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Onomatopoeia: Comics in the Fine Art Market

Onomatopoeia
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is an art show, featuring the best in pop, comics and fantasy art. We met them this year at their exhibition stand at Scope, one of the biggest art spaces during Miami Art Basel (2-6th Dec) – one of the biggest and best art fairs in the world.
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Onomatopoeia is going into its third year and in that time have brought some of the most well-known Comic, Fantasy & Sci-Fi artists to the global fine art market. It is also the only stand selling originals by comics artists at Scope. Surrounded by contemporary art, it was great to see the original art that so many modern works are referencing being celebrated.
 
After years of attending the big shows, Daniel Hort the show’s executive producer, realised that there was no representation for these world-class artists and “it just seemed crazy”.
So, with the help of some friends-  Daniel created Onomatopoeia and Dan Hort Projects. The first Dan Hort Project featured fantasy art superstar Frank Frazetta, monster portrait master- Basil Gogos and several comic greats such as Will Eisner, Milton Caniff, Moebius and more. The second year Hort decided to focus their exhibit and went with the contemporary art of comic legend Neal Adams and a broad representation of melodramatic strips.
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For the future, Onomatopoeia are looking to grow their show’s offerings and expand into some print media areas such as a comic line and art books.
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Hort has a background in print-related marketing and began by doing campaign mailings, signage and catalogs for large events, including several major art shows as well as many galleries and museums. He is also a life long comic enthusiast.
Hort lives in New York with his two daughters, paranormal romance fiction writing wife, dog and cockatoo.
 
We got a chance to catch up with Daniel after Miami Art Basel was over and talk about his favourites comics and thoughts on the art form.
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MC: What has the response been to the show since you started it?
DH: Mostly positive. Fans and people who can identify the work are thrilled. Even people who take the time to learn about the artists we show have a healthy respect and are often drawn to look closer. The big issue we find is that now so much of contemporary art is derivative of comic books, that it’s hard for audiences to tell the difference between a silk screen by some unknown artist and the real thing.
 
MC: What is your favourite comic book/ graphic novel of all time and why? 
DH: I generally don’t have favourites, but I am partial to Alan Moore. I think “V for Vendetta” is not only great as a story, but it really pushed what audiences could expect from the medium. To have such a complex story work itself out so fully was really a great innovation.  I’m also big on “The Dark Knight Returns”- that also, was hugely ground breaking. I grew up on Tintin, those were harder to get here in the States (and more expensive, too) – I used to save up to buy those.
 
MC: If you could have dinner with any fictional comics character who would it be and why? 
DH: Gosh, that’s tough. Maybe the Watcher? If he could be bothered to look down, it’d be a great conversation.
 
MC: We believe comic books are better than reading a book or watching a film, what are your thoughts on the form?
DH: I think that it’s different. I am big on mediums and what kind of stories they can tell or more accurately- how they can tell a story. But, to me comics are that middle ground, where the visual and the intellectual both have the chance to be explored. Also, the fact that so often it’s serialized gives audiences the chance to really get to know the characters and for those characters to be developed. There’s also something that I am sure you and your readers know, but the rest of the world is only just learning, and that is that some of the best artists and script writers are just as good as any film director or novelist.
 
MC: What are your views on contemporary art? 
DH: I am very close with many people in the field and it has grown tremendously to the point where fine art is about the best investment you could be in over the last 20 year. I think that there is a fight coming over who owns art. Like everywhere else in the world, wealth disparity is the key issue. As the so-called 1% gobble up art they push the prices, which the dealers, artists, etc appreciate and need. Unfortunately, success in the art world is not a meritocracy. Does one artist’s work have more value (other than financial) because the right collectors (of which there are only a handful) buy it? Most of us would say not, but the industry says otherwise. Soon only the artists that are part of that system are being offered opportunities to be seen by wider audiences. We see this happening in all sorts of areas, not just the arts and I personally think it’s dangerous because everything becomes self-referential. The artist becomes successful because the collector buys it, which in turn makes the piece more valuable and then they go around again. And you’re talking about a small number of people controlling all this influence- not good.
 
MC: Do your daughters read any comics books?
DH: They do. We’ve been reading the Fiona Staples & Mark Waid’s Archie reboot and my older daughter is a big Red Hood fan. They also enjoy cos-play which a lot of the old school comic types (like myself) can’t stand, but I think it’s fun.
 
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