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An Art poster for Christmas?

I have been musing that looking at the popularity in the sale of art posters might help to understand the insistence of the general public in favour of figurative art of a particular sort (rather than a whole range of types of contemporary visual arts ). So, what is it that makes people ‘flash the cash’ for art and what are the temptations to art poster buyers in those top selling artists’ work?
I grew out of getting excited about blu-tacking posters to my bedroom wall many years ago, now favouring buying original works of art (within a pretty limited budget), and I have been eying up the lovely Edward Bawden lino cut of the Hare and Tortoise my parents are lucky enough to have, for years.  So what of art posters?  They are still popular with many, not just art students.  I thought it would be fun to look at the top art posters sold and ponder why sales of them are so hot.  At Easyart these are the top selling artists:

It is of no surprise to me that Vettriano comes right at the top.  His work is at once slick, painterly, nostalgic, romantic, wistful and expertly executed. His compositions are nearly always strong and powerful, and he often goes for a frisson of excitement: the stiletto heeled leg, the stocking top. Klimt’s work is highly digestible in the 21st century.  It is easy on the eye, highly decorative, lavish in the application of twinkling effects, especially the use of gold, and then there are lots of naked or semi nude female figures, and all are incredibly skinny. Altogether quite a formula.
So what is the continuing and increasingly strong pull of Lowry in 21st century?  I think nostalgia is also an important aspect of interest in his work.  The popularity of the song ‘Pictures of Matchstick men’ helped sink him into the British public consciousness.   The bleakness of the thin figures, leaning forward against the wind and rain in a Northern industrial landscape runs deep in the public memory, ensuring his place in the ranks of top sellers.
It is interesting that Andy Warhol has a place in the top four. Perhaps more specifically lifestyle magazines may be responsible here.  For those who favour a chic, urban, streamlined, sophisticated living environment, an Andy Warhol on the wall is de rigueur.  The effect the media has had on public perception of all of these top artists is considerable.  Most of them could be named by people with little or no interest in art .   I am not decrying the artistic value in any of the artists’ work described above, but simply highlighting the aspects of the work that may attract mass market interest, but I would be interested to hear the views of others…

Posted by author: Jane Parry
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3 thoughts on “An Art poster for Christmas?

  • This is an interesting question to ponder. Im wondering if the general public who have little or no knowledge at all about art, art movements and artists do have knowledge of famous names that have hit popularity through the media and some very interesting TV lately which is accessible to all. Also many of the artists mentioned have their work widely reproduced in card, calendar, wrapping paper format etc… which is readily available – not forgetting sweet, chocolate and biscuit box/tin packaging.
    Although the artists who have been mentioned have produced work well worth this type of reproduction I am wondering how an unknown artist or one not in the media’s eye could self-promote themselves using such adverting prowess. I remember Jean-Michal Basquiat painted on postcard sized card and gave them out – sold some to Andy Warhol even and Chris Ofili had such gimmics as Shit sale where he had a stall in Berlin and London markets where he had elephant dung balls for the public to view not forgetting his ELEPHANT SHIT posters and ELEPHANT SHIT stickers put up around London (just a little eg’s of Ofili’s self advertising genius). Once in the public eye, especially in the culture we live in your name lives on forever wether for good or bad reasons.

  • Dawn’s comment about propinquity was interesting.
    I was surprised that Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, Toulouse Lautrec and Henri Matisse were missing. With Jack Vett’s work becoming as omnipresent as the once faded pics of Constable’s Haywain that saturated tea trays and cafes the length and breadth of England, I suspect he’s peaked in popularity – maybe it’s me, but I find his work cleverly composed and executed yet contrived and soulless.
    I’m just wondering if, in the future, Banksy will inherit Lowry’s urban nostalgia niche.

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