Sunday, September 5, 2010

Protip: Buy Art

Since I transformed this blog from a caffeine-fueled rant generator so prolific that people analyzed my output and concluded I was a bot into a bizarre cross between BUY NOW BUY NOW infomercials and donation-driven public television, I've made a decent amount of money - but the not-that-shocking secret is, I could have made a lot more.

I haven't actually been giving money my full attention. Instead I've been going to acting classes, watching a ton of movies, reading a ton of books on film, and going to classes on the business of entertainment. However, I have made a few nice little profits here and there, from time to time, and although I've mostly spent it on silly things like iPads and whatnot, I'm happy to say I've made a few wiser purchasing decisions as well.

This is a hand-made statue of Boba Fett, welded together in Thailand from scrap metal and engine parts (including several spark plugs, for instance, in his backpack). The pictures don't really do it justice; it looks freaking awesome. One thing I love about it is that whenever an artist re-interprets a classic character, they implicitly assert an opinion about what elements of the character are intrinisc and necessary, versus what elements you can throw away and still have the same character.

Most reimaginings of Boba Fett change his helmet.

This one, however, is intended as a fairly literal interpretation, and does not.

But what it does change is the color - everything is burnished steel - and with the new, metallic coloration, it's kind of impossible to miss the fact that Boba Fett's helmet is almost medieval in its design.

Combine that with Fett's jetpack, and the tube connecting it to his gun in this version, and he looks like a classic European Crusader, or armored knight, encased in plate mail and packing a WW2-era flamethrower. With many advances in military technology focusing on robotic exoskeletons, this statute's a much more thought-provoking piece of art than I expected it to be. It's a little scarier than I expected, too, and it's about to become both scarier and more thought-provoking, because of another piece I ordered, which I will probably put right next to it.

This is a print of a movie poster created for a theater in Austin, Texas by the artist Tyler Stout. I fully expect it to rise in value; in fact, I'm more confident of its rise than of the Boba Fett statue's, since it's signed and numbered, part of a limited edition (most prints of this poster lack the metallic silver background and vivid color), and Stout's similar poster for an Austin showing of The Big Lebowski is already just under $700 on eBay.

The patriotism of this image is all well and good, along with the entrepreneurial individualism and all that - and anything gets better when you add Scarlett Johansson - but it gets scary when you consider the increased militarization of the police in recent years, the absurd overuse of police force in inappropriate situations which is becoming common in this country, and the terrible misuse of the military and of mercenaries by the last administration. Scarier still when you put it next to a knight in shining armor, packing a WW2 flamethrower, who looks like he comes from the days when the only people who had rights of any kind were the ones who commanded knights in shining armor of their own. To say the least, I'm going to need some other art to balance out this theme. Fortunately, I've got it. Here's a piece on its way to my home featuring two things I love: adorable bunny rabbits and psychedelic mushrooms.

It's signed and numbered, and the artist (Joe Ledbetter) appears in magazines like Juxtapoz, so it's a pretty safe bet it'll increase in value. My small collection also includes a modest Murakami print (genuine, but not signed or numbered), two penguin prints from Lumadessa, a few random bits and pieces, original work by my father and myself (and also, actually, Allie Bradley, the talented and lovely wife of Rick Bradley from OG Consulting), and a pair of Dalek prints - which brings me to the protip here.

I bought the Dalek prints for $50 apiece, and they're now trading on eBay at $125. It's only been a few years. Likewise, I have two of these Ganesha "vinyl toys" (that's what they're called, but I think the term "statuette" is more accurate) by the graffiti artist Doze One, interpreting the Hindu god as an early 1980s hip-hop icon.

I think they cost me around $50 each, maybe $75, and they go for $250 on eBay now. In either case, the absolute profit is not that much, but the ratio is extraordinary. If you can spend $100 to make $500, do it. And these are relatively obscure pieces; the work of big-name artists sees much, much better appreciation. Around the same time I bought the Doze Ganeshas and the Dalek prints, I also spotted a piece I wanted but didn't bother to pick up. It's a miniature copy of the Jeff Koons sculpture Balloon Dog. Here's an original:

The smaller versions, attached to a shiny dinner plate, ran around $300-$350 on eBay when I first discovered them. They were available in two colors, red and blue, and I intended to buy both, but never got around to it. If I had, I'd be pretty stoked about it today. They now list for $18,500.

I assumed everybody knew about this, but the other day I tweeted about being excited some art was on the way, and mentioned that I expected it to go up in value, only to get a response from someone who seemed to think it a gamble, so: art almost always goes up. It is the best small-scale, short-term investment.

Although most of the money I've made on this blog has gone towards funding my acting training, a small percentage has gone into building my art collection. Thanks anyone and everyone who's ever bought anything from me; I'm very lucky and I really appreciate it.