In September of 2008, The Kingdom, a tiger shark preserved in formaldehyde, sold at an art auction for £9.6 million, the equivalent of 15.87 million US dollars. Damien Hirst , the world's most expensive artist, has rocked the art world with such artistic stunts. With the most frenzied media attention drawn to pickled sharks, is it any wonder that the every-man has adapted a sense of skepticism towards so-called 'high art'?
Enter the 'lowbrow' or 'pop surrealism' scene. Since the late seventies, this populist art form has grown into a widespread art movement, often drawing upon the talent and craft of illustrators, and influenced by tattoo, graffiti and comic book art. The fine art gallery is no longer a strange environment for these commercial artists, as many of them see the demand for their work explode. Lowbrow galleries have sprung up around the world and are often used as stepping stones into mainstream galleries and international success. In this context, the old discussion "Is illustration really art?" no longer seems to be especially significant.
The illustrators represented in this lowbrow scene bring a subversive sense of humor and an immediacy to the sometimes abstract and intentionally obtuse gallery scene. Their unashamed use of narrative and obvious appreciation for technical ability can draw crowds in the way that popular media such as books and films might, and their focus on figurative painting, saleable toys and affordable prints offer the audience direct connections to their artwork and ideas. While it's hard to imagine the lowbrow eclipsing the 'highbrow', after seeing the work linked below you may find it easy to see why this movement has become so successful.