Combine the kawaii figures of
and the exaggerated, gleaming eyes of
, and you’d get Javier Calleja, the hugely popular Spanish artist whose paintings, works on paper, and limited-edition vinyl toys have spawned a thriving secondary market since first appearing at auction in April 2019. And while his toys have topped out just above $10,000 at auction for now, prices for his prints, drawings, and paintings keep rising. At Sotheby’s October 7th day sale of contemporary art in Hong Kong, two works by Calleja vastly outstripped expectations: The painting Trovador
(2017) sold for HK$693,000 (US$89,000), well above its high estimate of HK$400,000 (US$51,000); and the large work on paper Not Fat
(2017), which features a smiling figure with large, cat-like eyes wearing a black shirt featuring the titular phrase, more than tripled its high estimate of HK$250,000 (US$32,000) to sell for HK$781,200 (US$100,000), good for Calleja’s second-highest auction result. Over the summer, at a Christie’s sale in Hong Kong, his 2018 painting What?
achieved more than seven times its high estimate of HK$500,000 (US$64,000), selling for HK$3.7 million (US$480,000).
Demand for Calleja’s work has grown exponentially over the past five years, according to Artsy data. The number of inquiries on his works on the platform year over year more than quadrupled from 2016 to 2017; nearly tripled from 2018 to 2019; and is on track to increase fivefold in 2020 compared to last year.