Old Masters and Street Art – Sotheby’s Teams up with Fat Free Gallery

Brother with Golden Bird, copyright Nick Smith

Old masters and street art? Probably not the most natural pairing. Well, not for long. Sotheby’s has partnered up with the cutting-edge gallery Fat Free Art to do something that’s never been really done before; create vibrant street art inspired by the paintings of the Old Masters. Classic paintings from the period between the 15th and 17th century are to be redone in a completely new, fresh and unique way by internationally renowned street artists.

Street art has come a long way. From its humble beginnings with a few tags and graffiti here and there, to gallery exhibitions, some of the highest paid commissions, and worldwide embrace of street art as a form of creative expression in its own right. The recent astonishing sale of Basquiat’s skull painting, which went for $110.5m at auction, only further solidifies the presence and position of this art form in contemporary art. Street art may be ephemeral in its nature, but it is here to stay.

Some of the works presented in this innovative show include the great classics such as the Portrait of a Boy, by the master painter and draughtsman known as the Master of Santo Spirito, Agnolo di Domenico del Mazziere. Tomaso Albertini reinterpreted this iconic painting into a work titled Soul of a Boy. The modern interpretation is a painted cardboard collage piece and is far from being an exact replica of the original, in fact, Sotheby’s had implored the urban artists to add their own spin to the works and reinterpret it as they like. For instance, Mariana Oushiro decided to turn A Man Smoking a Pipe, from the 1625, into a feminist statement. One of the goals of this entire idea is to bring the newer generations closer to the abundantly rich and fascinating visual history of painting, and what better way to do it than to implement contemporary social topics and modern art forms?

Of course, this isn’t really the first time someone merged old paintings and classics with contemporary urban art, Banksy did a similar thing with his interpretation of the Girl with the Pearl Earring, who promptly became Girl with the Pierced Eardrum in Bristol a few years ago. All the classics and old works of art which withstand the test of time can now be brought to life in a completely new light. The fresh energy brought through the vibrancy of street art combined with the classic solemnness can produce something marvelous and fascinating.

The Street Masters exhibition is on view 2 – 14 June at Fat Free Art Gallery, and the works of the old masters will be auctioned by Sotheby’s on 8 June. The street artists involved in the project are Lady Aiko, Fanakapan and Zeus, Nick Walker, Belin, and many other internationally recognized names. This rare marriage between an art house giant like Sotheby’s and a nontraditional art space such as Fat Free Art, may be just another pointer which emphasizes the increasingly blurred lines between hyper-private and public art.

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