“We don’t do reporting” link-o-rama

Unknown artist in Bushwick, Brooklyn
Unknown artist in Bushwick, Brooklyn

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.
  • Pure Evil is trying to do a piece of street art every day for a year. I know he’s not the first to do this kind of a marathon, but good on him for taking on the project.
  • 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.

Photo by Lois Stavsky

Banksy smashes estimates at auction

Bomb Hugger by Banksy

It looks like Banksy‘s film Exit Through The Gift Shop is already helping boost the price of his artwork, even though it sounds like the film is more about Mr. Brainwash (whose prices somehow have not dropped to $0, yet). This week, there have been 5 Banksy pieces at auction in London, and almost all sold above the high estimate.

First up was the Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction on February 11th. There were three Banksy pieces in that auction: one print and two originals.

Why is there a Banksy print for sale at Sotheby’s instead of Dreweatts or Bonhams? Because it was a Kate Moss. An edition of just 50, these are probably the most sought-after of any of Banksy’s prints. They aren’t my favorite, but I’m just one guy and the market definitely disagrees with me on this one. The print was estimated to sell at £25-35,000. Including the buyer’s premium, it went for £46,850. The Kate Moss prints have sold for as much as £96,000 before, but this is probably the best price one has achieved since the recession hit.

Both originals at Sotheby’s were older works, and sold to benefit The Luggage Store Gallery. Bomb Hugger and Armoured Car were both estimated at £25-35,000. Bomb Hugger sold for £58,850 and Armoured Car reached £49,250.

Next up was the Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Auction on the 12th. They had an amazing Banksy canvas, You Told That Joke Twice. Christie’s estimated the piece at £100-150,000, and it sold for £169,250 including the buyer’s premium, which put the hammer price near the upper end of the estimate. This was the only Banksy piece this weekend not the exceed the high estimate.

Later that day, Phillips de Pury had their Evening Sale in Contemporary Art. Their Banksy was Vandalised oil #001, a fantastic crude oil. With a conservative estimate of just £60-80,000, the results here were outstanding. The painting sold for £121,250 including the buyer’s premium.

Now, as noted with the Kate Moss print, these aren’t the best auction results Banksy has ever had, and I don’t want to sound like that NYTimes article that said “The art market is once again shooting up like a rocket,” but the Banksy market at least seems on the road to recovery.

London’s February auctions

On February 11th-13th, Sotheby’s Christie’s and Phillips de Pury will all have auctions in London which include a fair amount of street art. Here’s a selection of most of that work.

Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Day Auction. February 11th, from 2pm.

  • 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.

Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction. February 12th.

  • 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.

Phillips de Pury Evening Sale: Contemporary Art. February 13th.

  • 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.

Phillips de Pury Day Sale: Contemporary Art. February 13th.

  • 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.

Banksy at Sotheby’s

With the recession, we’ve seen an end to those “Urban Art Auctions” at Bonhams and Dreweatts which seemed cool but a bit let they were secluding Urban Art away from the the rest of the art world. Now, urban/street art is appearing more in Contemporary Art auctions, which, I think, is a good sign for the future of the genre.

That’s why I was excited to see this iconic Banksy canvas in Sotheby’s Contemporary Day Auction on the 26th of June in London.

Banksy Flower Thrower

Of course, a lot of Banksy work has gone unsold in auctions lately. Hopefully Banksy’s Bristol show will pique interest in this piece. I’d love to see some more street art get strong prices at a contemporary auction, and this could be Banksy’s chance.

The Sotheby’s Parlá

Those following urban art auctions closely have probably heard about the José Parlá original on board that was estimated by Sotheby’s at only $8,000-$12,000 (image can be found here). Nobody I spoke to could understand such a low estimate. The piece is quite big a 48 by 86 inches (about 1.2m x 2.2m), and it’s beautiful. It’s not like Parlá is the sort of Banksy derivative artist whose work is having a tough time selling in this market. I’m pretty sure that if Elms Lesters had another Parlá solo show next month lines would still be out the door.

Well, this evening lot 236 sold for $51,250 including Buyers Premium. I still don’t know how Sotheby’s could have have gotten the estimate so wrong, but I’m glad the rest of the world saw this gem and realized what it is actually worth.

3 Reasons A Recession Is Good For Street Art

Work by K-Guy. Photo by K-Guy
Work by K-Guy. Photo by K-Guy

Everybody’s been talking about how the recession is going to destroy every part of our economy, and yeah, it probably will, but it’s not all bad new… street art might actually get a boost in the long run thanks to this economic downturn.

Here are three possible advantages for street art in this recession:

1. The not very talented artists who have found their way into galleries are going to be put in their place.
So many people have been buying street art either for the name of the artist, or just because it is street art. This year, some collectors are concerned that even great artists won’t sell much work. People have stopped buying for name or genre recognition. Collectors are buying those “special pieces” that they feel are particularly great. At the end of this recession, there are going to be a lot fewer crap street artists because their work  is going to stop selling. Nobody wants to buy a piece any more just because the Sotheby’s catalog describes it as “stencil and spray paint on found wood.” Continue reading “3 Reasons A Recession Is Good For Street Art”