Pop Art's Beat Goes On: Modern-Day Pop Artists, Inspired by Renowned Masters from the 1960s and '70S, Bring Joy in Difficult Times. (News)

By Hagan, Debbie | Art Business News, March 2003 | Go to article overview

Pop Art's Beat Goes On: Modern-Day Pop Artists, Inspired by Renowned Masters from the 1960s and '70S, Bring Joy in Difficult Times. (News)


Hagan, Debbie, Art Business News


"Pop art is stronger than ever," said Jeff Jaffe, co-owner of Pop International Galleries in New York. Art dealers, publishers, artists, collectors and auction houses agree. They point to some of the biggest names in art today: Burton Morris, Clemens Briels, Marco, James Rizzi, Fredrick Prescott, Romero Britto, Steve Kaufman and Charles Fazzino, among others. They all work in a Pop style, and they all have found success in today's art marketplace.

Sales of Pop's masters, like Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Keith Haring, have skyrocketed, too. In 1998, Sotheby's broke records for Warhol sales, Selling "Orange Marilyn" for $17.3 million. In November 2002, Christie's set a new benchmark for Lichtenstein's sales, selling "Happy Tears" for $7.1 million.

Why has Pop art returned so strongly, 47 years after its birth? Some say Pop has gained respect over time and proven to be a solid investment. Others say it's simply time for the pendulum to swing back that way. Still others see striking parallels between now and the 1960s, with the answer resting deep in American's need to be comforted by familiar things.

"When Pop art made its way into the public eye, some of the issues that existed then are before us today," said Ruth-Ann Thorn of Crown Thorn Publishing in San Diego. War, anti-war protests, threats of foreign attack and fear of nuclear bombs were as ominous then as they are now, she pointed out.

"In serious times, we want a fun escape," Thorn said. "I don't want to look at a painting and think, `Oh my goodness, we're going into a nuclear war.' Rather, Pop art is idealistic. It's a bit like going to Disneyland."

Alan Avery co-owner of Trinity Gallery in Atlanta, agreed with Thorn in the sense that he links Pop's strong re-emergence to nationalistic thoughts that have surfaced since Sept. 11. Pop celebrates, without apologies, American culture, which includes commercial products, movies stars, fast food, childhood heroes and all aspects of everyday life. "The world equates this with American freedom," said Avery.

Last fall, Avery put together a colossal Pop show, "Pop Icons: Modern Masters." It included 50 works from Warhol, Joan Miro, Lichtenstein, Jim Dine and David Hockney. He sold three-fourths of the works, most for more than $20,000. Avery said, "I think my timing was impeccable. Pop art is stronger than it's ever been."

Avery's success is ironic. A few years ago, he abhorred Pop art. "I thought it was a joke" he admitted. Customers urged him to read about it, and when he did, he was surprised. "It just shows that dealers can learn too,' Avery laughed.

Pop art originated in 1956 when British artist Richard Hamilton created, "Just What Is It that Makes Today's Homes so Different, so Appealing?" The work is a collage of a nude woman with a bodybuilder proudly displaying a phallic lollipop (labeled "Pop"). Quirky objects, symbolic of false images, advertised perceptions and blatant consumerism, surround the figures.

A group of New York City artists--Warhol, Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, and Tom Wesselmann among them--propelled this idea, and Pop art evolved.

"I think it was a brilliant move on Andy Warhol's part to take graphic art, trivial objects, icons, like Kennedy, Monroe and Howdy Doody, and all the commercialism America is known for and turn that into art" said Avery about Pop's most revered icon. "This is the first time American artists weren't pooling from the European or Asian masters. It shows a comfort level in saying, `Hey, this is who we are.'"

But Avery believes real Pop ended in the 1970s. "It's sort of idiotic to tag oneself onto a time period and movement and not be exchanging ideas from [the originators]" said Avery about contemporary tagalongs. That makes as much sense, he said, as calling oneself a Dutch Renaissance painter.

"Of all the people continuing today, the only one I consider a true innovator is Jim Dine," said Avery. …

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