Well it was the first week of midterms for me, so lots of time was spent locking myself in my room, turning off the wifi and just studying. On the plus side, had a great meeting today trying to get some grant money from my college to bring street artists to campus and I took a nap on what might just be the world’s comfiest couch. So here’s what I haven’t had the chance to blog with all that school stuff going on:
I’ll be running a modified version of my street art tours next Friday at the Moniker Art Fair. The tour will be free and we’ll being checking out the fair as well as some of the street art in Shoreditch nearby. That will be from 1-2:30 11:30-1pm and 1:30-3:00pm next Friday afternoon at Moniker.
The latest in the line of shows Yosi Sergant (previously involved with Manifest Hope and Manifest Equality) has worked on, Re:Form School looks to be another massive group show advocating a good cause. It is open in New York this weekend only.
There are three big book releases coming soon that I should be talking about. Today I want to just mention two of those.
KAWS’ 250+ page monograph actually won’t be released until November, but The Aldrich Museum (site of his recent solo show) is already selling an signed edition of the book for $45. UNFORTUNATELY, I think you have to live in the USA to purchase anything from The Aldrich’s online store. If you are living in the USA though, you can buy the book now for $45 and it will ship in November.
And there is a similar book coming out from Faile. Faile: Prints and Originals 1999-2009 is pretty much what it says in the title. I recently had a very brief chance to flip through a copy of this book, and it is just about the most comprehensive catalog of Faile’s work you can imagine. So, if you like Faile, it’s a must have, but if you don’t this obviously won’t be for you. This book should be available in stores or online any day now, but the one place you can definitely go already is Paper Monster. They are selling a “studio edition” of the book today for $69. This version of the book comes signed, stamped and embossed by Faile. But as much as you may want to go out right now and buy this book from Paper Monster, there’s something holding me back. Paper Monster notes that Faile will be releasing an “artist edition” of the book sometime in September, and that will be limited to 200 copies (no word on how many copies the “studio edition” is limited to).
Seems like the streetwear blogs have been drooling over this latest toys from Kaws. His Pinocchio toys and shirts are about to be released, and all the usual Kaws lovers are of course eager to get their hands on this new design. But AnimalNY tells it like it is:
His latest partnership is with Disney and for me, like graffiti writers painting legal walls, there’s something weak about obtaining permission from the companies that should be getting knocked-off.
I’m not particularly a Kaws hater. In fact, I like A LOT of his work, both new and old. This new toy is pretty meh though, and I just don’t get why everybody is so excited about it. And yeah, kind of funn that he actually licensed the image from Disney. To be fair to Kaws though, his graffiti days are long behind him, and I don’t think anybody should have any misconceptions about that. He’s an artist/designer now. Not a subversive artist/graffiti writer. Nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s just a change (though admittedly not a recent one).
The next issue of Complex magazine has not one, not two but three big-name artists helping design covers for the magazine. Of course, the whole world seems to be going crazy for this Kaws cover featuring the now incarcerated Lindsay Lohan (and the accompanying photo shoot):
You know what though? We all know Kaws does good design. We all know that this would turn out looking kind of cool. Kaws does design. That’s his job. The covers I am really excited about are with Todd James and José Parlá:
Looks like both of these artists have pulled out all the stops for this job. Todd James’s look suits what little I know about B.o.B. perfectly, and damn that Parlá cover looks awesome. Honestly, I’m probably not going to read the magazine, but I am definitely going to be buying a copy just to have that beautiful image by Parlá.
Surely one of the most talked about exhibits going on currently is KAWS at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Connecticut. As a fellow New Jerseyian, I feel it is my duty, nay my privilege, to hail from the same state as such an incredible street turned gallery artist. Made famous for his defacement of bus shelter advertisements back in the day (thanks to Barry McGee who gave him the key to the locks), KAWS continually reinvents his art taking it one step further with each new endeavor. What truly amazes me is that his aesthetic hardly changes, and KAWS’ logo/monster/creature-like-thing is still his work’s trademark embedded into nearly every piece.
Even though one might deem that KAWS’ work is out of place in a white walls museum stiff setting, the pieces are so loud and speak individually, that the white walls are a nonfactor in this instance. I especially enjoy the fusion of his colorful character and celebrity or model portraiture. The pieces are comical, yet strangely sadistic, in the sense that KAWS’ creatures own the subject and are not just a form of vandalism; rather, they belong in the picture. In some odd welding of pop, street, urban, and collage art, KAWS’ new works seem right at home on these walls, and I would be hardly surprised if they do not begin to appear in galleries or modern art museum collections more often.
The exhibit also boasts many of his more affordable collaborations like shoes, skateboards, etc. KAWS’s style just goes to show everyone that his work truly is relatable to and for the public, even in museum space. So if anybody wants to buy me one of the skate decks, I definitely would not decline such a gift.
Oh, and the music is a bit cheesy. You might want to turn it on mute. Or play a little Bruce in Kaws’ honor.
There was one particularly interesting bit for KAWS collectors. This is going to get into a bit of art-world-collecting-and-commercialization-bullshit, so if you don’t like that sort of thing (and I know a lot of people don’t), I guess just skip the rest of this post. Maguire asks Kaws about his Kimpsons, Kurfs and Spongebob paintings. About the Kimpson series, KAWS says that he used The Simpsons’ characters because they are instantly recognizable around the world. Makes sense. Seems like some thought went into that. If you want to insert your brand into pop culture, take a brand that you and the rest of the world loves and identifies with and use that. But then about the Spongebob series of paintings, KAWS says:
I started doing SpongeBob paintings for Pharrell. Then I started doing smaller paintings, which got much more abstract. And SpongeBob was something I wanted to do because graphically I love the shapes. But honestly, when I’m painting SpongeBob, I’m not thinking, Oh, I loved this episode. Honestly, I’ve never even watched it.
My immediate reaction to that comment is that the Spongebob paintings are basically KAWS just phoning it in concept-wise. Does it mean that his Spongebob paintings are essentially just him doing things because people like them and nothing more? Maybe that means the Kimpson and Kurf paintings are the more “significant” works by KAWS.
On the other hand, maybe that’s just a natural progression for KAWS. I’d guess that most KAWS collectors haven’t seen many episodes of Spongebob, but they don’t have to. They’re familiar with the character. He’s that much of a pop-culture icon. In which case, maybe these Spongebob paintings are even more meaningful and significant that Kurfs, which are based on a show that KAWS and his collectors probably did grow up watching.
Anyways, that comment just threw me for a bit of a loop and I’m curious to hear what other have to think about it.
Yesterday Kaws posted some pictures on his blog of his artwork being unpacked for his solo show in Madrid. And now Guillotine has some proper photos from the opening as well as pictures of Kaws’ piece at the ARCO Madrid art fair.
Here’s the solo show:
And I’m serious. That’s pretty much the show. It looks like there were three canvases and a small chum sculpture. But hey, they’re huge and cool if you like Kaws (I love the red one), so maybe that’s okay.
And here’s his piece at ARCO:
The pieces in his solo show are interesting, but to me, this one is just Kaws’ attempt at being Barry McGee: A cluster of canvases that combine simple geometric shapes with trademark characters. Though to be fair, the far right section with half of Spongebob’s face looks awesome.
Wednesday night is the opening of perhaps the 2nd most anticipated solo show of the year so far (the most anticipated being Hirst’s at Gagosian). It’s the opening of KAWS’ show at Galeria Javier Lopez in Madrid, Spain. KAWS has posted a few photos of the set up on his blog. Here’s a couple of those.
Lot 230: Untitled by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Estimated £70-90,000
RJ’s thoughts – Meh. It’s an okay sketch. For the £70,000 estimate, wouldn’t you rather have a kickass José Parlá?
Lot 233: Kate Moss by Banksy. Estimated £25-35,000
RJ’s thoughts – I’m not a fan of the Kate Moss prints, but I seem to be the only one in the world who isn’t. Also, how cool is it that Sotheby’s gets the joke has lots 232 and 234 are both by Warhol?
Lot 284: Bomb Hugger by Banksy. Estimated £25-35,000
RJ’s thoughts – Usually I don’t like the poorly executed original works that Banksy made around this time, but this one I love for some reason.
Lot 285: Amoured Car by Banksy. Estimated £25-35,000
RJ’s thoughts – Pretty much the same as my thoughts on Bomb Hugger, except that the reason I like this piece is the title.
Lot 269: Untitled (Robots Amaze) by Barry McGee. Estimated £30-40,000
Elisa’s thoughts – Both this piece and Lot 271 could be tough sells as they are not “typical” McGee works, plus they’re installations, but this one is certainly fun. It’s not for me, but I have to admit that it’s a cool piece to observe in person – it has that eerie aura to it that all animatronics have. But how does one get the tag on the wall? Does Barry come over and do it for you himself? That would be cool. Otherwise, how does the piece work? I’ll also add that it is interesting to see both this lot and Untitled (Car Boot) at auction – whether you like the work or not, it shows the wider art world that Barry’s scope is greater than his gorgeous trademark clusters and individual portrait pieces.
RJ’s thoughts – From what I hear, the piece doesn’t come with the “Amaze” tag, and if you want one, you have to paint it yourself. That is so disappointing. This will only sell to a museum or somebody who wants to donate it to a museum, if it sells at all.
Lot 270: You Told That Joke Twice by Banksy. Estimated £100-150,000
Elisa’s thoughts – This is a strong, intelligent piece from Banksy. The estimate is high, considering the market, but it’s a big piece and I hope it performs well as it shows Banksy off at his best. I love it.
RJ’s thoughts – Yeah it’s a high estimate, but as Elisa says, it’s quite a big painting. And it’s one of my all time favorite Banksy’s. Definitely one of his strongest works. And in terms of the art market, it definitely helps that this piece was in Banksy’s book “Wall and Piece” and that it’s a total one-off.
Lot 271: Untitled (Car Boot) by Barry McGee. Estimated £15-20,000
Elisa’s thoughts – This works as a cool installation piece within a larger exhibition context and links to the great larger car installations Barry is known for, but on its own it looks a bit dead and pretentious. It should go to a museum, some other kind of institution, or else a McGee fanatic who owns hundreds of pieces and can put lots of other work around it to give it the life it deserves.
RJ’s thoughts – I think that a museum could do better, maybe will a full car, but a really ambitious collector with some McGee clusters already could make this piece the centerpiece of their collection.
Lot 18: Cash Crop by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Estimated £600-900,000
Elisa’s thoughts – This is an interesting piece because it reflects an important period in Basquiat’s history. It’s a very introspective, personal piece, which makes for a tension that appeals to me, but it’s not his strongest work.
RJ’s thoughts – Agreed, it’s not his strongest work. I wouldn’t care if this was on my wall or not, except for the fact that it was painted by Basquiat. “Year of the Boar” sold at Phillips de Pury back in October for £1.1 million, and that painting looked 10x better to me.
Lot 19: Vandalised oil #001 by Banksy. Estimated £60-80,000
Elisa’s thoughts – This is an iconic crude oil from Banksy. If you’re a fan of Banksy and like this series, I say go for it.
RJ’s thoughts – Pricing for Banksy’s crude oils can be so screwy that it’s nearly impossible to know what a fair market price is, but this is definitely one of the better ones.
Lot 138: Two works – Untitled by Kaws. Estimated £10-15,000
Elisa’s thoughts – In my opinion, there is no artistic merit in works like these. The estimate is about right, but it’s beyond me why someone would pay that for them.
RJ’s thoughts – I’m not a Kaws collector, but we all know one (or are one). For Kaws fanatics, these two pieces would be great additions to a collection. But yeah, otherwise, who else cares? They’re just his skulls by themselves. It’s more like buying a Nike logo, not an OBEY Giant poster.
RJ’s final thoughts – Overall, wow. Maybe not all of these pieces are amazing, but the artists are all top-tier. There are no unproven street artists in these sales.