artnet Asks: Ryland Behrens of Hexagon Gallery
The gallery owner on why street art is a good investment.
This year, gallerist Ryland Behrens struck out on his own, opening Hexagon Gallery after years serving as director at other operations, such as Revolver Gallery in Beverley Hills and Los Angeles’s Ace Gallery.
The newly-formed gallery represents the private holdings of six art collectors (as well as Behrens), including a significant number of works on paper by Banksy.
artnet News spoke with Behrens about why street art can be a good investment, the benefits of running your gallery online, and which city’s street art scene reigns supreme.
Why should collectors value street art when you can see it for free on the street?
Often times (particularly with Banksy) when a work is executed in a public space, street art doesn’t last very long. If it is valuable, it’ll be cut out of a wall, or boarded up. It might get painted over—so many things can happen, really. Appreciate street art for what it is: transitory.
Does the fact that the artwork can be viewed for free mean that is has no monetary, or cultural value? Hardly. I can think of 50 museums I can go to for free and see historical works by Basquiat, Rembrandt, Rubens, Sargeant, Koons, etc. Just because it wouldn’t cost me anything to view the art doesn’t mean I should devalue its significance.
Good street art elevates and transforms consciousness; it gets you to think in ways many other genres do not. I think the real question is, why wouldn’t a collector value street art?
You have decided to run your gallery solely in the virtual space. What are the advantages and disadvantages to this?
There simply is no need for brick and mortar spaces in our model. I am able to present works and entertain the visits of clients worldwide at a network of private viewing locations.
With platforms like artnet—the transparency and immediate access they provide to collectors around the world—I think many forward thinking galleries in the future will migrate primarily to the virtual space, with the exception of art fair participation. That’s my prediction, anyway.
Which city has the best street art?
Some would say my opinion is biased because I am resident of Los Angeles, but I think the art scene has never been stronger for here than it is right now. With organizations like the Mural Conservancy, there are entities in place to protect and encourage dialogue and artistic diversity on our streets.
You have an impressive collection of works by top street artists including Banksy and Keith Haring. Would you compare these artists career-wise, aesthetically, or market-wise?
Hexagon Gallery has accumulated quite the war chest of inventory, as it were. What we have on our site really is such a small portion of that total collection. Much of it comprises original paintings we do not publicly disclose.
I don’t see too many parallels between the Haring and Banksy markets. Haring has been dead for some time and so there is a scarcity of works on the market.
I think Banksy makes very smart, calculated decisions. Dismaland woke a lot of people up in ways good art is supposed to. I am very intrigued to see what he will do next. His work is realizing very good prices and we don’t even know who he is. Banksy is an art world specter; he is the whispers in the halls—always felt, but never seen. I think if he continues down the vector he is on, nobody will be able to touch him.
Any artists we should keep our eye on?
Banksy is low hanging fruit here. Outside of that, I think Eddie Martinez, Tschabalala Self, Melike Kara, Ted Gahl, and Alex Kanevsky are continuing to produce exciting works. Although he is no longer around, I think Euan Uglow‘s work is very under-appreciated as well, as is Odd Nerdrum‘s.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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