Tag Archives: limited edition toys

Street Art City – January 2022

Where does psychogeography diverge from long term urban observation? When there is no urban exploration and no wandering from the predetermined path. I regularly look at the same areas, keeping record of observations of select parts of the city. I have walked along many of the lanes so often that I can’t remember my first visit. How many hundreds of times have I walked the aerosol covered Hosier Lane in the last decade? The accrual of memories of a place, of the unauthorised, anarchic street art and graffiti.

And within this area, there is always something new to see. Melbourne City Council has filled otherwise empty shops with artistic concepts to activate Melbourne’s centre. I visited “This is not a toy store” and looked at the art toys, some are parodies of all the Star Wars toys, others are just collectable toys and still others are too strange to classify. (See my post for more on Melbourne’s art toy scene.)

There is some overlap between the art toy scene and street art with both artists and subject matter. Facter’s new dragon on their back door, a rare piece of freehand aerosol work amongst the street art of Presgrave Place. Presgrave Place is another location that I’ve been looking at for decades. And amongst the frames, paste-ups and stickers are some large numbered paste-ups by another veteran, M.P. Fikaris (aka Braddock). Fikaris’s paste-ups of his iconic robot man are part of Fast Forward, another of the city councils’ activation programs.

Sunfigo’s work continues to surprise, not just because of the prolific output. In Platypus Alley off Lt. Bourke Street, Sunfigo has introduced a meta-element with a paste-up of a photograph of the same wall. The photo records the missing pieces that people have ripped off. All that is left of these pieces on the wall is their outline in liquid nails.

Other areas are not doing so well. The refitting of Centre Way marks the continued bland decline of an area that used to be an excellent location for graffiti and street art. Still, it lost that status years ago. There have been too many unsympathetic alterations, first to Centre Place and now to the mall. Now only the fire extinguisher reel and pipe record the many stickers slapped around here.

And then, just when I think that I’ve been along every lane in the city, I come across a stub lane with a hodonym that doesn’t fit with the familiar nomenclature of Melbourne street names. “CL 0034,” off Hardware Lane, the letters and numbers could be from another city but for the City of Melbourne sign and the familiar street artists. I search for it without success on Google maps or old copies of Melways. Just when I thought that I was no longer doing urban exploring.


Urban Art 10A @ BSG

Do not read this review of Urban Art 10A at Brunswick Street Gallery (BSG) as it is biased. I work with the curator, Tessa Yee in the Melbourne Stencil Festival. I own a work by Boo, so I have an interest in promoting her work. You have been warned.

Urban Art 10A is a group exhibition, a sampling of street influenced art. In this case street-influence includes aerosol stencils, cartoon influence illustration and custom toys. There is no free hand aerosol art, no vinyl toys, no street sculpture, no guerrilla gardens, etc. but you can’t have everything on a single floor of BSG.

The mini-exhibition of custom toys within the exhibition from the Australian Guild of Toy Makers is fun. Featuring custom soft toys by Amy Calton, Antonia Green and Rob Thompson. It is also the only sculptural element in the exhibition aside from Jak Rapmund’s pile of broken skateboard decks. His rough supports, the broken decks, the chunk bitten off with great teeth marks, are savage. His stencils are fun with a pop sensibility and neo-baroque backgrounds.

Jak Rapmund, photo courtesy of Tessa Yea

Jak Rapmund works, photo courtesy of Tessa Yee

There is plenty of work in the cartoon and illustrative direction; Timothy Molloy had a whole comic on exhibition. Apeseven has been painting on more bottles, I’m not surprised as he was very proud of this technical achievement when I spoke to him at his solo exhibition at Famous When Dead (see my review). And like James Panic (I own one of his t-shirts, more reasons for bias) Apeseven is including collage elements into his work. Boo combines both illustration and stencil art in her scenes that are surrounded with paper-cut sacred hearts.

Urban Art 10A did include urban images; the photographic quality of stencil art was on display. Kirpy’s stencils of urban images have a realist tone compared to the more romantic images of urban decay by Logan Moody. E.L.K.’s stencils of mosh-pits, was less about urban images and more about an urban experience.

Urban Art 10A Opening Night @ BSG, photo courtesy of Tessa Yee

I’m not so compromised over the other shows on the first floor of BSG; but I’m less interested in photography than street art. Jayne
Moberley’s “Schattenspiel
Show” is a series of misty color photographs of Melbourne and Sydney. Tebani
Slade’s “Lost & Found” is a series of sentimental still life black and white photographs. The only one that I could get into was Bridget
MacLeod “Ephemera”, black and white photographs preserving the ephemeral images of lace table clothes used as stencils on the street, but I have seen this idea used several times before.

I was distracted again by the stock on display at BSG; there was some stencil work by Ben Howe and a painting by Jean Lyons, who I had seen on exhibition at Flinders Lane Gallery last weekend. There were more people at the opening with skateboards than the usual exhibition. Milly, the gallery cat was greeting people with affection. I was there early before it got too crowded to move and I’d been on my feet for hours looking at other galleries that afternoon. I wanted dinner and a cocktail more than to hang out in a gallery.

Street Artists making $

My blog entry Street Art & Galleries attracted a lot of comments some of them espoused a non-commercial ideal for street art. However, much of the free art on the streets appears to be advertising for street artist’s highly commercial enterprises, (see my blog entry Advertising & Graffiti). Street art is the most commercially accessible of contemporary movements; street art is far more commercial than even the Surrealism.  Street artists produce art from the high to low price range, from museum quality pieces to badges, and this allows anyone to purchase the artist’s work. Keith Haring opened shops in New York and Tokyo for his merchandise and generations of street artists have followed his example.

The marketing strategy of street artists is similar to that of KISS, the most commercially successful rock band ever. KISS gave extravagant concert tours at less than cost ticketing, as a promotion for the band’s t-shirts, figurines and other marketing spin offs that is KISS’s main revenue stream. Like fashion designers many of these artists also produce diffusion ranges – the number of sneaker, t-shirts and figurines by street artists is incalculable. Collectable is a sales feature for these limited editions designed by street artists.

Toys, miniatures and street art are not something that I’ve paid a great deal of attention to although I know that many well-known street artists make limited edition toys. It is not that I don’t understand that models making and miniatures are an art, especially after painting many models in my teenage years, it just isn’t my scene anymore. Dean Christ, who I met when he was exhibiting at the Melbourne Stencil Festival, sent me a link to some of his toys. These are not cute, they are very much boys toys. Dean Christ combines military vehicles with insect forms.

Street artists make many other promotional deals: from minor deals like putting a business’s name or logo on a legal work to major deals like local artist, Phibs’ YouTube video promotion for VB Raw. These many different income sources means that street artists, unlike most other artists, are not entirely dependent on gallery sales, arts council grants or other institutional funding.

Now I’m not opposed to artists making money and I am not criticizing these street artists mentioned for any of their commercial work. I am opposed to the idealism that generates the denial that street art is not commercial; a denial that is not unique to street art but is encountered in so many areas of the arts. Parts of the art world are reluctant to talk about money, as they want to be seen placing certain ideals above financial concerns. Medieval knights and royalty were not meant to engage in business or industry and some artists ape these antique manners. However, this is to deny the reality that art is connected to life, where artists have to live and make a living.

I am impressed with the marketing of street artists; many artists in history would envy their success. Many modern art groups wanted to be able to market their art democratically so that people of different income could afford it, however the technology and distribution market often did not support these enterprises. Marcel Duchamp tried producing men’s shirts, travel chess sets and picture discs (records with op art images) but there he was no internet to help generate international sales for him and none of these enterprises made a profit. The success of street art, an art movement that has spread around the world, is in part due its ability to be commercial successful.

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