?
Expert: Street artists should have any handle they please, to show where they have come from or where they are working. New York City is very active in street art, but Miami has also become a street art mecca, with so many murals painted over the past year with an incredible quality and concentration in the Wynwood District. Street art is everywhere, in the London suburbs, in Barcelona, Paris, everywhere! And even in museums now.
CC: Would it be advantageous for street artists to align their personal brands with current trends in urban wear?
Expert: Historically, street art has been linked to hip hop. Fashion has always been intertwined with art. There is no limitation into what can and should be done!
CC: Is illegal street art graffiti?
Expert: It is still illegal in many parts and areas of the world, but more and more artists have been granted areas where they can create their works. Art is above any law, as art is life! Art pertains to our everyday life, and everywhere I look when I see art I see beauty.
CC: Should there be a different word for street artists who are female?
Expert: There are more and more female street artists. We have great examples at our auction including Bambi and Swoon. Swoon has a museum show set-up in the Brooklyn Museum in April. Kazilla is a very talented street artist from the Wynwood who will be showing works and has brought local street artists together for the exhibition. There are many others! Once again, it makes no difference! ART IS ART!
CC: How long do you need to do the street arts before you’re considered a street artist?
Expert: There is no lead-time. A street artist is an artist that happens to use the streets as their canvas, there is no school. Some artists are better than others, but once again, there is no diploma to become a street artist!
CC: What’s the best city to get blog coverage in?
Expert: Miami is now becoming the street art mecca! But street art is everywhere in the world now.
When Banksy announced today’s Better Out Than In piece this afternoon, people began running to a little thrift store on 23rd Street in the hope of scoring the deal of a lifetime. I would have run with them if I were in town. But luckily the thrift store was tipped off to what was about to happen. Banksy had just donated a “crude oil” painting. His crude oil series involves him taking old paintings, in this case one that he bought from this thrift store, and adding his own touches. Two early street artists, John Fekner and Peter Kennard, experimented with similarpieces long before Banksy, but Banksy has really pushed the idea and made it his own thanks to his habit of inserting his modified paintings in places where the unmodified paintings might normally hang.
This crude oil painting, titled The Banality of the Banality of Evil, features the addition of a nazi officer to the idyllic landscape. It’s in a thrift store that benefits Housing Works, a charity fighting “to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS.” Housing Works have put the painting for sale in an online auction ending in the evening on October 31st. As of this posting, the bidding has reached $157,200. If you’ve looking for a new Banksy and have $200,000 or so to drop, you can bid here.
Early last month, UK-based Stik spent a few days in NYC and left one more variation of his signature character on East 9th Street in the East Village. This coming Tuesday, October 29, he is participating in ARTWALK NY 2013, a benefit auction for the Coalition for the Homeless. Piggyback, a woodcut print on Japanese paper, was fashioned during his recent visit to Japan.
Photo of Stik on East 9th Street by Tara Murray; inside Dorien Gray Gallery by Dani Reyes Mozeson and Piggyback print, courtesy of the artist
Had a quick holiday in New York City combined with a nasty cold to delay posting this link-o-rama, but I’m back so here we go…
Dave aka nolionsinengland has been a friend and also one of my favorite street art/graffiti photographers for many years now. I’m very excited to see that he’s now offering street art tours of London in addition to his street art photography workshops. There aren’t too many people who can take me on a graffiti or street art tour of London, but Dave has shown me around before and he still schools me every time we meet up. This guy knows his stuff, and regular reads of this site have seen his photos on here for years. I haven’t taken this tour of course, but from every experience I’ve had with Dave over the past 5 or so years, I cannot recommend him highly enough.
Banksy’s No Ball Games street piece in London has been removed from the wall and is due to be sold next year. The profits from the sale will be going to charity, but I’m curious if that means the profits for person who owns the wall, or if the group organizing the removal and sale are also forgoing any profits. The company that removed this wall is the same one that managed the sale of Banksy’s Slave Labour street piece earlier this year.
Faile are on the cover of the latest issue of Very Nearly Almost, so there will be launch events in both NYC and London. The NYC launch is July 31st at Reed Projects and the London launch will be 8th August at Lazarides.
Remi/Rough recently put together a book of sketches that you can read online. Most artists who have met me know that I’m always carrying around a blackbook, and that I love to collect sketches, so this project of Remi’s was a real joy for me. It’s really fascinating to see what’s going on behind the scenes with this work.
Caroline and I went to this show in Brooklyn on Saturday night. I was really impressed with EKG’s drawings. A few of them definitely reminded me of Rammellzee. Col’s screenprints on wood were also interesting as a change of pace for someone who I’ve always known as a master with spray can.