Wall to wall

Where Street Art and Lux­ury Meet

Upscale Living Magazine - - Fashion - | BY DELLVIN ROSHON

Cu­rat­ing a highly ex­clu­sive col­lec­tion, Ur­ban Po­etry show­cases work from some of the world’s most pro­lific and in­flu­en­tial street artists: Blek le Rat, Os Ge­meos, Stink Fish, Lon­don Po­lice, and eL Seed, to name a few; more im­por­tantly, the ex­hi­bi­tion is part of a larger tran­si­tion in ur­ban con­tem­po­rary art from graf­fiti to street art and from street art to as­set class; we know that be­cause Banksy’s Girl with Bal­loon­cum-Love is in the Bin, ini­tially sold for $1.8 mil­lion, is now worth an es­ti­mated $2.8 mil­lion; and while an orig­i­nal Blek le Rat may not go for the same as a Modigliani or Gi­a­cometti, what the art in­dus­try’s 212% growth since 2008 makes abun­dantly clear, is that the bound­aries around which art, money and value have been tra­di­tion­ally de­mar­cated, are them­selves be­com­ing less so.

“For a very long time,” Gail­lard tells Up­scale Liv­ing, “we’ve al­ways com­part­men­tal­ized things. That’s con­tem­po­rary, that’s post-art, that’s im­pres­sion­ist … the hi­er­ar­chy of an oil on can­vas is in­her­ently bet­ter than a gouache on can­vas, than a piece on pa­per. We live in in­ter­est­ing times be­cause this is be­ing bro­ken down. And al­though Banksy has noth­ing to do with my ex­hi­bi­tion, what hap­pened at Sotheby’s was the best ex­am­ple. You can’t box things in any­more. Art is art.”

One, how­ever, need not nec­es­sar­ily be versed in Pi­casso or Renoir to en­joy them. From their wildly suc­cess­ful 2015 Icons of Art show to their equally dynamic 2017 Gold ex­hi­bi­tion, Dubai’s re­sponse to Opera Gallery group shows has been over­whelm­ing. And yet, with such suc­cess­ful ex­hi­bi­tions be­hind them, a “street show” was not in the gallery’s reper­toire.

When asked about the in­spi­ra­tion for the cur­rent show, the North­east­ern MBA grad was clear. “I love street art,” Gail­lard says, “and I col­lect street art. It’s al­ways eas­ier to

Syl­vain Gail­lard, Swiss­born Di­rec­tor of Opera Gallery Dubai, is a creative vi­sion­ary. Not only does he over­see Dubai’s in­stal­la­tion of one of the twenty-first cen­tury’s most im­por­tant cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions, but his most re­cent ex­hi­bi­tion, Ur­ban Po­etry, is an ex­er­cise in the mas­ter­ful balance be­tween the com­mer­cial and in­tel­lec­tual in­ter­ests of High net-worth modern and con­tem­po­rary art col­lec­tors.

work with some­thing that speaks to you. I picked these artists for a very spe­cific rea­son, more than what they rep­re­sent vis­ually,” he adds. “There is some­thing deeper be­hind their art.”

Graf­fiti’s meta­mor­pho­sis into street art has al­ways been about more than tag­ging walls. What was once free­dom of ex­pres­sion has now be­come a re­spon­sive in­stru­ment that dig­ni­fies peo­ple in oth­er­wise undig­ni­fied con­di­tions. Blek le Rat, the “Fa­ther of sten­cil graf­fiti”, for ex­am­ple, is most noted for his painted sten­cils of rats, call­ing them “the only free an­i­mal in so­ci­ety.” His art­work birthed an en­tire gen­er­a­tion of graf­fiti and guerilla artists from Speedy Graphito to Miss Tic, and Fu­tura 2000. That the “rat” is a sym­bol of art it­self should not be lost on any­one.

French-Tunisian Cal­ligraf­fiti artist, eL Seed, as Gail­lard notes, “is al­ways so­cially-en­gaged and doesn’t do cal­lig­ra­phy for the sake of do­ing cal­lig­ra­phy.” His use of Ara­bic graf­fiti tran­scends lan­guage through pro­jects like Per­cep­tion, a piece cov­er­ing 50 build­ings vis­i­ble only from Cairo’s Muqat­tam Moun­tain and, what’s more, his TED talks in­spire mil­lions.

Stink Fish, by way of Bo­gotá, Columbia chines in. “I work from the per­spec­tive of free pub­lic space, try­ing to re­cover the street as a place to make in­for­ma­tion avail­able to every­one. Dif­fer­ent from ad­ver­tis­ing and in­sti­tu­tional in­for­ma­tion,” he tells Up­scale Liv­ing, “my work lives in the street … I also work with ideas about tran­sit, borders and equal­ity. Any­body can be por­trait on a wall be­cause ev­ery­body is im­por­tant. That´s why I use ma­te­ri­als that tell sto­ries.”

Nev­er­the­less, art auc­tion and col­lec­tion is still a big boy’s game; all of the artists cho­sen for the ex­hi­bi­tion have, in their own way, helped to take street art from the walls of cities to the walls of gal­leries; a dis­cern­ing col­lec­tor that spends 300k a year on art will spend 300k, but it must be for the work of tried and true mas­ters; and while Blek le Rat, eL Seed, and Stink Fish pieces can be “viewed in the wild,” their can­vas works sell for 6 fig­ures as buy­ers look for more creative ways to in­vest.

Opera Gallery Dubai’s place in the city’s evolv­ing art mar­ket opens a door of sorts. One be­hind which lo­cals, ex­pats, and passersby alike can peek, thus be­com­ing more and more in­ti­mate with the mind-blow­ing vast­ness of street art while, at the same time, learn­ing more about them­selves. But isn’t that the pur­pose of art any­way? In the end, though: “art is the great equal­izer,” Gail­lard says. “Whether you are eight or eight, it will al­ways find you.”

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