Aussie Street Art Star Anthony Lister's Grimacing Graffiti Faces Go Global

Anthony Lister
(Courtesy Anthony Lister)

Australian street artist Anthony Lister has been taking the urban art world by storm over the past few years with his painterly interpretations of grunge imagery. In well-reviewed exhibitions both at home and abroad, and frequent appearances in leading street-art publications, in 2011 he was also named one of the 50 most collectable artists by Australian Art Collector magazine and an “Artist to Watch” by  (now-folded) The Art Economist. And 2012 has been a particularly busy year for the artist: with a fall show “Unslung Heroes” at the London and Newcastle branches of The Outsiders gallery, a solo exhibition at Hong Kong’s Kumquat gallery, and the creation of a massive, eye-catching mural at Art Basel Miami alongside participation in the Basel Castle mini festival. And

In May, he’ll be returning to Miami for a solo show at Robert Fontaine Gallery. And if the secondary market for his work is still developing, there is no doubt that his collector base is growing; a Doyle New York’s auction of his painting “Cat Woman” (2008) this spring may likely break Lister's previous sale record for a work sold at $20,000 last spring. 

So what’s made him so successful transitioning his work from outdoors to indoors? One reason might be the confluence of subversive street aesthetic with high-art draughtsmanship in his work, making his images seem equally relevant and accessible in an up-market gallery as they do on the gritty walls of alleys. Lister is also proficient across a wide variety of mediums, as at home working with pens, stickers and aerosol as he is au-fait with different surfaces. And the subjects of his mainly figurative compositions are just as varied as his materials: sci-fi superheroes, clown-like characters, and licentious ladies appear as often as images of quite ordinary looking people.

But the shared characteristics of his work, a signature blend of irony and decadence, are what make them stand out from the crowd; fed from his single-minded work approach. “The first rule of painting is to take everyone else out of the equation. I am the viewer, so I don’t underestimate my viewers,” he explains. “I can’t paint for anyone else.” Later, “it’s all about having the courage to say this is finished... It’s like being a soldier because I have to be hard as fuck to fall in love with these things and let them go.”

Those intrigued by the Australian upstart will be glad to know that he’s making his way to the masses as well as to auction houses; “Lister,” a documentary about the artist, is currently being produced by SOYA-winning filmmaker Alex Gee.

To see images by the artist, click on the slideshow.

Watch the trailer for “Lister” below: