From the Streets to the Market: Heritage Auctions Brings Urban Art From Around the World

Nazia Safi
Published on

The word “urban” comes from the Latin word “urbanus,” meaning “of or belonging to a city.” Today, urban art refers to a wide variety of works created by those experiencing, living, or depicting city life. Urban art, which stemmed from street art, can include everything from raw graffiti to conventional paintings. The tradition of graffiti and street art is not new, dating back to the 16th century. However, this art form started getting recognition in the 1970s. Since then, urban art has been popular among seasoned and new collectors alike. On March 11th, 2021, Heritage Auctions will offer 43 lots in its Urban Art Signature Auction.

A piece from RETNA leads the catalog with a current bid of USD 50,000. Born Marquis Lewis, RETNA took inspiration from the graffiti he often saw on the freeway. He began practicing the art form, later adopting the name RETNA from a song by the Wu-Tang Clan. The Los Angeles-based graffiti artist is known for his distinct script influenced by ancient Egyptian, Arabic, Asian, and Native American symbols. According to the artist, his writings are multilingual. He once said to Chase Contemporary, “I want my text to feel universal. I want people from different cultures to all find some similarity in it—whether they can read it or not.”

RETNA, Untitled, diptych, early 21st century. Image from Heritage Auctions.
RETNA, Untitled, diptych, early 21st century. Image from Heritage Auctions.

RETNA’s Untitled diptych is a monumental work completed in the early 21st century. Each half measures 92½ by 44 inches. This acrylic on aluminum work features the artist’s signature text-based black line work.

Known as “Chicago’s Hip-Hop Art Star,” Hebru Brantley is one of the city’s fastest-rising artists. The graffiti artist-turned-painter expresses his fantasies and imaginations in his comic-book-style compositions. Brantley defines himself as an Afrofuturist, drawing influences from Black American history, graffiti, hip-hop, and Chicago’s AfriCOBRA collective. The artist is best known for his Tuskegee Airmen-inspired pilot character, called Flyboy.

Hebru Brantley, Blue FlyBoy from The Watch, 2013. Image from Heritage Auctions.
Hebru Brantley, Blue FlyBoy from The Watch, 2013. Image from Heritage Auctions.

Introduced nearly a decade ago as children with goggles, Flyboys represent a neo-future where Black culture and heroes are at the forefront. “It’s my goal that this piece, and all of my artwork, provokes discourse, generating conversations in a public context that will counter media stereotypes,” the artist told Gapers Block. The upcoming Heritage auction features several Flyboys by Brantley. That includes a five-foot-tall sculpture titled Blue Flyboy (current bid: $11,500). Created in 2013, the statue was part of a public installation in his native Chicago.

Another street artist represented in this event is the late Richard A. Hambleton. A pioneering Canadian street artist, Hambleton is popularly known as the “godfather of street art.” Hambleton moved from Vancouver to New York at 25 years old. He quickly captured the attention of the local street art scene with life-sized shadow figures. These “shadow paintings” featured black paint splashed and brushed on buildings in the Lower East Side of New York. About his Shadowman figures, the artist told People Magazine, “They could represent watchmen or danger or the shadows of a human body after a nuclear holocaust or even my own shadow.”

Richard A. Hambleton, Double Shadow Head Portrait, 2015. Image from Heritage Auctions.
Richard A. Hambleton, Double Shadow Head Portrait, 2015. Image from Heritage Auctions.

There are two Hambleton pieces in this sale, including Double Shadow Head Portrait from 2015 (current bid: $18,000). The acrylic painting shows silhouetted images of two heads against a white background.

Urban art from Portuguese graffiti and street artist Vhils is also available. Born Alexandre Farto, Vhils’ large-scale works employ non-conventional tools and techniques. Working with metals, he scratches, drills, and uses bleach on billboards, walls, and found panels to create his art. Executed in 2012, Desensitized #2 features faces of a man and a woman (current bid: $15,000).

Vhils, Desensitized #2, 2012. Image from Heritage Auctions
Vhils, Desensitized #2, 2012. Image from Heritage Auctions

Urban art from other Europeans will also come to auction, including pieces by Edgar Plans, Invader, Paul Insect, and Pez. The upcoming Urban Art auction will begin at 1:00 PM CST on March 11th, 2021. Visit Heritage Auctions to place a bid or view the full listings.

Looking for more information on this Urban Art Auction? Check out Auction Daily’s sale preview, which dives deeper into Hebru Brantley’s Flyboys.

Media Source
Writer
James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

More in the auction industry