Today’s Feature, April 29-30, 2007: Anthony White

January 18, 2008 at 6:11 pm (Today's Feature)

Anthony WhiteThe story of how Anthony White became an artist isn’t exactly that of Michelangelo. Not having much money as a college student, he first got interested in art by taking dates to free art exhibits. Ironically, a guy who discovered art by not having much money would end up becoming a worldwide phenomenon with a painting collection called “The Money Series”. White picked up a brush as a hobby and fell in love. Not having a secure way to make money in art, White entered the stock market world, finding much success but little satisfaction. He made “Anthony White t-shirts” that made more money then his art did. Again, not exactly the best start. However, after selling his first painting showing the image of “$1”, for one dollar, he knew something was there. Anthony White has shown and sold artwork all over the globe. His Money Series has gained as much controversy as it has praised. This kind of attention is normal for artists. White will tell you “…good art should make you think and I am glad that I provoked a reaction.” It is that perspective and confidence that makes White and standout in the art world today. He is a new kind of pop artist, with a personality as enjoyable as his work. His website gives fans a chance to see the real side of the artist, which PensEyeView can definitely respect. Read his XXQs to hear his story.

XXQs: Anthony White

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first get involved in art?

Anthony White (AW): While at university I didn’t have much money so I started to take girls to art exhibits. Unfortunately the girls I went out with were not that interested in art and I found myself going to the art exhibits by myself. Eventually I started painting for enjoyment.

PEV: What gave you the concept of using currency as art?

AW: Would have come from my previous work as a stockbroker. I also liked reading books about Andy Warhol who painted dollar signs so he may have influenced my work.

PEV: How does the Money Series work?

AW: The Money Series started with a painting that had “$1” painted on it, which I sold for $1. When I sell one painting in the series I then put the next painting in the series up for sale. That is, last painting sold + $1. The series has expanded to four different currencies. I only ever sell the paintings for the $ amount on the canvass.

PEV: You were a stockbroker for seven years. How does it feel to know that you can make a living in the arts versus the stocks world?

AW: I took my own advice in the stock world and that is what is financing a lot of my art world. I feel that now that I don’t have any financial pressures that my art is much better as a result. How can you do anything productive while you are worried about paying the bills? Selling artwork is very satisfying because it makes me feel like an artist. When I wasn’t selling artwork I felt like I was trying to be an artist. Before I became a stockbroker I spent many years struggling be an artist but nobody bought my work. It was this sort of poverty that drove me to be a stockbroker. When my art starting selling I knew that I would regret not giving my artwork the chance it deserves. As much as I loved stock broking I knew I had to leave. I know that I have created something bigger than myself and this is very satisfying.

PEV: In an article about you leaving the world of stock broking to enter the world of art, you said (on your site), “that not one of my three hundred work colleagues commented on the article”. Why is that?

AW: I have no idea. It was probably one of the reasons why I left.

PEV: You said the Anthony White t-shirts were selling more than your art was (in the beginning). Have you ever thought about designing clothes?

AW: Early on the t-shirts were a lot of fun. I really wanted to be known for my artwork rather than clothes and I have never really thought about designing clothes.

PEV: You have sold over 500 paintings and I am sure you have come to know a few of your art buyers. Please explain what type of characteristics you believe your art buyers possess.

AW: Most are either wealthy, well educated or have a high income or a combination of the three. Most have a love of art. I think that many people recognize that it is affordable investment grade artwork. Some of my buyers hate my work but buy it anyway. People will not let personal opinion get in the way of a good investment. They are the sort of person that you would want living next door to you.

PEV: Where do you prefer to do your paintings?

AW: I like painting on my balcony which overlooks the Yeppoon CBD and Keppel Bay. A glass of wine helps.

PEV: Last October you sold a painting to Google for $111 (US). How did that make you feel and what was the reasoning for that number?

AW: It was to somebody who worked for Google not to Google the company. From what I read Google has some really cool stuff at the headquarters so I was glad that my artwork was going to be a part of this. The guy wrote about my artwork on his blog and I sold at least another twenty paintings as a result of his write up. I don’t know why he chose $US 111 but he did reserve it in advance.

PEV: You said that one of your goals is to buy land on Agnes Water to show large pieces of your artwork. How important is displaying public art, to educating people about the value and need for art in the world?

AW: Public art gets really important when you go somewhere that doesn’t care about public art. I believe that when the arts flourish you help diminish racism, violence, crime, litter, and social problems, war etc. Unfortunately it is hard to really prove this. I also think that good town planning and architecture is important.

PEV: In what ways have you been successful in keeping every single painting distinct from all the rest?

AW: I don’t really care if some of my paintings look the same. I think people buy my paintings for the concept and not the originality.

PEV: Your artwork has spawned some heated debate (e.g. Wikipedia). What do you think about critics of your work?

AW: Due to the criticism I no longer exhibit my artwork in my hometown of Yeppoon. I love Yeppoon but I don’t like people telling me personally how much they hate my work. The worst was when I was called “The Judas of the Art World” in the local paper. This is a small town that I love living in. The reality is that I sell more work in places like New York, London & Silicon Valley. The people in Yeppoon are pretty conservative. I don’t care what people say about me in other places. Good art should make you think and I am glad that I provoked a reaction. I found Wikepedia funny at first but now I am a bit upset because I feel that I am a lot more well known than a lot of other Australian artists on this site. It pisses me off that Wikepedia has a big section on “Conceptual Artists” but then can not handle what I am doing. All I am doing is putting paint on canvas and they say that this is not art.

PEV: Explain how you feel about secondary markets in regards to your paintings?

AW: I knew that in order to have a strong primary market that I would need a strong secondary market. I have always worked towards having a healthy secondary market. In stock broking my first goal was to make my clients money. This is how you get more clients. My artwork has proven to be a good investment for many of my buyers. This was what helped me sell over three hundred paintings last year. I am pleased when people make money by reselling my artwork but more importantly, I hope they enjoy hanging it on their wall.

PEV: How does apparent price arbitrage with your paintings make you feel?

AW: It bothers me when people will pay more for one of my paintings on the secondary market than it would have cost to buy one from myself.

PEV: Explain what you thought when Rikko Sakkinen reserved your $1,000,000 painting?

AW: I hoped that Rikko would tell all his friends about my artwork. I did ask him how he got his own artwork into The Museum of Modern Art but I did not get an answer.

PEV: You mention on your site that you have protested the G20 meeting when it was in Australia. Can you encapsulate your personal feelings of the G20 in a sentence or less?

AW: I really hope that the G20 meeting was about making the world a better place but I doubt it and that is why I was there. I loved marching with the Socialist Youth because I have seen a lot of bad things regarding publicly listed companies and it was good to be with people who were questioning this system.

PEV: If you could sit down with one artist, living or passed, who would it be and why?

AW: Hazel Dooney, (http://www.hazeldooney.com ). She was the first artist that made me really wanted to buy some art work Up until then I thought quality artwork was only in public art galleries. The problem was that fifteen years ago I could not afford the $US 1 000 to buy her work.

PEV: What were your expectations for your Money Series paintings?

AW: Absolutely nothing. I first exhibited my money series paintings at the Rotary Art Show in Yeppoon ($2 and $3) and if they didn’t sell, I was planning to never paint again. The big surprise was that the next 12 paintings then sold before I even painted them! The Yeppoon Rotary Art Show is one of the gems of small town living.

PEV: When people hear the name, Anthony White, what do hope they think?

AW: I wish I bought one of his paintings or I’m glad that I bought one of his paintings.

PEV: What is next for Anthony White?

AW: In about a month’s time I have 36 limited edition giclee prints coming out which highlights the extremes and blandness that business franchises have become. It will still be in the theme of business & art like The Money Series. I have already sold a few of them even though no one has seen the work. For more information on Anthony White, check out: http://www.AnthonyWhite.net

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