September 20, 2007  |  Uncategorized

The “Money Room” at Anthony Micallef’s “pop-up gallery” at Hollywood and Highland…

Have you ever heard of artist ANTHONY MICALLEF? If you’re like the majority of LA art aficionados, the answer is most likely “no.” So how is it possible that this vaguely recognizable (and very talented) British painter has set up a “pop-up gallery” on the corner of Hollywood and Highland and managed to sell out a huge show of paintings and sculptures—pulling in well over a million dollars—all in one nite? The answer: “The Banksy Syndrome.” Repped by Banksy’s London-based art dealer, STEVE LAZARIDES, it seems that Micallef & Co. has copied the same formula as the London-based street artist in creating a heavy PR blitz by renting their own location, spreading a heavy aura of “secrecy” about the event’s debut date and location, inviting a veritable who’s-who list of local celebrities and gawkers to an advance VIP preview, and charging through the nose for artwork seemingly guaranteed to be the “next big thing.” Do we doubt Micallef’s talent as a painter? Not remotely. Do we doubt the validity of this kind of sales tactic? Absolutely. With prices starting, we repeat, STARTING, at $30,000 for a small watercolor painting, and reaching all the way up to $240,000, this was a shopping trip reserved only for LA’s power buyers. Of course, we’re not missing out on the giant “fuck you” to the art world inherent in these one-off guerilla exhibitions, and we more than salute the entrepreneurial DIY spirit of Lazarides and his team (why pay a gallery in another city to exhibit your artist when you can rent your own shop for a month and keep the rest of the money?), but can this hype blitz be good for the artist’s own longevity or his collector base? The main concern here is not that the art is expensive or that celebrities are buying it, but that the artist’s career arc is becoming increasingly steep, with prices skyrocketing into the blue chip realm in the span of a few years with little indication that this trend can be sustained in the long run, and little history of these kinds of sales to back them up. The catch here is that once your work goes for $50K a pop for a tiny piece, you can never go back, and if the bottom falls out of this false market being driven in large part by the frenzied English art buying elite, where do you go from there? Of course, with moneymaking shows like this, longevity might not be the concern, as you can always take the money and run if the house caves in, which it surely will at some point (probably soon). The fact that a majority of these works by Micallef and Banksy are being snapped up by casual and heavily-monied collectors looking for a momentary fix of the “next big thing” before flipping the piece in a few years on the aftermarket for a heavy profit, only adds to the farce. For a more in-depth, and astutely critical look at this phenomenon, have a look at Alan Bamberger‘s insightful essay on the topic. In the meantime, Supertouch‘s own KYLE NG brings us a look at the show from the VIP Preview nite where celebrity was the key to admission and money was in the air. HAVE A LOOK:


Kyle Ng in red…




Is this piece worth $50K???…


E.T. Mary Kate Olson on a Micallef buying spree…






Buffmonster on the Micallef lay-a-way plan…



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