The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the name Ron English is probably the image of that fat green kid, all muscular and angry. But the truth is that the American artist is much more than that, having been around for three decades now. The Texas-born is one of the true icons of Contemporary, Street art, Pop art, just anything that’s got to do with brand imagery, advertising, propaganda - or should I say POPaganda? - American consumerism and much more. Ron English is so embedded in the popular culture today that we just can’t imagine it without him anymore, and his art is pretty much everywhere, from museums and galleries to the streets, movies, books and television.
Ron English is known for the invention of characters, which come as a result of high and low culture mash-ups. And so, we have superhero mythology, totems, art history and even celebrity culture, all mixed into one saturated, appropriated scenario. One of his most famous characters surely is MC Supersized, the obese fast-food mascot featured in the Supersize Me movie. It’s what Ron English does a lot - he criticizes the issues of modern-day American society, such as obesity, food franchises, restaurant chains, even the obsession with fame, fortune and the American dream in general. His work often tackles politics as well, as we all remember Abraham Obama from the 2008 US Presidential campaign. Ron English also collaborated with numerous musicians, fellow visual artists, filmmakers and art publications, and as of 2005, he is also the proud designer of numerous art toys, which represent iconic creatures in his trademark style.
Since the early days of his career, Ron English was good at selling his own works, and ever since he rose to fame, they practically sell by themselves at auctions around the world. Between 2006 and 2015, 22 Ron English art pieces were sold, with a total turnover of $304,469 and a sell-through rate of 52,38%. You’d be surprised to see which of these artworks were the artist’s best selling ones, as they’re not exactly his signature pieces.
To check them out, make sure you scroll down, and for all Ron English pieces at auctions, visit the artist’s page!
Editors’ Tip: Status Factory: The Art of Ron English
Including over 100 photographs of his street art installations, subverted billboards, and other public art, this book presents new paintings from street art legend Ron English. In his paintings, Ron English perverts and subverts the establishment, poking fun at religion, consumerism, and blind obedience to popular culture. He uses humor as a wake-up call, and renders it with meticulous brush strokes. Ron English populates alternate versions of "The Last Supper" and "Guernica" with cartoon characters, drops camouflaged clowns on dinosaurs, and births incredible creatures from his fertile imagination. Among reinterpretations of familiar characters like Ronald McDonald and Mickey Mouse, you'll find three-eyed rabbits, udderly delicious cowgirls, grinning skulls, and many more.
Like many Pop artists, Ron English could not avoid painting one of the muses that is Marilyn Monroe, and her romance with John F. Kennedy served as an inspiration for his 2006 Marilyn and Kennedy at the Follies painting. it is one of the examples of Ron English’s skill with oil painting and his photo-realism. It would all actually look very real until you notice a series of characters in the background, such as Ronald McDonald. The piece was sold at Heritage Dallas in 2011 for $11,000, 27% less than its high estimate of $15,000 and 10% over its low estimate of $10,000.
It is Marilyn again, and it was a much bigger success at auctions for Ron English. In 2010, Phillips, De Pury & Luxembourg New York sold the work for $25,000, 67% over the work’s high estimate of $15,000. Acquired directly from the artist, Large Marilyn Red Peach sees the actress with her top off and a couple of Micky Mice covering her breasts. There are a few other versions of this image, one incorporating the iconic Warhol image of Marilyn and one evoking the legendary Richard Avedon photograph. If you’re a fan of miss Monroe, and Disney too, this might be the perfect art for you!
Why would Ron English dare to interpret a masterpiece like Pablo Picasso’s Guernica? A while back, we asked ourselves that question too, and it seems that the artist considers it to be one of the most important works of the 20th century - which we absolutely agree with. Throughout the years, he created many versions of the famous painting, and the one you see, Cowgirl Guernica, is one of them - others feature ghosts, grade school students, famous Picasso characters, animals etc. This one sold for $70,000 at Faam Miami in 2014, going well $20,000 over its high estimate.
Speaking of Ron English collaborating with musicians, one of the greatest results of such relationship is the 2010 cover the artist did for his friend Slash, when former Guns’n’Roses guitarist released his debut album. Ron English also made a sculpture of a similar look, while the cover sees a skull and a hat as Slash’s trademark style. The work was another bingo for the American artist, having been sold for $75,000 at Phillips, De Pury & Luxembourg in New York in 2011 - almost the double of its high estimate of $40,000 and three times its low estimate of $30,000.
Finally, the most expensive Ron English artwork sold at auctions is the 2011 spray paint on panel Growing Grins, which went for his all-time highest hammer price of $78,100 at the 2009 auction at Aguttes in Lyon. What we see here is a set of three sunflowers, one of which is quite creepy, surrounded by colourful characters flowing in concentric circles. It is a quite striking work of art that does not recall Ron English immediately, yet from the exquisite execution you can tell it’s his painting. We’re excited to see which other Ron English art piece will manage to top this one!