Interviews

New York’s First Street Art Auction Happening This Fall

by Hrag Vartanian on July 12, 2012

Mr. Brainwash’s “Life Is Beautiful – Alfred Hitchcock” (2008) is one of the items that will be placed on the auction block this fall at Doyle New York — numbered 1/3 on reverse, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 36 inches, Estimate: $16,000-20,000

They have been going on for years in Europe, but there hasn’t been one in the US, until now. Doyle New York, the Manhattan auction house, will be hosting their Inaugural Street Art Auction on October 16, 2012.

For the birthplace of graffiti and street art, it seems rather surprising that an auction like this hasn’t taken place before at a large auction house. While Phillips de Pury and other auction houses have regularly sold street art as part of larger offerings — often in sales targeting young and “emerging” buyers — Doyle appears to be the first to take the plunge of creating a dedicated auction in the US.

Their request for consignments indicates who they consider the most desirable artists. It reads:

They are currently seeking works to feature in the auction by artists such as Shepard Fairey, Banksy, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, KAWS, Os Gemeos, David Choe, Faile, Barry McGee, Zephyr, Dr. Lakra, Swoon, Lady Pink, Dash Snow, Futura 2000, Crash, Ron English, D*Face, Seen, Dondi White and many more.

I spoke to Angelo Madrigale, who is Doyle New York’s Specialist in Street Art, about the sale.

*    *    *

Hrag Vartanian: Why the decision to create a Street Art auction?

Angelo Madrigale: I think it’s been a long time coming. I was very excited at the opportunity of introducing the Street Art auction category at Doyle New York, because a project like this was not only a possibility here, it is something the entire company is excited about. This is artwork I’m personally very passionate about, and I know that often great artists don’t get true international recognition until they have success at the major auction houses. Right or wrong, that’s one of the cogs in the machine of the art world. I owned and operated a small gallery with my wife, and my intention is still the same even on this larger scale — to help grow artists who matter.

It’s no secret there have been wildly successful Street Art auctions in Europe over the last few years. Nothing like this has really been tried at the auction house level here in the US, and we’re all enthusiastic about introducing it here at Doyle New York. That being said, we’re being realistic about the prices that might be achieved for some of the artists. The intention is to develop an annual sale that the market anticipates with excitement and that grows naturally over time.

Ideally, the sale can be a platform to debut important emerging artists, like Dabs Myla or Grotesk, to the auction world, as well as to showcase the masters we all know, whether it’s a classic NYC Graffiti legend like Crash, or a UK Street Art legend like Banksy.

HV: How large is the street art market? Do you have any estimates?

AM: It’s incredibly difficult to quantify the size or economic strength of such a new market. What I can say is that it’s exciting to see seminal Graffiti artists like Seen get their due and show in major galleries worldwide. It’s also amazing to look at how well attended the Art in the Streets exhibit was at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. There are moments like these in any artistic movement that one can look at like a sea change.

The 6 Gallery poetry reading with Kerouac and Ginsberg in 1955 that announced the Beat Generation, and Elvis appearing on the Ed Sullivan show — these are the ‘a-ha!’ moments that turn an underground movement into a worldwide phenomenon, and it’s happening now for Street Art. We’ve all lived with graffiti most, if not all, of our lives. However, it’s only recently, for a lot of people, that it is finally being seen as art.

HV: This type of sale has been happening for years in London and elsewhere but why do you think it has taken so long to hit New York?

AM: I think Graffiti and Street Art are the last true American movements. Even though tremendously important artists like Os Gemeos and Blek Le Rat have created great work while hailing from other countries, Graffiti is something that was born in America, just like Jazz and the Blues. The thing is, there was a time when Jazz and Blues musicians would play in Europe because few audiences existed for them in the US. Of course, America finally caught up and understood how important those styles of music are. The same will happen with Graffiti and Street Art. Wildly successful auctions are taking place in London and Paris, and the US will come to realize this art is a part of our heritage and should be celebrated and championed.

HV: What are your expectations for the sale?

AM: Again, this is a new frontier for the auction world — and especially for the US. So instead of looking at expectations in terms of dollars and cents, at least for the inaugural sale, what I’m hoping for is that the auction brings more attention to the artists featured in the sale, and that the category continues to grow in the future.

HV: Have you secured any major items for the sale?

AM: We have quite a few at present and more on the way. My hope for the sale is to represent as many different scenes within the history of Graffiti and Street Art globally since its inception in Philadelphia with Cornbread’s tags.

Right now, we have works by KAWS, Faile, Mr. Brainwash, Date Farmers and others, as well as lesser known but still amazing artists like Lamour Supreme. There’s more to come — we’re putting everything together as we speak.

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  • mr dola

    “I know that often great artists don’t get true international
    recognition until they have success at the major auction houses. Right
    or wrong, that’s one of the cogs in the machine of the art world.”

    And it’s our job to keep that machine nicely oiled!

    Gross. Where there no other questions to ask here? Hyperallergic: senstitive to the art market and its profiteers.

    • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

      So, you don’t want us to report on the auction? This isn’t exactly a new thing and the street art/graff community is waaaay beyond any claim to purity.

      Also, the questions were for someone at an auction house. Did you think he was going to give some anticapitalist response? #LOL

      • mr dola

        I don’t know or care whether he would’ve questioned the foundations of his career outright, but perhaps following up on his “right or wrong” and probing something like a critique might have provoked an interesting response. We’ll never know. #LMAOsnidedefense #dontupsettheapplecart

        • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

          It obvious what he is trying to do. I think our readers are clever enough to understand what this means. It’s not the first time we’ve approached this topic.

  • Norman Villa Potenza

    Jazz and Blues musicians went to Europe because people there weren’t so racist as Americans. Poor comparison.

    Also it’s atrocious to have Brainwash in this. He stole from many of the other artists that the auction will feature, he doesn’t make any of his own work, and never has. He genuinely has no artistic ability that would validate him as an artist. He never went to art school. The auction will surely lose credibility for perpetuating this hack’s fading career.

    • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

      The Brainwash is the only image Doyle had for release and the only work they could confirm would be on sale. I’m not a big fan either but I think it demonstrates the “reality” of this sale pretty well IMHO.

      Also, I don’t think the Jazz/Blues comparison is soo far fetched. The same was true of Modern Dance, which was invented in the US, appreciated in Europe first and then returned. I think it has more to do with the “a poet in history is great, a poet next door is a nobody” syndrome many people experience with their native culture.

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