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Meet Peter Mars of Peter Mars Authentic in Fulton Market

Today we’d like to introduce you to Peter Mars.

Peter, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was a chemistry major in college, which is quite a stretch from an art school. However, there are many parallels between science and art. The need to experiment, make observations, discover what works and what fails. I build on the knowledge and understanding of artist’s that came before me, and invent as I go… Many artists consider their studios to be laboratories.

I particularly love a book written by Salvador Dali called “The Secret to Magic Craftsmanship” because it lays out in a scientific way the physics of light and color, how pigments are made, and what brushes, glazes, and sponges to use. While good art is truly magic, many of the secrets behind it are simply old fashioned craftsmanship. In my world of printmaking, the craftsmanship is so important. One tiny glitch in the process can ruin days and weeks of preceding labor and leave me with a very expensive piece of garbage.

I do a process called silk screen, which is considered the champagne of printmaking because it is uniquely beautiful and creates broad areas of perfectly flat color. Silkscreen is a super thin fine mesh silk fabric stretched onto a wooden frame. The best wood for the process is California redwood, or certain types of cedar. These exotic woods are needed because when printing and washing out, the silkscreen will be wet and dried all day long. Other woods can’t take this kind of abuse and will eventually twist and bend.

Since redwood in particular is an endangered species, the frames themselves become extremely valuable and are passed down from artist to artist. Many of my frames are well over 100 years old and came from obsolete wallpaper factories. Most of the finest vintage wallpapers were made using silkscreen. Now wallpapers are made with huge cheaper digital printers. The industry has mostly abandoned the old world craftsmanship of silk screen.

My style is fairly different than most in that I use printmaking and combine it with hand painting. My artworks are built in layers. Each layer needs to dry on a large drying rack before the next layer can be added. It’s a laborious process, but the result is unparalleled and yields stunning color fields that cannot be created any other way.

I started painting during my senior year of college. I wasn’t one of those artists who knew they were an artist from birth. There were signs along the way, but I never would have guessed art would be my calling until that year. Inside me, I could feel art was where I belonged. I had an instant recognition that I understood painting and for the first time in my life I found something I was naturally good at. It felt so good, and I have never looked back.

Early in my career, I found work in various galleries. The work was menial labor: packing and shipping fragile artworks to collectors, replacing damaged frames and hardware, hanging art on gallery walls, creating new installations. Though tedious, these jobs allowed me to get up close, handle and examine many beautiful artworks by many famous artists. Working with hundreds of famous prints and paintings every day taught me a ton. My dream was to be a successful artist, yet I had to pay bills. These gallery jobs paid money and taught me the business of art, gallery operations, and how the art world operates behind the scenes. It brought me in contact with many famous art collectors as well. And the whole time I was making my own art, experimenting, and defining my own style.

As a child, I’d been a collector of what most people would call junk. Bottle caps, match packs, candy wrappers, postage stamps, ticket stubs. Oddly enough, I was that kid that wanted the box, not the toy. Because the box had all the cool graphics on it! And I collected ephemera like this from everywhere. Sugar packets from Denny’s, potato chip bags, strange pamphlets, and the little illustrations cut from dictionaries. Then as an adult, I realized that in a strange way I’d been documenting the popular culture of my youth during the 1960s. I saw this culture was constantly changing, morphing, always in flux and motion. Artists are story-tellers, myth makers, myth keepers, and every generation has a set of reference points that tells their generation’s story. There is a need for artists to tell these stories and myths in the language and context that surrounds them. Digital watches, Donkey Kong, color TV, Smokey the Bear, Rockem Sockem Robots, Mr. Ed. The list is endless.

American advertising created images by the truckload and pop art and pop culture exploded in the US early in the twentieth century with artists like Stuart Davis and Kurt Schwitters, it evolved from the Dada movement. A second burst hit in the 60s with artists Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein, and Warhol. And then a third volley began in the early 90s as global pop culture exploded and we went from three TV channels to 500, and the internet with more than 100 million blogs. This explosion of culture made the printing press look prehistoric. I began to paint about this cultural. I started with my odd little collections and now thirty-five years later, my art hangs in galleries, museums, and art collections around the world. I love humor in art. And my goal remains the same: paint the stories of our generations and capture the joy and nostalgia we all experience.

Has it been a smooth road?
The biggest challenge for me in the art world is crooked dealers. Many young artists, anxious to get shows, get burned. I strongly suggest that before an artist signs with a gallery, that they call or email the other artists that gallery represents. Ask the artists if the dealer pays on time or pays at all. Ask if this dealer returns art when asked. Ask if the dealer is using “margins,” which is dealer code for lowering an artist’s percentage.

Ask for a clear explanation of what their margins are because sometimes they’re acceptable. Ask those other artists if the dealer sets one price with them, but then sells it at a higher price and doesn’t pay them based on the increased price. Learning about other artists horror stories can save you from entering into a deal with a gallery dealer that is not trustworthy.

When you find a good dealer, Respect them, … If you grant them exclusive rights to sell your work in a particular city, refer all sales inquiries from that city to your Gallery. Do not “backdoor” your own gallery by selling direct from your studio. As a gallery owner myself, if I find out an artist is doing backdoor deals, I fire them. So find a good dealer, be loyal, and sell art.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Peter Mars Authentic story. Tell us more about the business.
Well I’ve been lucky. And I’m super grateful that my work captured the attention and excitement of so many art collectors.

I recently finished a NY show with Mr. Brainwash at Taglialatellagalleries.com. My NY dealer is Taglialatella and they have galleries in New York, Paris, and Palm Beach. I’ve had the thrill of doing many NY openings with Banksy, Shepard Fairey, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Swoon, and so many other artists I admire.

My company’s name is Peter Mars Authentic and we do licensing deals with many different companies like Muhammad Ali Enterprises, Converse, Dolce & Gabbana, Cirque d Soleil, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Carroll Shelby Racing, etc.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I don’t see any huge changes. The art world still operates much as it did before the internet. With fine art that is usually quite expensive, most art collectors still want to see it in person, and feel it’s magnetism, and its every nuance. The art world resides inside its own bubble full of quirky personalities, and I love all that, Gallery owners, Artists, Art collectors, and Art consultants operate in the same tradition they have for hundreds of years. Yes, the internet has influenced the industry in a number of ways and Artists and Dealers are still trying to understand what those changes mean. But collectors of fine art are real people. And they want to meet real artists, and they want to buy real art. Not something they saw on the internet that is spit out by a computer. They want to see the artist’s human hand in the work.

The internet has helped allow more artists to talk and collaborate with each other easily from around the globe… And we get to see so much more of each other’s art. It also allows Art Collectors, Galleries, Dealers and Artists to communicate easily and discover new Artist’s work that they may not have even known about before.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Peter Mars

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Karen Smith

    September 29, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    Love, Love, Love! Thank you Peter for all the years you’ve created such wonderful images for us to enjoy and collect.

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