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Popular culture influence on the art world

by Catherine Peters March 01, 2022

Popular culture influence on the art world

Prices soared during 2021 within the Art world. Despite an economic crisis, immersive experiences such as Van Gogh Virtual Reality/360degree projections on 15,000ft screens, drew crowds during a global pandemic, and something known as “non-fungible tokens” NFT, have become the most coveted artworks in the world. We take a dive into the increase of interest in popular culture and more importantly the effect that is having on the art world.Is Art now more or less accessible than ever?

The boundaries between traditional collecting categories and luxury markets continue to blur there is a rise in the collection of cross-branded items. A new collector has arrived, younger and hungry to invest with a greed for trend led items which feature collaborations between artists and designers related to streetwear, urban art, and different corners of culture.

In November 2019, Christie’s (world famous auction house) brought in $2.1 million in a sale marking the first of its kind in the auction house’s history, for lots gathered under the title “Handbags X Hype,” including a Supreme X Louis Vuitton chest going for double its low estimate at $125,000. Showing that designer handbags can now produce better returns than property.

Medicom releases of 18 new Bearbrick per series – at the time of writing the latest is Series 37

Bearbrick- Keith Haring collab

Parisian auction house Artcurial’s “Urban & Pop Contemporary” category has featured sales offering collaborations between artists like KAWS, Futura 2000, Damien Hirst, and Takashi Murakami, and fashion mainstays such as Chanel and Calvin Klein.  An Artcurial sale in 2018 took the title “C.R.E.A.M” (an allusion to “cash rules everything around me,” a refrain popularized by the rap group Wu-Tang Clan), and more recent sales have been named “Don’t Believe the Hype” and “Outsider(s): A History of Beautiful Losers.”

At Sotheby’s, a Supreme skateboard sale January 2019 featured skate decks decorated with imagery by the likes of George Condo, Marilyn Minter, and Damien Hirst.

Sothebys Supreme skateboards

Items from a line of KAWS X Dior toys featured in the spring’s Hong Kong contemporary art sale online and continues to sell on Artsy, which states itself as the leading marketplace to discover, buy, and sell fine art, with an aim to expand the art market to support more artists and art around the world.

KAWS X Dior toys

Such activity “speaks to the intermingling of collecting and consumer behaviour today across every collecting category,” said Caitlin Donovan (2019), a specialist with a focus on handbags and accessories at Christie’s in New York. Donovan noted that the right kind of object can offer an intersectional value “viewed as a luxury item, piece of art, and part of pop-culture” that allows buyers to “break the traditional collector stereotype.” As fine art categories, age and pop culture expands, the legacy of iconic brands offers value from the outside—such that branded collectibles can fetch prices similar to those for refined decorative objects, Chinese bronzes, and rare gems. As Donovan puts it, “from contemporary art collectors to buyers of high fashion, the legacy of brands represents a new type of luxury—inclusive of all references from fine art to pop culture.”

As we move away from the fine art collaborations with fashion houses with high end price points we continue to look at more accessible artwork as there is a rising trend of applying traditional art techniques to everyday items, turning them into artwork which can take its place within your home.

Having always been fascinated by the potential of re-use and rejuvenation of unwanted items, Artist Zoe Murphy re-uses mid twentieth century furniture pieces with patterns inspired by Formica clad sea-side cafes so the work takes on an appropriate nod to the fifties. Bright colours and optimistic images are printed onto re-veneered drawers, footstools, side tables, and Formica wall pieces.

Influenced by traditional craft and art forms, Artist Joel Coole does more than up-cycle furniture. Using signwriting, street art and graphic design techniques, his business name draws inspiration from 'Populuxe' the 1950's consumer culture and aesthetic from the United States which emerged after people began seeing semi-luxury commodities as luxury ware and mass consumer goods. Coole creates social commentary pieces such as his 'NFT'(2022) reflecting up to date pop culture and sells to collectors all over the world, including China, the USA, Australia and Europe. 

'NFT' Joe Coole (2022) @populuxe

As we have included Coole's piece NFT, let's talk about this new cultural phenomenon!

What is an NFT? Non-fungible token is a non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain, a form of digital ledger that can be sold and traded (Wikipedia, 2022) At a very high level, most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is a cryptocurrency, like bitcoin or dogecoin. This new movement combining Art and Crypto worlds, according to Manchester Finest, gives artists the opportunity to empower themselves and be in control of their own work forever, as when someone buys the art now the collector owns it, but NFTs allow the artists to enable a feature where they’re paid a percentage every time the NFT is resold, forever. 

We can see this fast becoming a new Art movement but does it hold its weight against the likes of Impressionism of Bauhaus and is this the solution in creating a more accessible artworld? Personally, I am yet to be convinced but it is worth keeping an eye on....What are your thoughts?



Catherine Peters
Catherine Peters

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