Graffiti and Street Art: A Primer (Part 2)

At FAILE's studio in Williamsburg

At FAILE's studio in Williamsburg

This is the second part of my graffiti and street art primer that started here. 


Among my favorite graffiti and street artists are: Miss Van (French living in Barcelona), FAILE (Canadian-American collective living in New York), Os Gêmeos (twin brothers from São Paulo), Banksy (London), Barry McGee (San Francisco), Kenny Scharf (Los Angeles) and Mint & Serf (New York). I have had the good fortune of working with and meeting personally many of these artists and I have observed their creative process sometimes even from inside their studios.  While an original piece created by any of these artists can be worth several thousand dollars, all of them have released excellent limited edition prints and toys that can be purchased for a few hundred dollars and can enhance any space; not only because they are usually so vibrant and colorful, but also because their messages range from playful to political to sarcastic and it’s hard to not be amused or deeply engaged by street art. In many of my projects, one way or another, there is a reference to street art. 

I believe one of the coolest things about graffiti and street artists is that they never stop tagging the walls; they still love to work outdoors, whether it’s commissioned or illegal (yes, at least in New York, unsolicited graffiti in public or private property is against the law).  Kenny Scharf was even arrested earlier this year and the NYPD officers asked him for an autograph. I’m also fascinated by how emotional this art is. If there’s a form of art that is unadulterated and free of constraints, it is street art. 


The art market is hot in this area because of the amount of artists who have gotten gallery representation and also have been invited to major museums to participate in collective exhibits.  In addition, street art has made its way – quite strongly– in auction houses.

I suggest to my clients to pay close attention to the evolution and transition periods of artists that go from tagging walls to museum shows. They usually become highly sought after and their artwork’s prices tend to soar astronomically.  For example, Basquiat’s extraordinary paintings are nowadays rarely available in the marketplace and when they do become available they are immediately put up for auction with prices in the millions of dollars.  But we don’t have to go that far away in time: I know a couple who bought a Banksy piece in 2004 for almost $5,000; the same piece nowadays has been appraised for more than $100,000.  

This is my kids' bedroom with Kenny Scharf's "Cosmic Donut" on the wall

This is my kids' bedroom with Kenny Scharf's "Cosmic Donut" on the wall


My top street art galleries in New York are The Hole in lower Manhattan and Jonathan LeVine in Chelsea.  In London, Lazarides Gallery in Rathbone Place and The Brick Lane Gallery on East London’s Brick Lane, do the trick for me.  In Los Angeles, Prism Gallery on Sunset Boulevard is always at the forefront of this movement and usually has amazing collective shows. 


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