MONIKER: Laurence Billiet was first on the panel to identify the Internet as a major tool in the promotion of street art – and a major factor in the rise of its broader appeal: “Street artists have been active in putting their work out there,” she maintained – emphasising that it is the artists themselves that drive the movement, not the collectors or galleries.
A rooftop swimming pool and secluded bar high above the grimy streets of London may not seem an entirely appropriate venue for a discussion on street art; but the launch of the Moniker International Art Fair at Shoreditch House rescued the assembled crowd from being giddy socialites by re-evaluating the question ‘What is Street Art?’
To this end, the discussion panel ended up playing second fiddle to Polly Morgan’s ‘Still Birth’ – a coffin breached by squawking chicks – which hemmed in the invited experts, making them look like part of the exhibit.
Ben Eine’s ‘Red Glitter Circus’ reclined on an easel next to the coffin – and as the evening progressed, a collection of empty wine glasses and flickering candlelight from occasional tables transformed the glowing red canvas into a brazen altar for Morgan’s music hall coffin.
Cedar Lewisohn from Tate Media chaired the panel, which included Polly Morgan and Ben Eine, as well as author Tristan Manco – cultural affiliate of Brazil’s Choque; Artnet.com consultant Simon Todd; contemporary art specialist George O’Dell from Phillips de Pury; and publisher Laurence Billiet from Babelgum.com.
Expert on the London market, Simon Todd, confirmed that, as far as collectors selling on street art bought in the pre-2008 boom goes, “The flipping has stopped.”
“Street art brought a lot of new collectors to the market,” said Todd, “And this is what has made it resilient – but it has also alienated it from alternative collectors.”
George O’Dell believes that there is now no need for the MONIKER street art – “It is now part of contemporary art”.
He feels that the genre is as anarchic as ever – but, rather like the Rolling Stones, it is playing the big arenas. “It’s rebellion, but everyone wants a piece of it,” he said.
Laurence Billiet was first on the panel to identify the Internet as a major tool in the promotion of street art – and a major factor in the rise of its broader appeal: “Street artists have been active in putting their work out there,” she maintained – emphasising that it is the artists themselves that drive the movement, not the collectors or galleries.
Ben Eine suggested that media obsession with popular street artists such as Banksy may skew perceptions of street art: “There’s a lot of interesting stuff out there,” he said.
Eine’s own elevation to the headlines (when David Cameron gave Barack Obama one of his works) resulted in a press backlash in some quarters that took him from street art legend to ‘lawbreaking hoody’ – so much for Obama karma. Eine is, in fact, a master screen-printer.
Taxidermist Polly Morgan modestly refused to claim the punk kudos of being a street artist – and admitted she would be more than happy to win the Turner Prize. “The more people who see my work the better,” she conceded – although a self-confessed shyness turned sitting on a panel and being eyeballed by the press into her worst nightmare.
She was adamant, however, that spending four years at art college was not a prerequisite to becoming an artist.
The panel concluded that the illicit nature and subculture of street art – and the fact that its practice is democratic with no selection process – is what separates it from mainstream contemporary art.
Ben Eine erased any notion that the genre is now beholden to the galleries. “This generation of street artists aren’t tied to galleries – we pick and choose what we do and who we do it with and that’s new to this generation and it is a better way to work.”
But just for the record, he wouldn’t mind the money from the Turner Prize. Shame agents’ commission is still 50 per cent, though.
The Moniker International Art Fair takes place between 14-17 October and will be presenting work from UK artists Ben Eine and Polly Morgan, Black Rat Projects and Campbarbossa from London, Choque from Brazil – and a roster of exciting artists from Germany, Iceland, USA and Italy.
MONIKER International Art Fair
Shoreditch House London E1