Meet the Famed Video Game Artist Who’s About to Power Up in the Art World, the Case of the Lightning-Fast Flipper, and More Juicy Art World Gossip

Plus, who flipped their Lauren Quin painting after holding it for less than two years? And what gallerist won a Wet Paint hat through last week's Casting Call game?

A visitor looks at the acrylic painting Universe/Final Fantasy by Yoshitaka Amano. AFP PHOTO OLIVER BERG GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read OLIVER BERG/DPA/AFP via Getty Images)

HERE’S ONE FOR THE VIDEO GAME DORKS 

LOMEX, the über-cool and distinctly brooding Tribeca gallery is poised to once again make a splash by showing an artist who has been hidden in plain sight: the Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano, best known for his commissioned illustrations for video games, and work on animations such as “Speed Racer” and “Vampire Hunter D,” among other beloved anime hits. Beginning with a suite of paintings heading to the Dallas Invitational this April, Amano will begin working with the gallery, gathering steam for a solo exhibition this coming September. For those who recall how much of a watershed moment LOMEX’s recontextualization of Alien designer H.R. Giger was (remember those lines around the block to just get in to the gallery?), I’d put down money that this outing will have a similar impact.

“He’s an artist that I’ve loved since I was a kid,” Alexander Shulan, the founder of LOMEX told me over the phone from Tokyo, where he’s been for the past two weeks visiting with the 71-year-old artist. “Like, I bought one of Amano’s art books when I was 12 years-old. He was one of the people who really got me into art.”

For those uninitiated to Amano’s oeuvre, you’ve probably seen his work before—particularly since “Speed Racer”  remains one of the most popular animes of all time (you might recall the American live-action remake from 2008). Amano also collaborated with Neil Gaiman on one of his Sandman graphic novels, was the original character designer for Final Fantasy when it was released in Japan (“He created that whole aesthetic,” said Shulan).

Suffice to say, Amano is a legendary figure for video game nerds and anime-lovers, Shulan among them. That’s why when a friend of Shulan’s mentioned that had a colleague who was collaborating with Amano on a fashion project, the mystified dealer blurted, “Wait, you have access to that artist?”

“I just completely flipped out,” he said. “I contacted his curators and they said they’d be going to Japan in a few weeks, and I was just like, great. I’ll be there.”

In fact, Shulan has been close with Amano his whole life, he just didn’t realize it. When the gallerist was an adolescent kid geeking out over his book of illustrations, Amano lived just a block away from his childhood home in Soho on Prince and Greene. “It’s just a total coincidence,” he told Wet Paint. “I only found that out here on this trip.”

Shulan can’t take full credit for Amano’s debut, as it was actually Leo König who first brought him to New York to open up his first show at his gallery in 2002. Paintings on aluminum of some of Amano’s most popular characters filled the space on Centre Street, and some 20 years later, Shulan said that large-scale paintings will also be a focal point of his upcoming show this fall.

Amano’s visual aesthetic in his fine art practice is akin to some of the other “superflat” artwork that has come out of Japan after Takashi Murakami coined that term to define the cartoonish, fantastical painting style also associated with Yoshitomo Nara, Ayo Takano, and Yoshinori Kanada. Shulan noted that he’s seen several artists cite Amano as a source of inspiration, including another LOMEX artist Kye Christensen-Knowles, whose work is currently on view at the gallery.

With the success of Giger’s foray into the fine art sphere, and the palpable excitement in Shulan’s voice about Amano, I’m inclined to believe that LOMEX may have their corner of the market squared as the Niche Pop Culture Recontextualization Wizards. Time will tell if they can pick up where König left off.

JASMINE CHEN IS FLIPPING OVER HER LAUREN QUIN

Lauren Quin, Third Belly , 2021/2022. Courtesy of Phillips.

It’s often heard that art auctions are akin horses races, and, to be fair, it is a pretty apt comparison: sink some serious money into one player with a decent record, pray that baby go-go-goes, and luxuriate in your lavish returns while the one who did all the work gets pretty beat up along the way (and sees none of the payday). Perhaps no one can relate to this analogy more than Jasmine Chen, the former Sotheby’s staffer and known equestrian, who, according to sources, had a hand in flipping Lauren Quin‘s Third Bellywhich, mind you, was created in 2021-2022without even waiting 18 months after acquiring it.

Talk about some wet paint! That’s right, within the time it usually takes someone lazy like me to hire a TaskRabbit to properly hang a piece of art, the 34-year-old daughter of billionaire mega-collector Pierre Chen chewed Third Belly right up and spat it back out. This week at Phillips‘s contemporary art evening sale in Hong Kong, the piece sold for $1.9 million HKD (about $242,000), more than doubling its high estimate of 900,000 HKD (around $115,000). While Chen denies that she was the one who consigned it directly, she confirmed that it was sold by her client. “It belonged to a client of mine in LA as reflected in the provenance,” she said.

After covering similar auctions in New York for several years now, I’ve come to expect that extremely recent works by Quin and other similar young, female painters of colorful, surreal tableaux like Lucy Bull and Rachel Jones to regularly make an appearance. In fact, as I reported earlier this year, Quin has recently became one of the most-searched artists of 2022 in Artnet’s Price Database. She didn’t appear on that list at all in 2021, but after a big year securing representation by Blum & Poe and making her current auction record of $533,000 at Phillips London, 730 people searched her work. I’d bet my bottom dollar that Chen was among those who searched before sending her piece by Quin off to the races.

Chen couldn’t be reached for comment, but this quick turnaround could signal that bloodthirsty collectors are streamlining the flipping process at an even faster rate. It’s certainly something I’ll keep my eye on as the May auctions in New York approach…

WE HEAR 

People sure have a lot to say about Nan Goldin parting ways with Marian Goodman for Gagosian, namely Greg Allen with this doozy of a Tweet (a touch misogynist, mais non?)LA Vandyke has left her post at David Zwirner to act as a director at the increasingly buzzed about space Amanita… Curator Robert Storr is donating his small collection of artwork by Yto Barrada, Jenny Holzer, Deborah Kass, and Gerhard Richter—all given to him by the artists as gifts—to CCS BardSHRINE has taken on representation of Thomas Dillon… Jenny Sklenzka has left her post as executive artistic director of Performance Space to move to Berlin, where she will be director of the exhibition hall Gropius BauTikTok seems to be beside itself after discovering just how weird the Watermill Benefit actually is … 

@mommyshorts Throwback to the funniest day in my life as a parent. Don’t worry, this was 5 years ago and kids seem to have come out of it okay. Thanks to the artists for creating a core memory for our family! #momsoftiktok #momsover40 #ditl #throwbackditl #tribecamom #nycmom #artistsoftiktok #art ♬ Famous Mozart’s Turkish March(872150) – East Valley Music

 

SPOTTED 

 

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Brian Cox (aka Logan Roy) posing with Goya‘s Saturn Devouring His Son for a photo that is almost too perfect ***  Valentina Vaccarella, Mike Egan, Emma Stern, Matthew Brown, and Marlene Zwirner, at the River to celebrate Jan Gatewood’s opening at Silke Lindner *** Robert Dimin officially opened his namesake gallery with a group show after the Denny Dimin split, and Susan and Michael Hort, Bridgitte Mulholland, Richard Torres, and Pace’s associate director Hannah Root all showed up to celebrate at a dinner in the gallery *** Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) flew all the way to Atlanta for Jackson Fine Art’s opening of new photographs by Sheila Pree Bright *** Aria Dean, Natasha Stagg, and Claire Friedman reading about the conceptual implications of the Barbie Dreamhouse’s architecture upstairs at Nine Orchard’s East Room for Whitney Mallett’s new monograph on the topic *** Social media was alight this week with former contributors, editors, and groupies pouring one out for the now officially shuttered Dimes Square alt-weekly The Drunken Canal ***

? ⭐ CASTING CALL! ?️ ?

I’m glad there was so much enthusiasm about this new section! For those catching up, last week in the column I introduced a new game: If you email me at [email protected] with the best casting calls for a given prompt each week, I will personally mail you one of the limited edition pink Wet Paint hats

First up was the saga of Harold Ancart unexpectedly departing from David Zwirner, likely at least in part due to a lovers quarrel between him, Dianna Agron, and Lucas Zwirnerwith the added filigree that, about a year later, Lucas made it up to his father by recruiting Elizabeth Peyton to the gallery stable, amid rumors that they were also dating.

I thought it’d make for a pretty good romantic comedy, and so did this week’s winner, Daniel Kapp, co-owner of Tribeca’s Kapp Kapp, who wrote in the following cast: 

Cheers to Daniel! Hats off to him, literally.

I want to get a little abstract this week. I’ve always been fascinated by the artists who create full-on alter egos, and I think there could be an excellent surreal film about artists and their internal struggles between two conflicting voices, Jekyll and Hyde-style. Thus, who would you cast to play Marcel Duchamp who could also play the feminine muse Rrose Sélavy? And who could play Richard Prince while doubling as the mysterious Neal Cassady-esque John Dogg? Write in your ideas to [email protected].


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