Whether it’s art “from the easels of animation legends such as Chuck Jones or works created by masters from other art disciplines such as cinematic artist John Alvin (see “Cinema on Canvas” in the November issue), sculptor Lawrence Noble or art designer Dick Duerrstein, interpretive art that focuses on the classicism of the animation medium is hot, hot, hot,” enthuses Robert Patrick, director of marketing and wholesale for Linda Jones Enterprises, Irvine, CA.
“The making of an animated film may have evolved over the last decade,” continues Patrick, “but the enduring nature of its basic structure–a series of drawings that when flipped through create the illusion of movement, of life–has remained the same.”
Patrick understands that production art from classic, hand-drawn and hand-painted films “has become rarer with each breath we take,” but he goes on to say that “the evolution of an art genre must be organic, a response to the complicated world in which we live.”
“People now like big art, and oversized wall art (unique multiple canvas art done by artists of Artbywicks Inc.) are more popular,” Dan says. “Demand for large art is strong, but artists are now hand-embellishing editions, giving collectors that much-sought-after originality at limited-edition prices.
Although Leslie Combemale, owner of the ArtInsights gallery in Reston, VA, says she still has a core collector base for the original production art from feature-length and short animated films, “we are seeing fewer new clients looking to start a collection featuring such art.”
Combemale agrees that the major trend in the animation market is toward interpretive works by artists such as Peter Ellenshaw and Dick Duerrstein. Another trend she believes will continue is film art by the likes of John Alvin, who completed the movie posters for “ET,” “Blade Runner” and “Young Frankenstein.” Alvin also worked on campaigns for various Disney films.
“We started carrying originals from some of the 130 movies that Alvin worked on around three years ago,” Combemale says, “and we had some immediate collectors, all of whom had been buying animation art from our gallery.”
Combemale says 2006 was the best year she’s ever had, largely because of film art, which is really taking off. For 2007, Combemale is predicting greater success. “We’re looking to carry more interpretive artists whose images are of Disney characters or animated characters in general,” she says. “Limited-edition cels don’t have the appeal they once had unless they’re interpretive because they represent something that is different from the original.”
For Clampett Studio Collections, the animation art market has been strong and consistent for the past five years, according to Ruth Clampett, founder and creative director for Hollywood-based Clampett Studio Collections, home of the Warner Bros. Gallery Program. As the daughter of Warner Bros. Director Bob Clampett, Ruth grew up surrounded by animation art and says today there is a “continuing shift” of galleries “wanting to specialize with specific properties or types of art, whereas in the past there were more generalists. This has led us to cater more to specific gallery’s needs and wants.” Like other publishers, Clampett is producing exclusive editions for many galleries in order to cater to their particular customer base.
“With our properties,” Clampett says, “the artwork started out as all classic and traditional animation, which is now just a small part of our offerings.” Artists who create interpretive works for Clampett include 3-D artist Charles Fazzino and Alan Bodner.
“Interest in animation art comes down to two main things: exposure and education,” says Debbie Weiss, owner of Wonderful World of Animation Art Gallery in Culver City, CA. “When you find that collectors are familiar with the art form you are selling and have had a recent exposure to it–for example, the DVD has just been released, or the film has just been shown on TV like the seasonal ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ or ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’–interest in the art increases.”
Weiss also adds that the more collectors learn about the process, the history and the types of animation art available to them from gallery staffs, the more likely they are to purchase because they truly understand what it is they are buying.
“We also have noticed a trend toward animation art branching into fine art,” Weiss says. “Animators such as Alan Bodner and Glen Orbik are turning out some terrific fine-art paintings that are outside the animation realm and are very popular with collectors. And artists such as Luke Chueh, Bob Dob, and John Alvin have all been successful at interpreting animation art icons.”
Well-orchestrated themed events and “performance paintings” are critically important for today’s purveyors of animation art. Below is a sampling of recent events:
* Linda Jones Enterprises (LJE), completed a U.S. and Canada “Toys for Tots” promotion that involved eight galleries and coincided with the 40th anniversary of Chuck Jones’ “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” television special. Among the galleries participating in the LJE “Toys for Tots” campaign was Animazing Gallery, New York City, which welcomed comedian Whoopi Goldberg and 3-D artist David Kracov, who helped launch the gallery’s Toys for Tots campaign.
* ArtInsights, Reston, VA, hosted a showing of works by cinematic artist John Alvin during which the legendary Darth Vader made a special guest appearance.
* Wonderful World of Animation, Culver City, CA, held a “Simpsons” Happy Hour event, during which a “Simpsons” episode was “premiered.” The gallery was decked out to look like the cartoon’s Moe’s Bar. The event attracted collectors and Hollywood actors.
* Collectors Editions teamed with Animation Art Limited gallery in the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, IL, for a special event featuring performance artist Trevor Carlton.
“When it comes to events, we really focus on giving both established collectors and new customers a reason to come into the gallery and have a special experience,” says Clampett Studio Collections’ Ruth Clampett. “We start by having new releases for the gallery to launch and then also provide them with “sold out” art or show-exclusive art that collectors would not normally be able to get. In planning specific shows or events, we will bring in talent–not just the artist–but voice artists or other people related to the production of the animation. We have done everything from cel painting demonstrations to brief presentations on the history and process of animation to voice talent broadcasts.”
“Whether the exhibits are gallery-based or set at museums or community centers, we feel that bringing collectors together with a popular property–be it ‘Star Wars,’ ‘The Simpsons,’ or Disney–along with a representative artist brings in large numbers of new collectors and generates publicity that might otherwise be more difficult to obtain,” says Acme’s Sean McLain. “We like to make high-profile artists working on high-profile entertainment properties available to galleries and build a special event around them, complete with presentations, demonstrations, meet-and-greets and signings.”
As for the future of animation art, Linda Jones Enterprises’ Robert Patrick jokes that he wishes he had “a crystal ball that works,” but asserts that animation art will stay steady.
“Collectors of art will continue to add animation art to their collections, and artists will continually be drawn (pun intended) to the animation genre–original, interpretive, whatever form it takes,” he says. “And that’s because publishers such as ourselves and the company we keep will continue to believe in their missions of creating, publishing and delivering the finest in animation art to collectors of art. It’s a simple and elegant goal that has worked well for Linda Jones Enterprises for the past 30 years.”
The Wonderful World of Animation’s Debbie Weiss opines: “I think collectors will continue to snap up the great art. They will continue to buy the best that they can afford, and they will really focus on the quality of the poses and rarity. I feel that the galleries who truly love animation art will continue to prosper as they will create and sustain the demand. And collectors will continue to flock to those galleries who really care about the art and their clientele. As the art becomes harder and harder to find and more and more collectors enter the market, the demand for good art, and thus prices, will continue to climb.”
What it comes down to is this, says Clampett: “As publishers, it is our responsibility to listen to the collectors with one foot planted in our rich animation past and the other stepping into the future of new ideas, new characters and new art forms. As long as there are cartoon fans, there will be animation art collectors. This is a great business, and I feel privileged to be a part of it.”