Gen-Next Art Collecting January 2001
By Jon Alain Guzik
You’re not a dot-com millionaire or big Hollywood star, you may not even be an up-and-coming media mogul – those cats collect the things you can’t afford anyway. My ear to the street says their tastes are veddy, veddy expensive. Christina Ricci dropped $16K on works by local painter Bill Shortridge and photographer Robbie Caponetto at a recent Los Angeles benefit. This is not you and it is not me. So what are Gen-X art folk collecting? Art lovers, especially local gallery owners, can’t seem to resist the playfully ironic pictures of subjects ranging from childhood antics to modern-day romance by the husband-and-wife team of Scott and Denise Davis, known as Davis & Davis (davisanddavis.org). “People who buy our work are pretty young,” says Denise. “When I ask them what they do, they’re usually stylists, photographers and artists.” And with price tags ranging from $200 to $1,000, even we semi-pauper (er, um, cheap) folks can afford them. Check out Davis & Davis in a group show this month at Holly Matter (www.hollymatter.com) called “Under the Queen Size Bed.” Someone I like who has a celeb following is musician, artist and all-around weirdo Daniel Johnston. As his music fan base continues to grow, so has the regard for this manic-depressive’s felt-tip drawn creatures and superheroes. One of his notable collectors is Simpsons creator Matt Groening, who owns a number of Johnston’s drawings and shares his love for comic books. Loyal fans packed Johnston’s one-night-only show at Zero One Gallery on Melrose last year, where his childlike art was presented alongside painter Ron English’s grand interpretations of selected Johnston cartoons. Johnston’s usual cult following of indie rockers (Kurt Cobain donned his T-shirt, Beck and Yo La Tengo cover his songs), geek-chic hipsters and leather-clad characters were present lining up to buy The Definitive Daniel Johnston Handbook (Soft Skull Press, 2000), and a chance to see the man himself. I was there, were you? So enough with all the starfucking. Chances are you’re not a celebrity (yet) and, like myself, you don’t get art for free, unless of course you’ve pulled the ol’ “Nazis during the war trick” and stolen your priceless works of art. Perhaps you were lucky enough to snatch one of Shepard Fairey’s ever-popular Andre the Giant posters or stickers (www.andrethegiant.com), or successfully rip a poster off a city surface by local favorite Robbie Conal (www.robbieconal.com), without spending a dime. Although the notoriety of these two artists, in part, is due to the fact that Gen-Xers from all over roam the streets to “collect” their work – artists can’t make a living off your kleptomania. If you want to collect art, buy what you love, let some artists pay their bills, and don’t follow any celebrity trends, because unlike celebrity, art lasts. * Jon Alain Guzik is a writer, journalist, digital artist and owner of pawn Shop Media, a Los Angeles-based production company.
Barrio del Bizarrio 1995
OG stickerIf you’ve had any baffling encounters with the late Princess Bride cult hero and WWF champion obey giant, here’s the explanation. More than 400,000 of these stickers have been distributed over the last few years, ending up on skateboards, bumpers, tip jars, computers, and school desks everywhere. The phenomenon can be traced to Shepard Fairey, the 24 year old founder of Alternative Graphics in Providence, Rhode Island. Why? The stickers exist solely to provoke a reaction.
Warp magazine 1994
You probably haven’t seen obey giant lately, since the former WWF champion died last year, but de does have a posse -and it’s growing. Over 350,000 Andre stickers are out there somewhere, splattered on your cit’s subway cars and school desks, on your favorite band amplifiers and drum kits, on your mom’s car bumper and the nighborhood postal box. It all proves you can’t keep a good man down, especially when he’s seven-feet, four-inches, and weights 520 pounds.
The vast Andre network can be traced to one quiet, unassuming graphic designer -Shepard Fairey, founder of Alternate Graphics (AG natch) in Providence RI, who’s turned a cottage-industry prank into a triving business. Fairey 24, started making the Andre stickers over five years ago, and has recently turned his subversive talents to skateboard manufacturing and filmmaking. He’ll soon finish Attention Deficiency Disorder. which he’s working on with the ex-pro skateboarder Blaze Blouin. Fairey loves the response the stickers receive. “It can be a negative or a positive reaction,” he says, “as long as it’s a reaction.”
– Mark Woodlief
June 15, 1997
ANDRE THE ICON
ExclamationAsk Shepard Fairey why he has dedicated himself to spreading the image of Andre the Giant the late, humongous professional wrestler and the 27 year old San Diego artist replies with a Dads rim shott “Hes really ugly. Plus, he’s dead Whatever the reason, Andre iconographers are at work from New York to Los Angeles, slapping posters and stickers of the brooding hulk’s face on public walls, apparently as an absurdist swipe at society’s worship of corporate logos. Fairey, who started the craze, has caught flak for his efforts – he has been jailed in five cities for vandalism but says the work must go on. Meanwhile, he is about, to enjoy a burst of fame: as the subject of a short film, “obey giant Has a Posse,” which will be screened later this month at MOMA.
LA Darfur Observance
In Darfur, Sudan 450,000 are dead. 3 Million are misplaced. 3.5 Million are dependent on food aid.
Day Reception and Art Show
May 18th, 2007, 7-10pm
Bradley Tower in LA City Hall
Art and Music by Shepard Fairey
For tickets and show info visit www.hopeartists.org
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In the past few months there have been some rumors about how Shepard disrespected Banksy and pasted over his piece in Los Angeles. We thought people would get that something was worked out between the two artist since Banksy is very well respected in our camp, the fact that Banksy and Shepard are friends, and that Banksy was featured in SWINDLE in which Shepard interviewed Banksy personally…. But I guess some people could not put two and two together… Here is Shepard short but sweet response:
The Banksy accusation is retarded. Banksy is a good friend. On the reverse side of that building was a huge 25×15 foot piece of mine. My friend owns that building and we put up the smaller Banksy image on the other side for him. When Banksy’s LA show was coming up, I traded my larger wall for his smaller wall to give him a better spot. Do you really think I would go over Banksy in a malicious way. He got the best end of that deal.
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Since I know that people don’t pay close attention to things and tend to jump to conclusions, I’m going to give a preventative explanation of the new print. No, even though I often make jokes about Obey Giant’s world domination, I’m not saying that Obey Giant is committing a HOSTILE TAKEOVER or creating a NEW WORLD ORDER. If you look at the eye on the hand, it is framed by a round American flag banner. The piece is a comment on U.S. economic and cultural imperialism. The image is part of the negative side of a piece called “Two Sides Of Capitalism”. There actually is a positive side. Stay tuned for more.
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As many of you know, we have been taking some aggressive action against ebay sellers/flippers and the incredible prices of the prints sold on ebay. Well, we have been getting a ton of email reactions to some of the posts and email replies we have sent… Some have been positive but most have had the reaction as to the email posted here. Below is Shepard’s response to this particular email and to these reactions in general. We just want to set the record straight and let everyone know where Shepard and the rest of the crew stand. People will have their opinions and not be happy but we believe in what we are saying and doing, and we hope all of you can understand our position and continue to support the OBEY!
Get a spine. There is no need to conceal your identity… I would not ban you for sharing your opinion. Being outspoken and willing to stand for what you believe in are things I’ve always encouraged. That is exactly why I’m standing behind my decision to ban ebay flippers, especially ones who sell the Darfur print. Yes, I’m familiar with free enterprise, I named my book “Supply and Demand”. So, if you are familiar with market forces as well, then you obviously know I could be selling my prints for more money. I’m ignoring market forces to my own financial detriment to benefit people who want to collect affordable art. I emphasize COLLECT, not re-sell like a stock market day trader. If I was maximizing what I could profit from my work, then I would not take offense to others doing the same. Many artists WANT their work to be sold on ebay because ebay prices set a precedent for what they should be charging. I’m going against the advice of galleries I work with by trying to prevent ebaying. There is actually a California law designed to benefit artists who often make very little from their works compared to the revenue the art eventually generates on the secondary market. This law states that the original artist is entitled to 10% of any successive sale of their work. I have never tried to enforce this law even though pieces I literally gave away have re-sold for hundreds and even thousands of dollars. I want to address the “irony” of Obey Giant having to resort to “Big Brother” tactics to stop ebay flippers. Yes, you could say the situation is filled with irony, the greatest of which is that some of my supposed supporters could be such unethical assholes. My attitude is very laissez-faire generally, I assume that if people use common sense and do the right thing then there is no need for me to to intervene. However, I’m very opposed to injustice and I see an ebay flipper preventing a collector from being able to get a print at a low price as an injustice. Your threat that you will stop collecting my work if I don’t “deal with this issue properly” and change my policy is a risk I can live with. Here is another irony, I have sometimes been called a sellout because I do graphic design as well as make art. If I only made art, I might have to worry about kissing the asses of art buyers. I can express myself freely and never worry about whether my art or policies will be popular because I’m “diversified”(that’s economics 101). On the other hand, I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported me and genuinely enjoys my work as more than a way to turn a quick profit… THANK YOU!
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Date: April 26, 2007 4:08:27 PM PDT
Subject: war profitteers and the ebay market
I’m sure you’ve thought of this but…. The issue concerning Shepâ€™s art turning up on Ebay at astronomical prices has discouraged me as a collector for some time now. I used to be able to go straight to Jerry down at Duckyâ€™s to view and possibly buy a print at leisure, but now, not so much. I think its good, in a way, Obey gaining a following, making some profit, supporting the company and its people, and then in turn sponsoring other good causes. Iâ€™m not writing here to attack that issue. However, the recent appearance of the Darfur print on Ebay is what really sickens me. Making profit on the suffering of others is called war profiteering and I hate to think fans of Obey would sink to the same levels as the Bush administration. Sorry Ebay sellers, but your guilty. Shepard is donating, your profiting, big difference. I propose to anyone selling these prints with a conscious to donate their profits back to Darfur or take them down from the market. In the event this does not happen, please join me in flagging these people who have not thought their actions through.
We were actually on our way to addressing this issue but we recently received this email from a supporter and we wanted to express our appreciation for the thoughts and suggestions presented here. Everyone at OBEY shares the frustration of our emailer and we all have very strong feelings about those people who recently purchased the HOPE FOR DARFUR print and have now turned to EBAY to sell it for a profit. To purchase to a print knowing our intentions and to consciously exploit the cause for a quick buck is exactly everything Shepard and OBEY are against. We are extremely disappointed and upset that there are “fans” of OBEY and Shepard’s work that would go to such lengths. As a result we want announce that if you are identified as one of those people auctioning their print without contributing 100% of the profits to some charity aiding the crisis in DARFUR or do not withdraw their auction all together – YOU WILL BE NO LONGER ABLE TO PURCHASE ANYTHING FROM OBEY GIANT ART INDEFINITELY! This is not a joke and will be the only warning. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone and will happily do so, especially in this case.
With that said, we would like thank all of the true supporters who have emailed and purchased the DARFUR print with the intention of raising awareness and aid to such a horrid situation. THANK YOU!
– OBEY GIANT ART
EVERYONE: PLEASE READ THIS! I was approached by Global Grassroots to do a graphic for their campaign to raise awareness about the genocide in Darfur. All I really knew was that the situation was similar to what was depicted in the movie “Hotel Rwanda”. I took on the project as a good cause to get behind, but the gravity of the situation was not made real to me until I saw Brian Steidle’s documentary “The Devil Came On Horseback”. Brian is a former marine who was hired by the African Union to monitor the supposed cease fire in the Darfur region of Sudan. Brian witnessed and thoroughly documented the genocide being committed by the government arab militias against the the blacks in Darfur. Brian’s film is heartbreaking both in seeing the genocide itself and the lack of action by the U.S. government after they have been presented with the situation and more than sufficient documentation. Only with political pressure can the Darfur genocide be brought to an end. PLEASE BUY A PRINT and support this cause. 100% of the money from this print goes to the HOPE campaign. I’m not even taking my print costs out. Watch the trailer, realize how good we have it in the U.S., and chip in. Thanks.
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