Banksy is arguably the most ...
Known for his cartoonish, glass-eyed characters, Javier Calleja is a master of sweetness and sarcasm in equal measure. The Spanish artist takes inspiration from 70s and 80s toys, as well as pop art, comics and surrealist works. Beaming with nostalgia, Cavella’s pieces encourage the observer to interpret them through the lens of their own personal childhood.
Javier Calleja is a contemporary Spanish artist who was born in Málaga in 1971, where he still lives. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Granada University, having graduated in 2000. Interestingly, before he completed his official artistic training later on in life, he was an athlete training for the Olympics.
His artwork, ranging from drawings and paintings to sculptures and large-scale installations, has been featured in a number of prestigious galleries and museums, such as the Almine Rech in Shanghai. He’s also hosted exhibitions across Europe as well as in New York, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. His success in Asia is of particular note, as very few European artists manage to penetrate the cartoon-style market in the region. The artist boasts an active Instagram account where he publishes shots of his recent pieces, provides additional insights, and advertises his auctions and exhibitions.
Calleja’s art is immediately recognizable with its faux naïf ambiance and figurative style, often featuring cartoonish wide-eyed characters with exaggerated proportions influenced by his childhood. He is inspired by classic 70s and 80s pop culture, including toys and comics such as Mazinger Z and Francisco Ibañes Talavera’s books.
The boys featured in his artworks represent the array of feelings and emotions that one experiences between boyhood and adolescence, overcoming pain with youthful resourcefulness. According to him, he likes to find “that magic moment”, where the expressions on his characters are more akin to a snapshot. However, he famously refuses to explain his work, placing the onus on the viewer to perceive each piece in line with their own memories and experiences.
Cajella’s characters are usually accompanied by text that is typically sarcastic, dark or humorous, juxtaposed with their innocent-looking facial expressions. The artist has an impressive oeuvre which he crafted using various techniques, mediums, and even scales — he has experience creating miniscule drawings as well as larger-than-life installations. Even his more grand pieces mimic the intimate feeling of a small painting, pulling the viewer towards the simple scenes he sets.
Best described as an amalgam of satire and whimsy, Calleja’s style has generated international buzz even during the pandemic, when the rest of the art world slowed down. In August of 2020, he designed a limited series of face masks, adorned with his iconic figures and acidic text, for his hometown’s cultural event, Festival de Málaga.
The typical boyish personification is weaved throughout Calleja’s works in every format, including fiberglass sculptures like Do Not Touch Sculpture (2020), where the figure points at the observer while standing next to a sign forbidding contact. He used the sales proceeds from these sculptures to purchase 200,000 face masks for hospitals in Málaga. His characters can also be found in multimedia sketches, like Up to You (2020).
However, while Calleja’s artworks don’t always feature his distinctive boy characters, the wide-opened eyes are a recurring theme. For example, in his 2014 limited edition screenprint Redhead, cartoonishly large peepers appear from among a red, curly mess, dripping down the frame. While Between the Lines (2016) shows two green eyeballs peeking from a lined page.
Javier Calleja has been increasingly successful at auction houses, with prices ranging from $250 to over a million. In July 2020, his artwork WHAT? (2018) was sold for over $385,000, six times its highest estimate. Quickly after, in December of that year, No More Stories (2019) sold for over half a million US dollars. And in March 2021, he sold his highest-paid artwork so far, Waiting for a While (2019), auctioning for a realized price of $1,144,792 (originally estimated at a little under $400,000).
These phenomenal sales show that Calleja is certainly an artist worth investing and his appeal is not likely to dissipate any time soon — if anything, he is clearly an artist on the rise. We sell an impressive selection of Javier Calleja’s original works, be it statues or paintings. If you require any assistance regarding the pieces we have for sale here at ArtLife, please don’t hesitate to contact us.