Illuxcon and an Imaginative Art Marketplace

Armand Cabrera

Illuxcon was an interesting mix of new and old for me. It was fun reconnecting with old acquaintances from my brief illustration career and meeting new people who I have only interacted with online before the convention.  It was exhilarating to see quality imaginative art but frustrating to see prices for quality finished work set so low compared to the gallery world.

Patrick and Jeannie Wilshire and the other people behind Illuxcon are bringing imaginative art to a broader audience with this convention. They are doing this by spotlighting the best traditional artists and sculptors for collectors and fans in a small intimate setting. Hopefully it will raise standards and prices along with that appeal. I think the time for this may be just right if it happens fast enough. It has been tried many times before but has never caught on completely.  I participated in shows at the Delaware Museum in the early 90’s with other artists in the field but the shows while well attended did not produce a large enough collector base needed to sustain itself.

What is different this time around is the way entertainment and media have seeped into every part of our lives. It is literally at our fingertips 24/ 7 now, with tablet computers and smart phones. Much of the content driving the media explosion has its roots in Science Fiction and Fantasy. What was once a marginalized genre by most of society is now the mainstream and of course art plays a large role in the creation of those products.

The industries that drive this kind of art creation are almost completely digital at this point. Prints will never garner the prices of originals. The missing component here is the representation of this kind of art in traditional galleries and show venues alongside more normal subject matter. There are a few of the more successful artists of the genre doing this already but it is a very small number and most haven’t given up illustration to become full time gallery artists. I can only assume because sales haven’t filled the gaps between the two disciplines and while collectors are there, they are too few in number to sustain artists completely like other genres of gallery work can. 

To create a sustainable market for original works the genre must move itself away from illustration and production art to stand on its own, freed from being a tool of product enhancement. Patrick Wilshire has again taken the lead on this by helping to establish an imaginative category with the Art Renewal Competition one of the premier representational shows in the country at this time. This should encourage more imaginative works to be created without any ties to merchandise.

 In the sixties traditional illustrators from the pulps and paperbacks of the forties and fifties created a market for western and representational art that thrives to this day. Some of the highest paid prices for representational genre art are being paid at the venues that host this work.  Look at the Masters of the American West Show, American Masters at the Salmagundi Club or the Prix de West in Oklahoma. Imaginative art can do the same if it can rise above some of its exploitative and juvenile subject matter and hold onto its traditional creation long enough for galleries and venues to establish their viability. Illuxcon is a great start.

All paintings in this article are by Armand Cabrera.

3 thoughts on “Illuxcon and an Imaginative Art Marketplace

  1. Armand, good insights. I'm glad you mentioned the great work that the Wilshires have done to bring imaginative realism into the art mainstream. Two museums that deserve a lot of credit are the Allentown Art Museum, which hosted the big (and very successful) fantasy art exhibition last year, and the Norman Rockwell Museum, which has been a champion of comics, animation, graphic novels, and fantasy. Also, Arnie and Cathy Fenner have succeeded in launching Spectrum Live, another convention devoted to fantasy/science fiction art.

    What the field really needs now is to develop a permanent museum home, akin to what the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Hall of Fame did for Western Art, and to connect the field with an affluent collector base in their 30s, 40s, and 50s—people who love imaginative art and want to fill their homes with it. The San Francisco Bay Area would be a perfect place for that to happen, but it might happen somewhere else.

  2. Jim,

    Thanks for commenting. I agree with you about a permanent place for this type of work. I hope collectors and fans will support its creation. I have not been to Spectrum Live but I hear it is focused more on the industries that use this type of art more than the original work itself. I think that is an important distinction because while those industries do not support traditionally made art any longer, a museum will need original work to hang on its walls. A high end market for this type of art can't exist with digital work.

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