Six-figure artwork, by a fifth grader

The contemporary art world has been filled with young talent, but it’s hard to recall an artist who has generated as much recognition in his career as Andres Valencia.

In the last year, he has gone from an unknown person to a true art phenomenon. His surrealist paintings have been acquired by deep-pocketed collectors such as Tommy Mottola and Jessica Goldman Srebnick in Art Basel Miami Beach. In June, he had a solo exhibition at the Chase Contemporary gallery in SoHo, where all 35 pieces were sold, the gallery said, bringing in between $50,000 and $125,000.

One of his paintings sold for $159,000 (with fee) Auction Phillips de Pury in Hong Kong, and another hit $230,000 at a charity gala in Capri, Italy.

“I’m happy that I can make people happy with my work and they can hang it in their homes,” he said on a recent Monday at the Chase gallery. He’s standing in front of one of his creations,”Professor, A large, Cubist-like painting of a man painted in acrylic and oil paints, four and a half meters tall – as tall as the artist himself. “This I did when I was little, when I was eight years old,” he adds shyly.

It should be noted that Andres Valencia, who has been called “art prodigy” and “Little Picasso“Just 10.

When the gallery closed, he was joined by his mother, Elsa Valencia, 48, a Jewelry designer when she’s not taking her son to art shows, and the gallery’s owner, Bernie Chase. Andres, dressed as a young schoolboy in a white Ralph Lauren polo shirt, blue trousers and a pair of crisp Nike Jordans, visited his show.

“The clowns are just classic,” he said, introducing a piece called “Max the Clown.” Another work, “The Godfather”, was commissioned by a Florida family and depicts Mafia minions.

Like an early-aware schoolboy, he named some of his inspirations: Jean-Michel Basquiat, George Condo, Pokémon, Picasso’s “Guernica,” action figure army Click N’ Play.

“I’ve been in the art business for 20 years,” said Mr. Chase, standing proudly on the sidelines. “I have worked with the likes of Peter Beard and Kenny Scharf. Andres has such great potential – or greater than that. “

Andres may rave about praise, but he’s also a 5th grader with math homework. “My son is an artist, but first and foremost he is a child,” his mother said. “He’s a kid, not a celebrity.”

That’s not to say that she and her husband, Lupe Valencia, 50, lawyer and athlete manager for Cuban professional boxer Frank Sánchez, haven’t been heavy-handed with their son becoming a sensation. feeling after just one night.

They quickly enlisted the services of Nadine Johnson, a veteran journalist in New York, and now working with Sam Morris, a theater and art writer. Articles praising and praising the child-faced artist appeared in The Miami Herald, The New York Post, Forbes and The Times of London. ABC’s “World News Tonight” did a segment about him.

Their son’s high income was an opportunity to teach him “how to give,” his mother said. A portion of the proceeds from their son’s sale, which the Valencias say is “more than $300,000 so far”, has been donated to AIDS charity amfAR and children’s charities Box of Hope.

His artistic career began at the age of 4, when his parents noticed that he spent hours in their San Diego dining room, sketching paintings by graffiti artist Retna, one of his former clients. of his father.

“I would bring paper and sit there and always try to copy it, but it takes years to get it right,” Andres said, fidgeting in his seat.

His artistic confidence grew rapidly. He sold watercolors to family friends for $20. Among them was Mr. Chase, who offered to pay $100 whenever he visited Valencias in San Diego. Andres proved as adept as a salesman, and raised the price to $ 5,000. “So I said, ‘Okay, I’ll pay $5,000 for that,'” Mr Chase said with a laugh. “I took him to the car to write the check and Elsa ran out after I yelled, ‘What do you think you’re doing?'”

Mr. Chase bought enough paintings to convince the Valencias to let their son “share his talent with the world,” he said. He contacted Nick Korniloff, director of Art Miami, a fair that runs in conjunction with Art Basel, to introduce the young artist.

Mr Korniloff said he was “very skeptical at first when I heard Bernie say he wanted me to work with this 10-year-old”. But he also thinks there will be pent-up demand for “something playful” after the pandemic. “The story of a talented 10-year-old painter feels gratifying,” he added.

However, Mr Korniloff said he was wary of putting “my reputation first” on a high school student, so did not mention Andres’ age in any of the fair’s promotional materials. . But during the VIP outing, he would ask collectors, “What if I told you those pieces were made by a 10-year-old boy, and some of that was completed when he was 8 years old?”

The news about the child artist spread quickly. Celebrities like Sofia Vergara and Channing Tatum bought the pieces. Reporters sought to verify that the artwork was made by someone too young. Mr. Korniloff invited Mr. Valencia to paint live with Bradley Theodore, a street artist a few decades older than him. The scene attracted a lot of media attention.

His followers continue to grow. Earlier this month, the BTS singer known as V shared one of Andres’ works, a Cubist portraits of a man, with his 50 million Instagram followers.

Young artists are rare but not unique in the art world. A few years ago, collectors paid $250 to $1,500 for the 2-year-old art star’s expressionist doodles. Lola june. Some young art stars, like Alexandra Nechitawho at the age of 12 has been labeled “Mozart with a brush” on talk shows and has made millions of dollars, keep working.

The child stars were less kind to others. Marla Olmstead She sold her abstract paintings for thousands of dollars when she was just 4 years old, but years later a “60 Minutes” segment and an investigative documentary questioned whether her father had guide her to paint brush or not.

Owners of other contemporary art galleries warn that frenzied speculation around Andres may not last long. Alexander Shulan, owner of Lomex, a gallery in the heart of Manhattan that is home to emerging artists. “But the life of any young artist changes dramatically over time, so it’s ridiculous for anyone to assume that an investment will have a long lifespan for a 24-year-old artist, not a 24-year-old artist. let alone a much younger artist – an actual child, in this case.”

Back in the gallery, Andres grabbed a pad of paper in front of him and scribbled a portrait. “If you see a kid sketching on paper with a brush, a lot of people think those drawings shouldn’t be in the gallery,” he said, putting down his pen. “Sometimes older people don’t get it.”

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