Xue Wang and the Low-Brow Movement

Feeding Time‘Feeding Time’ by Xue Wang
Oil on Canvas
On Sale 5th October

As many of you may now well be aware we have an upcoming exhibit ‘Heebie-Jeebies’  from the fantastically whimsical Xue Wang on the 5th October 2013. Born in 1980, the year of the mischievous monkey Wang grew up in Northern China before coming to the UK to do an MA and finally setting up her studio in London.  Wang gets much of her inspiration from childhood paraphernalia: Dolls, toys, stage sets and compliments them with the cultural heritage of Victoriana, Vintage Fashion and pin-up imagery. Her overall artistic style and finished pieces visually represent the Low Bow Movement to a tee.

So what is low-brow? What does it aim to achieve and how did it come about? Hopefully we can answer some of these questions for you!!!

dejame descansar‘Dolce Condena’ by Sara Sanz
Acrylic on Canvas
Dimensions: 22 “x 26”
£1,250 or £125 a month for 10 months on the own art scheme (No Deposit)

So how did low brow come about?
The term low brow art came about in 1979 when after many attempts the artist Robert Williams finally received news that a publisher was willing to produce a book containing his works. Williams gave the book the self-deprecating name of ‘The Low-Brow Art of Robert Williams’ since no authorized art institution would recognize his type of art. Low-Brow was therefore used by Williams in opposition to highbrow, established movements. He said the name then stuck, even though he feels it is inappropriate. It is now used across the globe by hundreds of artists and has become a movement in its own right.

What is Low Brow?
Williams Describes the movement as “cartoon-tainted abstract surrealism.” Lately, Williams has begun referring to his own work as “Conceptual Realism.  In the UK this work along with Low Brow has probably best described by many as Pop Surrealism, this harks back to the underground scene that helped create the movement involving Williams and Mark Ryden  both based on the US West Coast. Low-Brow takes inspiration from comic material, film iconography, pop culture and cult magazines to create a tongue in cheek painting that pokes fun at mainstream art culture. Low-Brow work tends to have a dark underbelly that can sometimes be shocking and provocative, but each piece always has a comical and narrative side. Much like Xue Wang’s ‘Prime Cuts’, which features a sinister pig chopping up a human lady. The painting is actually an artistic analysis of the recent horse meat scandal; the shocking image perfectly mirrors the nation’s disgust to the meat scandal.

NKK - The Assistant‘The Assistant’ by Nom Kinnear King
Oil on Board
Dimensions: 72″ x 23″
£995 or £99.50 a month for 10 months on the own art scheme (No Deposit)

The movement although around now for about 40 years has only really begun to take off in the UK despite extraordinary success in the USA and Australia. The UK consumer art market is notorious for arriving late to upcoming art movements; Picasso was looked down on here when his works first started to circulate resulting in vast collections being bought up overseas whilst the UK had and still has very little to show for by the artist. In the case of Low-Brow this is a really shame since three of the movements up and coming artists and based in the UK; Xue Wang, Sara Sanz and Nom Kinnear King.

The Great British Sell-Off! Morally Wrong or a Justifiable means to an end?


Art has always been seen very much as a commodity, like other commodities its value can change dramatically over time and much like the Labour gold reserve sell off, it can become very controversial when state run authorities come to sell it on.

Perhaps the most publicly noted case of deaccessioning came only last year when Hamlet Towers borough council announced that it wanted to sell a Henry Moore sculpture that had been gifted to the authority for the benefit of its residence. The councils cited several reasons for its decision to sell including its cost to upkeep and that due to consistent vandalism its home is now a sculpture park in Yorkshire.

This sale was met on the whole with indignation and the sale was lambasted by the national press. Attitudes do seem to be changing though, it is becoming more and more widely accepted that in times of financial strain institutions should not just rely on government funding and as a result selling art could become a lucrative way of securing new art and keeping galleries open, especially given that one good sale could secure some institutions for years to come.

The Museums Association has historically taken a hard line on the issue of deaccessioning. Sanctions have always been threatened on museums selling without official permission risk loosing accreditation from the arts council and loosing funding/grants. This harsh line does not however seem to be working as more and more institutes seems to be going down the line of selling works. By denying these institutes funding the arts council could actually be exacerbating this problem further.

This line does seem to be softening though and the association has become willing to judge each case on its merits. Allowing works to be sold when absolutely necessary to secure the future of troubled galleries.

The issue raises pros and cons on both sides of the argument, art represents a huge amount of capital that is stored up and down the country, which could be used to acquire fresh new works and plug deficits in government spending in keeping with these austere times. This capital should be not be measured solely by its monetary value though, it’s cultural and social value is perhaps even greater and with this there is undoubtedly an argument to protect and preserve as much as is rationally possible.