Let Us Entertain You: America's Never-Ending Love Affair with Pop Culture Icons, Coupled with Waves of Nostalgia, Is Revitalizing the Entertainment Art Market
Meyers, Laura, Art Business News
Hooray for Hollywood! Generations of movie stars, music legends and beloved characters are forever etched in our collective memory--and in an expanding array of artworks that document and recreate these iconic images of our times.
Today, gallery owners and art publishers alike are taking a fresh approach to entertainment art, starting with redefining it, broadly speaking, as artwork based on Hollywood's film, music and entertainment industries. "The moniker includes pop culture, music, Broadway, sports, celebrity of all sorts," explained Jim Lentz, chief operating officer of American Royal Arts in Boca Raton, Fla. Vintage and contemporary animation, film and concert posters, new interpretative portrayals of cartoon characters, celebrity portraits and art made by celebrities are all part of the evolving marketplace for entertainment art.
These days, along with tried-and-true animation and movie posters, collectors are also looking for original concept drawings and storyboards, paintings and drawings by such pop legends as rock diva Grace Slick and new renderings of well-known cartoon and comics characters created by top-drawer contemporary artists. In part, this is a result of an effort by Lentz and other publishers to evolve. "Animation eels were the media darling for l0 to 12 years," said Lentz. "We're trying to cultivate that audience for a broader marketplace."
Indeed, for a good part of the 1990s, animation was a bright light in the art market, but then, observed veteran gallerist Heidi Leigh, owner of Animazing Gallery in New York, "the marketplace was saturated, particularly with those who treated it as merchandise and not art, and the animation industry simply collapsed. After the dust settled and many smaller galleries went out of business, the few of us who are still standing have shifted focus a little bit and found our niches."
A New World
In Leigh's case, that has meant introducing original pop art, such as Tom Everhart's "Snoopy" images, into her gallery, Linda Jones has concentrated on famed animator Chuck Jones' original drawings. Debbie Weiss, owner of Wonderful World of Animation Gallery in Beverly Hills, Calif., has found success with vintage storyboards and master backgrounds. "I wish I had more concept art--I could sell it all," she said. Entertainment Galleries, the retail arm of $2 Art Group, has expanded its offerings of reissued movie posters to include pop artist Everhart as well as celebrity-oriented artworks by the likes of disco singer/songwriter Donna Summer and illustrator/caricaturist Al Hirshfeld.
Indeed, celebrity sells--in part because the media promotes celebrity. Former Jefferson Airplane band member Grace Slick, for example now focuses on a visual art career, painting likenesses of her friends and fellow musicians, such as Sting, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jerry Garcia. In February, an opening reception for her new series of portrayals of characters from Alice in Wonderland, "Wonderland Suite," at the Art One Gallery in Los Angeles was covered by most of the local television stations.
Slick's works have also been successfully exhibited at the Fingerhut Galleries. "I was very skeptical at first," admitted Frederick Warhanek, executive director of Fingerhut Gallery of Sausalito, Calif. "But Grace Stick's work is charming. For our first show [three years ago], we had 1,100 to 1,200 people show up--and our gallery comfortably holds about 150.... It was a phenomenal opening, in terms of business. We sold a lot of work."
More Top Trends
At the same time, entertainment art devotees are reaching out for classic retro imagery. For example, Clampett Studio Collections in Hollywood, Calif., a successor organization to the now-shuttered Warner Bros. fine-art enterprises, has experienced great success with a new limited-edition series based on vintage Warner Bros. lobby cards. The original placards promoted Merrie Melodies and Looney Toons cartoons in movie theater lobbies from the 1930s through the 1960s. …