Sunday, December 30, 2012

The State of Things: The Urban Art Market

Written by Samantha Tutone

Art has been considered one of the most intelligent investments anyone can make. Unlike other investments, such as automobiles or real estate, the value of art does not depreciate over time. Let’s say a developer builds a four-story home directly in the way of the ocean view from your multi-million dollar house, and voilá, there goes half the value of your investment. The art market has been steadily growing for years. It’s rapid expansion into a global market, with new fresh art investors, collectors, and the introduction of new artistic styles, has caused a huge boom. Is this a positive thing in the long run? Well, that is a question that has yet to be answered.

In 2007 the art market hit an all time high. Urban art made an explosive entrance onto the global scene, with headliners like graffiti artist Banksy. The turn around sale of prints were absurdly fast, doubling and tripling the price of pieces overnight. Young collectors and those who purchase art purely for speculation jumped onto the urban art market without too much thought; following the trend. Not long after the flood of urban art, the inflated prices on the art market, art investors were not willing to pay the astronomical prices. The subsequent financial collapse of the art market is no big secret. Fear of such an event occurring again in the contemporary and urban art market has caused some investors and collectors to be apprehensive about future purchases.

It is difficult to assess the state of the art market. Sale made by private art investors, collectors, and galleries are just that: private. Transactions are not subject to the public record like auction houses are. Without knowing what artworks are selling for across the entire board, any evaluations on the health of the art market are purely estimates. The urban and lowbrow market is even harder to pin down. Most urban art that is for sale at auction are several years old, with an established value based on the success of the artist over those years since the work was created. However, many urban pieces are not sold this way. Urban art is typically sold in local galleries and through private sales, with most collections being several months old, instead of years.

The state of the urban art market has been steady. Private sales, while information is limited, seem to be rising again. Art lovers and collectors continue to purchase urban and street art regardless of the auction house value. As far as fears about another global art market crash? The circumstances in which the market boomed are no longer a factor, making it unlikely that any kind of serious crash to reoccur.

To see what is fresh in the local urban and lowbrow art market visit Thumbprint Gallery, on Kline Street in La Jolla. More about the artists and art featured at the gallery can be found on the Thumbprint Gallery website. The gallery is open 12-4pm Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Origami and Lace: Finding a Place on the Streets

Written By: Carly Deblock

The words street art and graffiti generally conjure up ideas of men armed with spray cans, tags and stencils. There is a new scene on the streets. In recent years, the number of female street artists has been on the rise and they bring with them game-changing concepts and materials. One wouldn’t necessarily expect the use of lace and paper to be considered unconventional; origami and lace were both being created in the 15th to 17th centuries. In the world of street art, the use of origami and lace is pioneering to new levels. Spray paint has become the standard in urban art and these innovative women are changing that standard.
Lace Graffiti by Mademoiselle Maurice

The discussion of gender is quickly being silenced as the addition of texture, originality and impermanence gives the artwork a well-deserved place on the streets. The dialogue between the art and the environment changes with each piece, dependent on the surroundings or artwork itself. The evanescent qualities create an intense appreciation for the craft and for the meanings the art encompasses. The conventional spray paint methods are being taken to the next level with lace stencils, or without spray paint at all.
Artist Mademoiselle Maurice is one of the most influential artists contributing to urban art community in Paris. She creates her short-lived graffiti with delicate origami, ribbons and handmade lace. After living in Japan for a year, Maurice returned to France with a newly developed love for origami. She began constructing origami art pieces in vibrant colors and eventually yearned to display her talents in a larger scale. Her uplifting origami installations create a fragile gradient of hues that stretch across barren walls and seem to expand in front of the viewers eyes. The contrast between the colors and the dull grey walls captures the eyes of passersby and the work transforms the city into a outdoor art gallery.

NeSpoon is another urban artist who is breaking the stereotypes within graffiti, working with lace. She uses her positve artistic energy to create urban art with traditionally old fashioned lace, referring to her own work as “jewelry of the public space”. Her goal to “dress up the city” is fulfilled through creation of enlarged lace patterns spray painted on walls and buildings. NeSpoon also works with textile lace to interweave her ephemeral work into the atmosphere. She is constantly creating complex cobwebs of yarn and lace in unexpected locations around Europe. The ancient craft of lace is then transformed into stunning and contemporary works of art.
Origami Graffiti

As more urban installations appear in cities around the world, the more people are observing these new trends. Origami, lace, ribbons and yarn are just a few of the innovative materials being used on the streets. A significant increase of women are moving their art to the streets, where the graffiti has been a male-dominated territory. Whether these artists are holding a can of spray paint or a handful of lace and yarn, these women are contributing to the urban art community in profound ways.

At the Thumbprint Gallery, the current artist on display, Jack Stricker, intelligently incorporates lace as a stencil for his artwork. More about the artists and their art can be found on the Thumbprint Gallery website. Located at 920 Kline St. #104 in La Jolla, San Diego, the gallery exhibits contemporary, urban, lowbrow, and graffiti art from local artists. Thumbprint Gallery is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12-4pm.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Matisse: Wild Joy

Written by Charity Vincent

Henri Matisse was one of the most influential artists in the formation of modern arts. Matisse was a French painter, draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor in the early Modern era of art. The artist’s unique style and innovative ideals earned him an eternal place in art history. Matisse’s style can arguably be broken into three key elements: arbitrary color, fluid contours, and “wild” subject matter. “Wild” can be unpacked to mean gestural, free, erotic, light, happy, and overall inappropriate content for his era.
The Dance (First Version) by Matisse

Matisse was born on December 31, 1869 in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France. Matisse was born into the wealthy household of a merchant, where he was brought up sternly yet lovingly.  Matisse’s father supplied him with prime education and law school in Paris. However, by the time Matisse finished with his training in 1888, he was dissatisfied with his field. The artist claimed he developed his eye for color from his mother, and rightfully so, because it was his mother who introduced him to painting in 1889. His mother had brought him color paints in hopes it would cheer up Matisse as he recovered from illness. Matisse started with still lives and became immediately consumed with an intense love for painting.

Not long after starting his artistic career, Henry Matisse became a forerunner in the Fauvism movement. The Fauvists believed in freedom and nature.  Fauvist work contained loose lines, brash brush strokes, strong colors, and blunt distortion of space. Fauvists were more concerned with the pleasures of life and innate desires, than structural and representational concepts. In their attempts to portray life as nature, the Fauvists drew a lot of influences from African sculpture, which is abstract, stylized, and geometric in style. This look was seen as primitive and savage during that time. The Fauvists called themselves les Fauves, or “the wild beasts.” Matisse, along with André Derain, led the Fauvist movement forward by creating numerous paintings containing all of these Fauve elements.
Le Bonheur de Vivre (The Joy of Life) by Matisse
Arguably, Matisse’s most known and celebrated painting is The Joy of Life, painted in 1905. This painting is a depiction of numerous nudes dancing, lounging, and exchanging intimacies. All the figures interact harmoniously with the others, as well as the trees, even though the space is a bit crowded with people and shrubbery. The bodies of the subjects are elongated, fluid, and graceful and become unanimous with nature itself. The colors are arbitrarily decided upon, yet all fade into each other with luminescent beauty. The perspective of the painting causes the audience to feel as if they are spying on an erotic natural process from nature itself, the leaves and branches framing the scene. Matisse is quite known for his simplified, yet fluid nudes.  The Joy of Life is a quintessential example of both Matisse’s style and chosen subject matter.

There are many more examples of modern and contemporary art at Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla. The gallery features local artists as well as artists from around the country. The gallery is open to the public Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm-4pm and is located at 920 Kline St. #104 in La Jolla, San Diego.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Tagging the Sky: The Boneyard Project

Written by Michael Ashman
When it comes to spreading their name on the streets, graffiti artists often go beyond buildings and signs in search of buses, trucks, and trains to be used as moving billboards. But there’s one mode of transportation they rarely take on: airplanes. After all, how can the artwork on planes be seen if it is mostly above the clouds?

To solve this problem, Eric Firestone, the owner of Eric Firestone Gallery in East Hampton, New York, decided he would have to bring the planes down to earth. With the help of arts writer and curator Carlo McCormick, he gathered a group of graffiti artists to paint “dead planes” at the famous Tucson, Arizona airplane “bone yards.” The result is “The Boneyard Project: A Return Trip,” a combination of Contemporary art with the unconventional surface of decaying planes. More than 30 graffiti artists worked on old U.S. Air Force airplanes giving the dead planes a rejuvenating facelift. The military aspect of some of these planes also recalls the history of modern air warfare. After serving their purpose and left to rot in an old part of the base, these once deadly airplanes are now repurposed with a more peaceful activity in mind. For instance, a broken-down DC3 was chosen by the Brazilian graffiti artist Nunca, who transformed the dead plane into a beautiful eagle with men holding onto its back. Other painted planes inform us of positive and negative associations each artist has with war.

This was not the first time Firestone used old aircraft as eccentric canvases for art. “The Boneyard Project: A Return Trip” is the follow-up to his first project called “Nose Job.” His first trip to the Boneyard in 2010 yielded him with several nose cone art pieces from the discarded dead planes. The exhibition showed off a revival of images such as, pin-up girls, tattoos, and war slogans, painted on old fighter jet and bomber cones by the soldiers. Inspired by this old art form that was used to humanize these machines, participating artists, including Shepard Fairey, Lee Quinoes, and Akio, re-imagined the nose cones and other plane parts to give them a modern update.

Phoenix of Metal by 'HOW & NOSM

The culmination of the project was the exhibition in January 2012 at The Pima Air & Space Museum titled “Round Trip: Art from The Boneyard Project.” This exhibit features works from “Nose Job” and new selections from “The Boneyard Project: A Return Trip.” The painted planes on display highlight the personal reactions of the artists about the harsh history of war. The largest air & space museum has a great significance being close the “bone yards” where Firestone and McCormick first founded the project. Going beyond the streets into the desert to find a new and interesting objects to paint proved to be successful for these artists. 

To learn more about local graffiti artists check out Thumbprint Gallery located in La Jolla, San Diego. Many of artists featured at Thumbprint Gallery have been influenced by the graffiti art scene. They also have prints and stickers for sale at the gallery's online store.



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mr. Brainwash: Creative Fraud or Original Genius?

Written by Charity Lantz

Who is Mr. Brainwash? Mr. Brainwash is the alias of Thierry Guetta, a filmmaker/street artist gaining recognition in urban art culture for various negative and positive means. Although Guetta was born in France, the majority of his life is based in Los Angeles pursuing filmmaking, and eventually art making. Guetta had his debut show in 2008 titled “Life is Beautiful” at the CBS Studios in Los Angeles. The show included numerous paintings and prints, along with colossal installations and sculptures. The reception was a huge success, and jumpstarted his career. Commissioners of his work included Michael Jackson and Madonna.

Guetta’s story begins when he left his clothing business behind in order to create a film that documented graffiti artists at work. His interest in graffiti can be contributed to his relationship with the street artist Invader, his cousin. Invader introduced Guetta to such graffiti giants as Banksy and Shepard Fairey. The process of filming exposed Guetta to countless ideas and inspirations for his own work, which he started producing before finishing the film.

Mr. Brainwash’s work includes stencil work, paintings, and sculpture. Guetta’s subject matter categorizes him as a Pop artist. Most critics may negatively associate Mr. Brainwash with Andy Warhol due to his popularized subject matter and method of art making. Rather than traditionally creating the artwork himself, Guetta actually employs numerous artists to carry out the work, while he oversees them. This method is highly reflective of Warhol, and in turn allows more art to be made. Guetta is similar to Warhol in his movement and style. Warhol is known for his repetitive silkscreens, distinguished from each other only through varied arbitrary color. Though not as repetitive, much of Mr. Brainwash work is in this same style. A difference between the two would be how Warhol did not appropriate other artists’ work, rather he just took popular icons to create his own work. The same cannot be said for Mr. Brainwash.

Revolutionary graffiti artist, Banksy, created the documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, which illustrated the initiation and development of Guetta’s artistic career. The 2010 film’s success likely amplified Mr. Brainwash’s already increasing reputation. However, Exit Through the Gift Shop did not paint Mr. Brainwash in a very flattering light. The documentary suggested Mr. Brainwash exploited other artists’ intellectual ideas and styles.

Exit Through the Gift Shop has been received and analyzed in various ways. Some go as far to speculate that Mr. Brainwash is actually a controversial concoction created by street artists Banksy and Shepard Fairey in order to promote their own work. However, these accusations have been apparently disproven. Theories hold that Banksy is himself Mr. Brainwash, because of the similarity in their artistic styles. This idea cannot be completely dismissed considering Banksy’s identity is still unknown.

Let us return to our initial question. Who is Mr. Brainwash? Is he an artistic genius capable of making highly accessible and relatable art? Or is he more so an entrepreneur of sorts, taking advantage of popular culture and ideas in order to turn a profit? Is he an artistic embodiment of popular culture or merely a faux avant-garde icon? I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not to be Brainwashed.

The Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla features local artists that have been influenced by the street and graffiti art scene. More about the artists and their art can be found on the Thumbprint Gallery website. It is located at 920 Kline St. #104 in La Jolla, San Diego. The gallery exhibits contemporary, urban, lowbrow, and graffiti art from local artists, and it is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12-4pm.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Honey, I Blew Up the Art

Typewriter Eraser by Claes Oldenburg
Written by Michael Ashman
Household objects like pencils, thread spools, or forks don’t seem like they’d make for very impressive art objects because we see and use them all the time. But what if a sculptor increased the size of those everyday things to transform them into something larger than life? Not only would it dramatically change their detail and visibility, but it would also change our relationship to them. Walking through a park and noticing a giant paperclip among statues of famous heroes or dignitaries would certainly raise a few eyebrows. These monumental sculptures—that are the right size for giants—seem out of place and make us want to investigate them.

Claes Oldenburg

Claes Oldenburg is one such Pop artist who has continued to reject the traditional models for statues. Instead, he created some very unusual larger-than-life sculptures. “I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something more than sit on its ass in a museum," he once said. Claes Oldenburg saw the significance in common objects as colossal-sized reproductions and worked with commercial items to change their identity. He used unconventional materials to form nonfunctioning facsimiles of objects like his Soft Bathtub (Model)—Ghost Version (1966), a drooping tub made with foam-filled canvas, acrylic paint, pencil, wood, and plaster. He also brought humor to his work by super-sizing things into monumental sculptures like his Typewriter Eraser, Scale X (1999)—a work that pays tribute to a once common tool now replaced by the personal computer and its Delete key. Claes Oldenburg shared with the audience every last detail of the once small things, and being able to examine them makes them more memorable than they once were.

Big Bow by Piper Brett

Piper Brett

In a similar manner, Piper Brett creates monumental sculptures like that of Claes Oldenburg.  Some of her sculptures are recreations of small objects made more meaningful by magnifying and modifying their aspects. She uses her welding and metal fabrication talents to create these unique reproductions. One example is a gigantic gift-wrapping bow with sturdy steel instead of bendable ribbon. Its minimalistic qualities, bold red color and large size, shows us that a even a simple object can capture our attention if it is enlarged. It is a playful reminder to everyone about the holidays, and the way it is made makes it a lasting icon for the viewer.

Pop artists use and repurpose common images in their art to appeal to a wide audience. One can see local art and artists like this at the Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla. There are also a wide selection of prints and other items at the Thumbprint Gallery shop.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Adam Neate: Art Can be Free

Written by Carly Deblock

On the morning of November 15th, Londoners awoke to find 1,000 screen prints created by one of the most prominent street artists scattered around the city. Some on doorsteps, some by trash cans and some on lamp posts. Adam helped to develop the concept of free art.

5,000 Paintings

Adam Neate, born in 1977, is a British painter who has developed into one of the most influential street artists in the world. His experience with art began around age ten, when Adam discovered his passion for graffiti and began to create. He graduated from Suffolk College and then worked as a graphic designer for two years.

In the spare time that he had, Adam would paint on anything and everything that he could get his hands on. Constantly painting on wood and cardboard, Adam was able to gift his artwork to friends and he even began to leave his paintings littered in the streets. This gave any passerby the opportunity to walk away with an original Adam Neate masterpiece. Adam was painting around 1,000 paintings a year during this time, but he avoided the art galleries for 5 years. Congruent with the original concept of street art, Adam prefers to give his art to the streets he came from. He was eventually contacted by a gallery and hosted a solo show that sold out hours after opening. He quickly rose to a stardom status and claimed a huge name in the contemporary art world.

The London Show

Adam Neate’s biggest project to date took place during the night of November 14, 2008. With an anti-high art mentality, Neate placed his art around the city, where anyone was free to claim his signed silk-screen prints. Adam and helpers scattered 1,000 prints of his art, worth over a million dollars, around the streets of London. People around the city woke up to a city-wide art show right on their doorstep. This was after Neate’s work had sold at Sotheby’s for over $100,000. Allowing the whole population of London the opportunity to own one of Neate’s pieces was an enormous project.

Urban Style

Walking into a gallery of Neate’s works teleports the viewer into a world filled with dynamic colors, movement and emotion. He places focus on the creative process as an artist and less on the product. Neate uses brilliant colors, strong lines and diverse compositions to create eye-catching paintings. His work is reminiscent of the bold Basquiat and it is easily spotted in the streets. His three dimensional paintings, overlaying pieces of cardboard, are intense explorations of motion on multiple viewing planes. Adam’s works are also reminiscent of Francis Bacon in the use of vibrant colors and the successful attempts to create dynamic movement through his artwork.

Free Art

Adam Neate finds a literal and poetic way to give artwork back to his urban roots. As he told the Independent, "It is about putting back in what I got out at the beginning of my career". His method brings art away from the galleries and places it into everyone’s hands - what street art initially intended to do. Graffiti and urban art creates a sense of community between the artist and audience; anyone on the street is invited into the art world. Giving art back to where Neate started his career creates a dialogue and encourages other artists to keep creating.

Neate’s message and urban style relate to many of Thumbprint Gallery artists. The gallery is dedicated to displaying the best in contemporary urban and pop surrealist art. You can browse and buy a variety of works at Thumbprint Gallery’s online store here.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Rising Movement of Pop Surrealism

Anatomy of a Somnambulist, by Mia Araujo
Artistic movements are a constant and organic system in the art world. Some arise in response to other movements, and others are created by the innovation of a single artist’s imagination. The artistic movement known as “Lowbrow art” or “Pop Surrealism” was born in the Los Angeles area in the 1970s. It began as an underground style with heavy influences from pop culture, comics, and other subcultures.

Pop Surrealism has been on the periphery of the art world for years, occasionally cropping up in mainstream galleries across the country. It has been chronically excluded from the “fine arts” sphere due to its unconventional origins. Each of these artists has enormous talent but reside on the outskirts of the traditional bubble. Many of the artists in the Pop Surrealist genre are self-taught and lack a traditional arts foundation, alienating them from the “legitimate” art world. Many of the artists come from backgrounds in illustration, tattooing, and comic books.

The term “lowbrow art” was coined by artist Robert Williams for the title of his book: The Lowbrow Art of Robt. Williams. He wanted a term for his type of art since authorized art institutions refused to recognize his style. Williams has since admitted that the term “lowbrow art” is ill fitting for the genre. Instead, Robert Williams prefers to describe his work, and the genre that sprung from the title of his book, “cartoon-tainted abstract surrealism.”

This estrangement from the fine arts world has not stopped people from collecting Pop Surrealism, however. Collectors are drawn to the figurative and narrative focus of Pop Surrealism. The genre highlights humor and detail fused with pop culture references, some rather old-fashioned. Regional styles have developed across the United States as well. The “west coast” style is more heavily influenced by comix and hot-rod car culture than other parts of the nation. The worldwide spread of Pop Surrealism has caused some very interesting cross-culture effects. As the style develops, there may be more branching, leading to the creation of new artistic movements.

In 1994, Robert Williams founded the magazine Juxtapoz, which continues to be the frontline of writing, media exposure, and Pop Surrealist art community news. The magazine advertises events, galleries, and shows. The magazine is a microcosm of the entire movement and subculture. Each sub-group of the art movement is represented including illustration, graffiti, tattoo, erotica, street art, and music and film.

Some galleries tailor specifically to Pop Surrealism, expanding the credibility of the style. As the community of artists grew, so did the number of galleries showing lowbrow art. One of the galleries that exhibits this type of art, particularly by local artists, is Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla. The gallery is located at 920 Kline Street and is open Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12pm to 4pm.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Elton John's Car Collection- Urban Art: Christie's Auction House Sells It All

Christie's Auction House
Written by Samantha Tutone

The sale and trade of art and valuable objects is as old as commerce itself. The formulation of auction houses began mostly after the French Revolution, as London became the major center for international trade. From the world record-breaking sale of a Bugatti Royale automobile in 1987 to Impressionist paintings by Monet, Christie’s Auction House has made some amazing sales since it opened its doors.

Christie’s Auction house was first established in 1766 in London, England. Founder James Christie made the first sale on December 5, 1766. Today, Christie’s has 53 offices in over 32 countries. An amazing assortment of art and memorabilia is sold in the 450 annual auctions. Christie’s Auction house is one of the largest in the world with annual profits of over $3.5 billion. Private and public sales are all part of the extensive services Christie’s offers. The auction house prides itself on having impeccable quality and impeachable provenance for all of the items it sells, including the antiquities. Christie’s has a longstanding rivalry with the other global art auction house: Sotheby’s.

The list of objects Christie’s Auction sells is enormous. There are over 80 categories and departments. Urban art, interior furniture, African art, musical instruments, and fossils are just a few of the types of objects they sell. Some of the most unusual things have come up for auction and sold for a small (or large depending on how you look at it) fortune. Elton John sold twenty of his own cars £2 million. In 2006 a model of the Star Trek Starship Enterprise Class D sold for a half-million dollars. Not two years later an ink and wash drawing of a Gundam by artist Hisashi was auctioned as well. Traditional art objects like photographs, Old Master paintings, and sculpture are also for sale.

Rare and expensive wines have their own market at Christie’s Auction. The house even has art storage facilities for rent or purchase, for proper atmospheric and environmental housing of delicate collections. Christie’s also has an international realty department, selling and renting exclusive properties around the world at the most spectacular locations. The auction house also offers appraisals for all manner of arts.

Even with the recent downturn of the world economy, Christie’s Auction still manages to make a serious profit off the art that it sells. Some aspects of the market took a serious drop, however. Urban art, especially works by the urban art movements’ most famous member Banksy, struggled to sell through 2009 and 2010. On average, the price and demand for Banksy art dropped 30 percent. Nevertheless, change is in the wind. Contemporary art specialist, Ben Hanly said, “Banksy will come back. He’s the one member of the urban art movement who will last” (Reyburn, Bloomberg). Sales of urban art and contemporary art at Christie’s Auction will continue to rise as the world economy begins to recover.

To learn more about contemporary and cutting edge art visit Thumbprint Gallery. It is located at 920 Kline St. #104 in La Jolla, San Diego. The gallery exhibits contemporary, urban, lowbrow, and graffiti art from local artists. It is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12pm to 4pm.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sotheby's Auction House: From Antiques to Banksy

Art at Auction at Sotheby's
Written by Samantha Tutone

Art as a cultural item has always been associated with two things: extreme poverty or extreme wealth. The poverty usually belongs to the artist or producer of the art, and the wealth is typically that of the commissioner or purchaser of the art. The value of art is ever changing and is usually, as one could say, in the eye of the critic. Fame, of both artist and artwork, contribute to the cultural value of art. There are some places, however, where it is an occupation to assign monetary value to art: Sotheby’s Auction House. Here, buyers and sellers come together to privately or publicly acquire art. The collections and items bought and sold at Sotheby’s auction is extensive and impressive.

History of Sotheby's

Sotheby’s Auction House was established in 1744 when Samuel Baker sold the entirety of the library of Sir John Stanley. It’s expansion from books to fine arts, antiquities, jewelry, and decorative arts grew with the increasing global auction market. Now Sotheby’s has 90 locations in 40 different countries. Sotheby’s is the largest art business in the world with profits grossing an average $5.8 billion a year. The auction house prides itself on having impeccable quality and impeachable provenance for all of the items it sells, including the antiquities. Sotheby’s has a longstanding rivalry with the other global art auction house: Christie’s.

Various Departments at Sotheby's

Sotheby’s Auction House has a near endless list of departments (over 70): from handcrafted English furniture, and Scandinavian paintings, to watches, Egyptian antiquities, and street art and graffiti art. The house even has art storage facilities for rent or purchase, for proper atmospheric and environmental housing of delicate collections. For the wealthy wino, there is a special Sotheby’s Wine department, dedicated to the auction of rare and fine wines, including wines found on sunken Spanish ships. Sotheby’s also has an international realty department. There they search for the most exclusive and prominent properties around the world in the most beautiful and sought-after locations. The auction house also offers appraisals for all manner of arts.

Pricing of Art

Art on sale at Sotheby’s usually fetches a high price. The price is also often directly correlated to the popularity, prestige, and provenance of the piece or artist at auction. In 2006, works by Banksy, stencil artist from Britain, went up for auction and sold fore more than £50,000 for a piece. However, street art and graffiti art are not nominative auctions for Sotheby’s. The rise of Bansky as an artist (and not just social vandal) greatly influenced Sotheby’s decision to sell his work. Banksy’s work has been gaining notoriety since 2003. Even celebrity Angelina Jolie spent more than £200,000 on a Bansky stencil. Combinations of recognizable images and humor that make a social or political statement typify his work. A second auction of Bansky stencil and graffiti art, in 2007 raked in an approximate £167,000. The sale of Bansky’s work has given him even more acclaim and attention. It has also brought street art and graffiti art to the forefront of the contemporary art world.

To learn more about contemporary and cutting edge art visit Thumbprint Gallery. It is located at 920 Kline St. #104 in La Jolla, San Diego. The gallery exhibits contemporary, urban, lowbrow, and graffiti art from local artists. It is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12-4pm.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

An Animated Take on Art

Scenes from Howl's Moving Castle Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Written by Samatha Tutone

Animation is a form of artistic expression usually associated with children and Saturday mornings. Cartoons and hand-drawn imagery are often overlooked as a fine art form and are instead separated into a corner reserved for pure entertainment and commercial uses. One specific form of animation has become prolific in the last few decades is Anime. Short for “animation”, this style of cartoon was created and developed in Japan beginning in the 1960s. In general, Anime is characterized by colorful graphics, standardized proportions, and extreme facial expressions. Contrary to the common conception of Saturday morning cartoons, themes in Anime are usually geared toward adults, not children.

Like all animation, Anime follows the standard division of labor and production process of character design, storyboarding, and voice acting. Today there are several different combinations of production including hand-drawn and computer based approaches. Manga, the name of Japanese comic books, originated in the 1940s and shares many stylistic qualities with Anime. The same characteristic rules apply, as do many plotlines. It is not uncommon for a Manga to be translated into Anime, and visa-versa.

A standard unit, the height of the head, determines basic body types in Anime. The proportions are determined from there. A tall figure is approximately 9 heads high, a short person 5 heads high, and the average person is 7 heads high. The eyes of characters are usually large and are used as an expressive device. Shojo, a genre of Anime typically centered on stories for girls, uses an even more exaggerated eye size. Some Anime uses wild and overstated stylization, while others use more realistic rendering.

Just as in all genre of art, Anime and Manga are fluid. Each artist and company designs and portrays it’s characters a different way, leading to an endless variety of forms and styles. Often, the stylization of the animation is paired to the type of story being told. Plot lines range from romantic comedies, fantasy, science fiction, historical drama, horror, classical literature, and even animated porn (known as Yaoi and Yuri).

Anime and Manga have developed into an international sub-culture. Nintendo’s Pokémon franchise has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar success due to its extreme popularity in the Western Countries. Anime has influenced the artistic styles of American and European artists and animators. It has even provided inspiration for character design in video games. Conventions (such as Anime Expo, Animethon, and Otakon) are held worldwide, celebrating artists, directors, and favorite Anime and Manga series. Attendees and fans “cosplay”, or dress up as, characters from their favorite shows.

The spread of Anime and Manga throughout the West has produced an all around fascination with Japan and its culture. American artists have adapted several characteristics of Anime into their own styles, creating an “oriental” tone or mood. Graphic designs for clothing, shoes, posters, etc., are extremely common. 

Many contemporary and urban artists have found inspiration in Anime as well. One can see numerous stylistic influences in many contemporary urban art works. To learn more about contemporary, urban, graphic, and lowbrow local artists, check out Thumbprint Gallery.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Urban Art Fair, London, Celebrates 10 Years

London’s largest open-air art fair will be celebrating its 10th birthday this July. The Urban Art Fair is a free event hosted by the residents of Josephine Avenue, London. Approximately 2,000 works of art will be on display, by nearly 160 artists. Art of all mediums will be on exhibit, including paintings, prints, graffiti art, and photographs.

Local artist and Josephine Avenue resident Timothy Sutton established the Urban Art Fair in 2002. He realized his neighborhood was an ideal gallery space and knew that local artists were desperate for a place to show their work. The fair provides a unique opportunity for up and coming artists to exhibit their work for the public, often launching their careers as professionals.

The inhabitants of Josephine Avenue volunteer their time to transform the street into the alfresco fair. Besides having art on display, graffiti artists will also be creating art, live, on their Urban Art Walls for viewers to see. Food stalls with international cuisine will accompany the works. A Sound stage will feature music from local musicians. Ten percent of all sales will be donated to charity: Holy Trinity School, Jubilee Primary School, and the Southside Rehabilitation Centre. More than 8,000 people are expected to attend the fair this year.

The Urban Art Fair is a fantastic opportunity to see new and original art and meet the artists themselves. The fair runs from July 14-15th from 10am-6pm, on Josephine Avenue, London. For those interested in the urban art genre you may want to check out Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla. The emerging gallery features high quality low brow and urban art.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Kandinsky: A Spiritual Artist

 Written by Samantha Tutone

"Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul". – Vasily Kandinsky

Contemporary art is often abstract. This fact has not fazed viewers and critics for years. On occasion one artist produces some kind of expressionist art that not only pushes the boundaries of our artistic understanding, but also makes connections to broader philosophical questions. Vasily Kandisky was most definitely one of those artists.

Early Influences

Vasily Kandinsky was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1866. He studied law and economics at the University of Moscow, and became a professor at the University of Dorpat until he began to study painting at the age of 30. Kandinsky moved to Munich in 1896 to study art. During the early years of his artistic study, Kandinsky was influenced by Monet’s sense of color and thick use of paint. Richard Wagner’s melodic freedom and Blavatsky’s writing on Theosophy also influenced him.

Joyful Noise
Der Blau Reiter

Expressionist art was growing in popularity during Kandinsky’s time in Munich. Artists like Käthe Kollowitz and Egon Schiele were using art as a form of self-expression and to make a meaningful statement. Kandinsky began using his ideas on spirituality in art within his own paintings. He and a fellow artist, Franz Marc, became the founding fathers of an expressionist art movement dubbed: Der Blau Reiter (meaning “The Blue Rider”). The movement was named after the image of St. George on the Moscow city emblem. Both artists considered the color blue to be the color of (non-religious) spirituality. All other colors were considered “chaotic.”

Theosophy in Art and Imagery

Kandisky was preoccupied with apocalyptic imagery. His expressionist art was almost prophetic since his paintings were shown just before WWI. Chaotic lines and shapes combined with bright colors make the viewer feel an apocalyptic intensity. Kandisky never intended for viewers to understand his paintings. Rather he wanted to bring about a pure sense of spirituality through color. Wagner’s influences lead Kandinsky to believe that all musical notes had a color frequency. Kandisky never really titled his works; instead named them in similar fashion to musical compositions.

Kandinsky wrote extensively on the importance of spiritual art. He wrote several compositions including: "Der Blau Reiter Almanac," "Concerning the Spiritual In Art," and "Looks on the Past."

Kandinsky was a great influence on modern expressionist art and paved the way for many new artistic movements to come forth. Abstract art has flourished since the early 1900s and many abstract art prints are now widely available worldwide. Kandinsky’s work is shown in museums and private collections around the world, a large portion of them residing in the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Abstract art prints of Kandinsky’s paintings remain popular to this day.

To learn more about abstract art prints, urban, and lowbrow art, visit Thumbprint Gallery in La Jolla. Open Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12-4pm.


Art History, Revised Second Edition, by Marilyn Stockstad, Chapter 28, pgs. 1026-1031.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Banksy artwork on sale at Bonhams in Los Angeles

Banksy is known for street art in public spaces
Bonhams will host an urban art sale for the first time in its Los Angeles location on Oct. 29, 2012. The exhibition will feature the works from the infamous street artist Banksy. Part of the exhibition will include newly discovered artworks which had been recovered in the Bristol area where the artist was raised in the 1980s. His provocative stencil-based imagery touches on a variety of social and political issues with an almost anarchist disdain for authority. The artist became famous for having his works appear in various unusual public places all over the city. Banksy since left his special brand of street art in public places without asking permission from authorities in cities all over the world.

The art sale is a follow up to Bonhams's highly successful urban art auctions in London. The auctioneer also held a street art sale in New Bond Street, London, which was incredibly successful. In the upcoming sale in Los Angeles, Banksy's famous piece “Precision Bombing” is estimated anywhere from $35,000 to $45,000. Some of the other works from the artist will include “Winnie the Pooh” which is valued from $50,000 to $80,000. Some of the other artists which will be featured include, Shepard Fairey, Swoon, Blek le Rat and Beejoir.

In the meantime, while you are waiting for the action to happen in Los Angeles, you may want to check out Thumbprint Gallery, which features quality contemporary urban art. Many of the artists have been inspired by the likes of Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and some of the other artists included in the show at Bonhams. You can take a look at the art gallery's offerings by clicking here.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Michael De Feo: The Flower Graffitist

"I'm continually amazed at how much fun and how many smiles a simple little flower can spread in such a big place." – Michael De Feo

De Feo's s silk-screened flower poster on a city's street
Written by Lucy Coker 

The city’s streets have served as Michael De Feo's gallery for the past 20 years. De Feo is most recognized for his spontaneous scattering of flowers across New York, and any other city he visits. Since his street art days, he has dipped his foot into many gallery spaces, been on the cover of the New York magazine and published a children’s book titled, “Alphabet City – Out On The Streets.”
The Freedom of Graffiti Art
The graffiti artist gained a diploma from the School of Visual Arts in Graphic Design, although, oddly enough, his final portfolio didn’t included any graphic design. It was full of street art and paintings, yet De Feo still received top marks. He first began using the streets for his graffiti art as a way to avoid the high art gallery system. The gallery space confined him but on the streets anything was allowed. Furthermore, sporadically placed buildings and streets, anyone could witness his work even if the didn’t want or mean to see it.
His art embraced and explored the free world of urban and low brow art. Entering into the gallery space through the back door, De Feo side stepped the restraints of conventional fine art allowing more space for his spontaneity and resourceful inspirations.
Flower Power
Around 1992, Michael De Feo used silkscreen drawings from his high school art and began placing them out on the streets of New York. He initially used childlike imagery of moons, minnows, flowers and safety pins, cutting these images out of FedEx cardboard to make spray paint stencils. These images soon led to his single silk-screened flower image and eventually to his later paintings on found blueprint paper.
After finding his flower image, he printed hundreds before deciding to make them street art. He glued them on everything from from newspaper dispensers to city buses. Since the birth of the flower project, it has enjoyed exposure in countless news articles and media outlets including The New York Times, Time Magazine, The London Sunday Times Magazine, and on the cover of New York Magazine's "Reasons to Love New York" issue (three times). His work has also appeared in numerous music videos and film documentaries including Banksy's film, "Exit Through The Gift Shop."

Michael De Feo's cover of the New York Magazine

Alphabet City
Michael De Feo’s children's book “Alphabet City”: Out on the Streets", employs New York City as his canvas. He incorporates his graffiti art into the book by assigning each one to illustrate each letter of the alphabet. The book received rave reviews internationally, “De Feo's art evokes beauty and optimism with a childlike simplicity while paying homage to gritty Manhattan." (Newsweek International)
Michael De Feo’s experimental and free artistic spirit reflects that of many Thumbprint Gallery artists. You can browse and buy a variety of works at Thumbprint Gallery’s online store here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Invader: Mosaic Street Artist

A Space Invader on a Parisian Statue

Written by Hilary Dufour

Across the globe, from Los Angeles to Mombasa, on statues and restaurants, even on the Hollywood sign, mosaic tiles have been carefully arranged and surreptitiously placed on city walls. These cities, of which there are now over 35, have been "invaded." The French street artist, so-called Invader, has arranged tiles to create various characters inspired by the first-generation arcade game Space Invaders. He started with the invasion of Paris in the 90's and has not stopped yet. As the urban artist has said, his space invaders are meant to symbolize "our era and the birth of modern technology, with video games, computers, the Internet, mobile phones, hackers and viruses."
Space Invaders
Invader is notorious for these often inconspicuous street mosaics. Though many people may not know much about the urban artist (his identity has also been purposefully hidden), many of us have seen his space invaders and have been filled with a sense of glee, feeling like we've come across something others have never noticed or given a second look. Sometimes Invader chooses to set his tiles in more visible places than others, while creating a juxtaposition between "legal" art on the walls of museums with illegal art, street art.
Space Invader art project is “more an experiment than a protest” but also that “the act itself is a political message, as 99% of the time I don't have authorization.” The legality of his work was brought into question in an incident last year in which the LAPD caught him with another French national hanging near a historic building with buckets full of grout and tiles. In April, the artist attached his tiles to the Museum of Contemporary Art's Geffen Contemporary and several other buildings in Los Angeles, while at the same time being featured in the museum's exhibition “Art in the Streets.” Invader was also ticketed for trespassing after attaching his mosaics to the Hollywood sign while with his cousin, the notorious Mr.Brainwash

Space Invader invades Randy's Donuts in L.A.

“In Bed with Invader”
It is important to note, a lot of thought goes into the artist's placement of his beloved “Space Invaders.” Since each space invader is different, each is numbered, photographed and indexed. This dedication and execution can be glimpsed in the recently released video “In Bed with Invader,” which can be found online. The artist's detailed process certainly came into play when “invading” the French city of Montpellier. In this case, the location of the characters was such that when placed on a map, they formed the image of a space invader.
Besides engaging with the public by instructing admirers where his art is located, the artist also uses other methods. On the “faq” page of his website, he comes across as an earnest and unpretentious artist who is willing to share information about himself and his process. He shows an interest the act of his street art, and the concepts behind them, more than in the mystification and glorification of the artist. He has further shared his art by putting maps of different cities on his site which lead you to various sites that have been “invaded.” Seeing his art has become a hunt for lost treasure.


In his newer project, “RubikCubism,” Invader has chosen Rubik's cubes to create art that is literally, cubist. According to the artist, “RubikCubism” is a “logical, and interesting, continuation of my work”. He has said that he “uses the Rubik's cube like an artist uses paint. I like the idea that it wasn't intended to be this way, and that ultimately it works really well.” 

Mona Lisa in Invader's RubikCubism style

Invader is an artist who truly thinks outside of the box, or cube, to create art that is clever and engaging. These are characteristics shared by the artists who exhibit at Thumbprint Gallery. Thumbprint displays urban art that is created with an outsider mentality and an artist's eye. 

You can view works by low brow and urban artists at Thumbprint Gallery’s online store here.