DAVE McKEAN will not stop messing with my calm spiritual center.

Dave McKean

Los Angeles


FEB 13, 7pm

Ok, so it started with Jack in the outer office, and then the neighbors; everyone wondering, “Call 9-1-1?” or thinking “Oh, now he has finally lost it, and lost it good.”

I know that you are concerned, and I’ve stopped twitching enough that I can now share my tale.

Nosferatu - F. W. Murnau (1922) - Dave McKean (100 cm x 100 cm, mixed media, 2010)

I have to preface this by saying I was never a “huge” Dave McKean fan.  I appreciated him, to be sure, and was always aware of his work, but if someone said “fan” I don’t know how I would have responded, probably not so strong a word.  I found the worlds he explored with Neil Gaiman to be intriguing, but a little gentle and cerebral for my tastes.  Again: massive respect, but not as much passion as I had for, say, Walter Schnackenberg or George Grosz.

But of late, this man will not stop affecting me, and really REALLY deeply.

The Haunted Castle - F. W. Murnau (1921) - Dave McKean (100 cm x 100 cm, mixed media, 2010)

I thought that there was a chance that his Nitrate series would be his pinnacle, but looking at his paintings for The Coast Road blew that idea away; as a painter, as a storyteller, I genuinely believe now that McKean is an artist that will be in the history books. His style reveals his influences with grace, and shows that he has wrestled them into a hand that is completely his own. This is not decorative art, this feels to my senses- to my gut- the way the things that prove to be genuinely important do.

I’ll explain what that means, to me: This blog is very loose and vulgar, but a large part of my income comes from sharing my opinion with museum buyers.  “This Dalpayrat with a Colonna mount has a perfect form and glaze- plus the original paper label!” or “This Georges de Feure is indescribably rare, and a perfect example of his early Japonist period- you must have it!” leads to me visiting things in the Art Institute of Chicago that used to be on my dining room table.  Basically, I have to curb my commentary when I’m in social situations, because my generally opinionated demeanor keeps being reinforced by institutions, which as you can imagine is a dangerous place to be unless you want to come off as a fine art Simon Cowell.  Luckily, I was raised by Italians.  (Actually, now that I think about it, they’re even more loud and opinionated than I am.  So, I’m not sure what happened.)

Greed - Erich von Stroheim (1924) - Dave McKean (100 cm x 100 cm, mixed media, 2010)

I have no idea what I was talking about, because I’ve had two phone calls as I was trying to finish that last paragraph.  My point was something like: I’m an art snob at heart; I have exceptional taste, and you should believe me because large museums pay me to choose things for their collections; and I would without a second’s hesitation, or any reservations whatsoever, go to bat for Dave McKean with anyone, anytime.  I am deadly serious: in fifty years, these will be important representations of art in 2010.  Mark my words. Forget anything you ever thought you knew about McKean if you know him from The Sandman, and look at the painting for Greed: the horse bucking its rider is violent, bleeding with sacred geometry, and texturally challenging- it’s a perfect ten, not only graphically, but artistically. And, if you’ve never picked up a graphic novel, I bet you’ll see this even more clearly. This is a great artist. And we are lucky that he is alive, and creating, right now.

Want to see why my neighbors are convinced I’m finally ready to be locked up?  Come to Billy Shire Fine Arts in Culver City on February 13th and see for yourself:

Weird Tales - Richard Oswald (1919) - Dave McKean (100 cm x 100 cm, mixed media, 2010)


and original silent film posters 1890-1920:


presented at

Billy Shire Fine Arts

5790 Washington Blvd.

Culver City, CA 90232

opening reception FEB 13 2010, 7pm

Paintings, ink drawings, and edition prints are available.

If you want to make the step and own one for yourself, drop me a note at



3 Responses to “DAVE McKEAN will not stop messing with my calm spiritual center.”

  1. Matt Byerly Says:

    Hi Guys,

    Came to your Chicago “Nitrate” show…it was well worth it and wish I could attend this one! Anyway, just wondering, will you be selling limited prints of these images like you did at that show for some of the other paintings in the series?

  2. Yes- We are still deciding what images to produce, but in addition to the prints for DESTINY, LA PHRENOLOGIE BURLESQUE, and FAUST at least three more edition prints will be released in conjunction with the show. Any preferences, please feel free to comment or email me!

  3. Matt Byerly Says:

    Well, I’m not sure which I’d choose, but Greed, Die Nibelungen, Metropolis, and Nosferatu are all quite incredible. Did any translate better than others in print?

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