Collecting the Political: INDECLINE and Iconic Street Art Auction

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The statue on the 4600 block of Hollywood Boulevard in California commonly referred to as “Naked Trump.”

Earlier this year, anonymous street art collective INDECLINE placed a statue on the 4600 block of Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. Commonly referred to as “Naked Trump,” the sculpture is one of a series that recently caused a commotion nationwide when appearing unannounced in other public spaces including New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Cleveland. INDECLINE commissioned Ginger, a Nevada-based artist, who sculpted the highly detailed sculpture of the presidential hopeful complete with translucent veins, pot belly, saggy bottom and small genitals that appear true to life.

Standing more than six and a half feet tall, “Naked Trump” is expected to realize between $10,000 and $20,000 in Julien’s Auctions Street Art Auction on Oct. 22.

The title of the sculpture is a play on the name of the popular childhood fable by Hans Christian Andersen, “The Emperor Has No Clothes,” in which a haughty emperor pays an exorbitant amount for “magic” clothes that only can be seen by wise people. As the tailor begins, the Emperor will not admit that he cannot see the clothes for fear of appearing stupid. In order to humiliate Trump, INDECLINE ironically removes Emperor Trump’s balls as an allegory that strips him of his masculinity and thus his capacity to rule.

At first critics were quick to point out the superficial nature of the sculpture—the blatant attack on Trump based on his personal looks, while others pointed out that the joke of the sculpture itself is postured on body-shaming, gender perversion, masculinity tropes and transphobia. Then the criticism was taken further, insisting that attacking Trump based on oppressive grounds rather than based on his politics was dangerous and reckless. However, since its inception, Street Art has been used to subvert the political and societal power structures with sardonic tongue-in-cheek humor; in fact, that is what has delighted collectors about the movement and made collecting the political in street art more popular.

The auspices of Street Art can be traced to the Rurik Dynasty in 9th-century Russia where graffiti was used as an advertising function for political parties. Over time the same medium was used as a dissident attempt to infiltrate government controlled public spaces that had become privatized. Most turn to 1970s New York to point out the democratic nature of graffiti culture that allowed messages to be spread throughout the city using subway cars.

Elena Martinique, in an article for online Street Magazine Widewalls, takes this notion of political in art even further. “Since (art) takes place in a public space and engages with an already existing ideology and dominant discourse,” Martinique wrote, “it can be argued that all art is political. Contemporary political art can often serve as a powerful weapon. Addressing a variety of socio-political issues and challenging the traditional boundaries and questioning the dominant discourse, art can contribute to the social change by producing knowledge, solidarity, or simply raising awareness.”

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Shepard Fairey’s iconic poster of President Obama made familiar during the 2008 election season.

This type of positive political change inspired by art is best demonstrated by Shepard Fairey’s quintessential poster of President Obama. The image was made familiar during the 2008 election season when Fairey first released his series of Barack Obama posters, containing a stylized image of the president using a variation of inspiring words. The posters were mobilized in cities throughout the United States and were used by Fairey to mobilize younger generations to register to vote. The posters became the most iconic of the election as well as Obama’s eventual presidency.

A variation of the print with the word “HOPE,” which became the most widely distributed and recognizable from the series, is being offered and carries a pre-sale estimate of $3,000 to $5,000.

Whether one agrees with the political message being spread by the art is irrelevant, what is important, however, is that art inspires the conversation to be had producing public knowledge and awareness.

To view the “Naked Trump” and “Hope,” as well as scores of other works by Street Artists, visit the Julien’s Auction website.


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