Julien's Auctions Executive Director Tim Luke on Top Lots and Expanding the Street Art Market

  • Courtesy of Julien's Auctions

Julien’s Auctions has recently named industry veteran and auctioneer Tim Luke as Executive Director, Contemporary and Street Art. Luke hits the ground running with Street Art Now V, the fifth installment of an ongoing series of online auctions in collaboration with Artsy.

Luke’s impressive career in the auction world has spanned over two decades, most notably as an auctioneer and Director of Collectibles as Christie’s, and recently as President of TreasureQuest Group, Inc. Thrilled to be joining the team at Julien’s Auctions, Luke will be responsible for continuing the global expansion of the Contemporary and Street Art departments. Below, Luke answers a few questions about the top lots and how he plans to grow the market for contemporary and urban art.

Artsy: Can you start by walking us through some of your personal highlights from the auction?

Tim Luke: In the late 1980s, I lived in NYC and would visit the Pop Shop and remember seeing Keith Haring's work around the city. When I started working at Christie’s in the 1990s, the pop art movement was hitting the major auction houses and original Keith Haring items started showing up in live sales. Fast forward to this online auction and others where Haring is sought after by collectors. Lots 20 and 21 are great reminders of the halcyon days in NYC. Lot 26, Mr. Brainwash Don’t Be Cruel, because it was featured in the documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop. These pieces are a reminder of the ambition, creativity and sheer determination of an artist to succeed.

A: For the uninitiated Street Art collector, which works would you recommend from the auction as “must-haves”?

TL: Banksy is the illusive and mysterious artist that the public has never seen his face or knows his identity. This mystique adds to the desirability of the artwork. Banksy created fake British currency for an event but at the last minute decided not to distribute the Di-faced Tenner because it resembled the originals so closely. Instead, the pieces entered the marketplace and Lot 5, Banksy Di-faced Tenner, is an opportunity to add a Banksy piece at an affordable price point. Banksy is a collector favorite and should be part of any street art collection.

TL (cont.): Lot 22, Legend Forever, a Mr. Brainwash screenprint with aerosol embellishments is a great entry level artwork showcasing the typical Mr. Brainwash genre of works. Finally, Lot 29, Pure Evil, The Last Marilyn, showcases the artists Warhol-esque portraits with signature eyes, famous throughout the streets and galleries worldwide.

A: How about for the more seasoned collector? Are there any works by newer, emerging artists that collectors should be keeping an eye out for?

TL: Diversity and inclusivity is also represented in the Julien’s Artsy Auction with Lot 33, by Sandra Chevrier, a watercolor on paper. Her work exposes the limitations within our world, our self-imposed expectations and perceptions that hold us back from the fullness of life’s experiences. Her work also showcases the dance between reality and imagination. Lot 26, Mr. Brainwash Don’t Be Cruel is also a great price point for seasoned collectors looking to add not only an aerosol piece but a piece featured in the cult classic documentary, Exit Through The Gift Shop. The provenance of the piece is great but the lot also come with a copy of the movie.

This sale offers a diversity of artists and when looking for emerging or newer artist, look for the bold expressions or controversial.  This art form was born from non-conformists making a statement.  The past has shown, the louder the message the more creative the artwork.

A: What are the biggest challenges in expanding the auction market for Street Art? How do you plan on addressing these at Julien’s Auctions?

TL: One of the biggest challenges is offering original pieces by a variety of established and up and coming artists. This challenge is addressed by expanding our offerings of live and online sales and partnering with a progressive partner like Artsy who appreciates and understands the importance of education of clients and the outreach needed to expand the marketplace. The other way I am addressing this is by thinking like a Street Artist and not following the establishment but thinking outside the lines. This is illustrated by changing up the look and feel of our offerings, seeking out the non-traditional and adding a variety of artists, mediums and messages to our auctions.

Explore Julien's Auctions: Street Art Now V on Artsy, and place max bids on more than 40 artworks. Bidding closes Thursday, July 20th, at 10:00pm ET.

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