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 Pok√©mon 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.