Few people consider street art when they think about investing – despite the fact that some renowned artists, such as Jean-Michael Basquiat and Keith Haring, began their careers as street artists themselves. And then, of course, there Banksy – a name that is widely known even outside of the art community.
Street art is undoubtedly a hot, emerging trend in the art market. What used to be limited to graffiti on buildings, under bridges, and on public transport now has a prominent place in some of the world’s finest galleries, sold for millions as canvases, screen prints, or photographs.
One emerging street artist that is starting to catch the attention of the art community is 1Penemy, known for the popular mug shots of famous models that he wheat pastes around New York City. His edgy artwork degrades the glamour of high fashion to an ideological statement that is so poignant today.
Without a doubt, 1Penemy is producing some of the best investment art currently on the market, and whether you are looking for something to decorate your home or to purchase a financial asset, there are several important reasons why 1Penemy is an excellent choice.
1. 1Penemy is an emerging name
One of the best times to invest in art is when an emerging artist’s work shows strong potential to increase in value, as is the case with 1Penemy. The price of his artwork ranges from $5,000 to $20,000, making his work accessible to a broad audience.
Demand for his work is starting to grow significantly, and the artist currently has over 30 active commissions. Several galleries are also actively pursuing him in order to exclusively represent his artwork, making this an excellent time to buy investment art from him.
The growing popularity of this segment of the industry is interesting since street art has a reputation for being anti-establishment. In fact, the alias 1Penemy even stands for “Number 1 public enemy” – reflecting the underground nature of his craft.
For a long time, 1Penemy actually kept his true identity a secret in an effort to build his artistic reputation separately from his real-life status. Today, we know the man behind the pseudonym as celebrity dentist Dr Nicholas Toscano, who treats over 100 artists in NYC, Miami, and LA, including such famous artists as Bradley Theodore, Jeremy Penn, Layer Cake, Tripp Derrick Barnes, BY Flore, Producer BDB, Jason Ackerman, Alan Jeffery, and many others.
He is also currently the official dentist for roughly 20 modelling agencies in New York City, including Lions, Wilhelmina, One Model Management, Marilyn, Storm, Major models, Fusion, and others. His clients include the glamorous Victoria’s Secret models, such as Candice Swanepoel, Helena Christensen, Jasmine Tookes, Romee Strijd, Josephine Skriver, Georgia Fowler, Frida Aasen, Vittoria Ceretti, Megan Williams, Lais Ribeiro, Daniela Braga, and Blanca Padilla.
It may seem unconventional for a dentist to engage in such a defiant art movement, but he’s been inspired by his star-studded clientele. He also has a natural passion for art that serves him just as much in his dentistry practice as it does on the streets. He explains that successfully tailoring smile reconstructions is a form of science that relies on his natural artistic ability.
2. His art is attracting celebrity attention
Perhaps it’s because his artwork features the famous models of the 90’s that he grew up adoring, such as Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss, and Stephanie Seymour, along with modern models like Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, and Adriana Lima – or perhaps it’s due to the countless supermodels he knows personally – but celebrities have begun to take notice of his work.
Cindy Crawford, herself, recently shared “her first mugshot” on Instagram with the caption “In good company for my first mugshot...#repost art by @1penemy.” The image features her likeness next to that of fellow supermodel Kate Moss on a graffitied wall.
Other models have also taken notice and have posted photos of themselves posing alongside his SOHO model lineup, including the likes of Jemma Baines, Stephanie Del Toro, Isabel Scholten, Ana Marija Jurisic, Keity Drennan, Romy de Grijff, Nastya Swan, Patricia Hartmann, Hailey Clauson, Raven Lyn, Hannah Ferguson, Madalina Mihai, Marie-Louise Wedel Nielsen, Johanna Thuringer, Severine Keimig, Jessie Andrews, Anastasia Grik, Brooke Lynn Buchanan, Lauren Fleishman, Melissa Wood, Stephanie Tricola, and many others.
Posing in front of 1Penemy’s Model Mayhem series hasn’t been restricted to models, however. Fellow street artists, such as Skyler Grey and Stephen James, have joined the trend as well, along with many other Instagrammers – including a couple that got engaged in front of Vittoria Ceretti’s mugshot. Even celebrity chef Franco Robazetti has added his name to the list. By far, however, the cutest posers are the countless dogs of Instagram that have been photographed in front of 1Penemy’s street illustrations.
3. He skillfully displays strong artistic influences
What makes his artwork so striking is his skilful use of artistic influence. The primary use of colour and distinctively repetitive aesthetic of 1Penemy’s street displays gives a nod to Andy Warhol’s pop iconic art. This influence is also evident in 1Penemy’s choice of subject – where Warhol’s work is built upon popular symbols, such as Zedong Mao and cans of Campbell soup, 1Penemy focuses on both modern icons and the original supermodels of the ’90s.
Warhol’s most highly-priced and prominent pieces featured female celebrities, such as Marilyn Monroe, Liza Minelli, Liz Taylor, Debbie Harry, and Joan Collins. His work explored the shallowness of fame and the sensationalism of death – highlighting a society that considered women to be products rather than human beings.
1Penemy’s street art embraces this spirit by degrading his high-profile female subjects, not only by featuring them in a mugshot and displaying them in “lineup”, but also by wheat pasting them like “wanted” posters in back alleys and on graffitied walls. It’s a forceful statement about society’s perception of women – holding them to an unrealistic standard of perfection and shaming them to an unbridled degree for falling short.
Another artist whose work makes an uncomfortable commentary on society is Damien Hirst. He’s produced the most expensive work of art ever created – a diamond-encrusted human skull entitled “For the Love of God.” It features the most prominent symbol of death contrasted with the most conspicuous symbol of desire and luxury. It’s an odd combination of beauty and vulgarity.
1Penemy’s SOHO model lineup achieves something very similar, placing the ultimate symbol of glamour and perfection in a context that represents society’s greatest failings. The effect is striking, creating a vague sense of discomfort in the viewer that speaks to our innate recognition of injustice. Some of 1Penemy’s more grotesque variations, such as those featuring the makeup of Marvel’s Joker villain, emphasize this even more – speaking to the fact that women are not only expected to accept the status quo but should grin and bear it as well.
4. He makes a powerful statement
Perhaps it’s due to the countless women with whom he keeps company, coupled with the fact that he has a beautiful young daughter of his own, but 1Penemy has a surprising insight into the hardships faced by women. He skillfully uses his artwork to make a strong statement about those difficulties by juxtaposing glamorous supermodels with the abasement of a police lineup.
It’s poignant that 1Penemy makes use of a mugshot in his work, as doing so implies humiliation and shame for the subject – even going so far as to brand the subject with implications of guilt. It’s an array of feelings and connotations that afflict far too many women, partly due to unkind and pervasive labels given to those who don’t meet the unfair and deeply entrenched standards set by society and culture.
Supermodels are by no means exempt from this judgement, perfect as they may seem, since they frequently receive harsh criticism and scrutiny regarding their appearance – both in a physical sense and in terms of their conduct and achievements. It’s 1Penemy’s extreme contrast of high glamour and acute indignity that highlights how severe and yet subtle this problem is, despite the advances that have been made in gender equality so far.
This isn’t the first time the artist has dedicated himself to helping others. He spent 13 years with the United States Navy, where he received two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, a National Defense Service Medal, and Global War on Terrorism Medal. He acquired one of his Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for definitive life-saving treatment of a patient.
Today, in collaboration with other street artists, he’s planning a gallery show to benefit organizations that assist in diminishing women’s struggles, such as Model Alliance and the Me Too Movement. Currently, a portion of the profits from the sale of his artworks also benefits the same organizations. He also donates artwork to charity auctions that champion other causes, including children’s hospitals and programs to save the arts in New York City.
5. You won’t regret it
Even billionaire art collectors, like J Tomilson Hill, believe that the best art to invest in is the art that you personally love. 1Penemy’s work is more than just investment art — it is compelling and thought-provoking, and it is bound to be a prominent talking point in any room.
Part of the beauty of the Model Mayhem series is that it speaks to an incredibly broad audience, not just to collectors. We’re all aware of celebrities who’ve had the misfortune of getting on the wrong side of the law. In some cases, it fills us with excitement to know that idols can fall and that they are as human as we are – a fact that makes tabloids so popular. In other cases, we’re able to empathize with the humiliation that those celebrities endure knowing that the entire world is aware of their failings.
Seeing supermodels lined up for a crime they didn’t commit is sparking at least a curiosity in even the most casual onlooker, evidenced by the popularity of posing for Instagram photos in front of the lineups. And that is one of the fundamental features of great art – its ability to move the observer. It’s for this very reason, along with the others listed above, that if you’re looking to buy investment art by an emerging name, you should undoubtedly consider 1Penemy.