Print Collectors: An Interview with Sean Lunn

by Denis on May 4, 2011

Sean Lunn (censored), his wife (censored) and Mr. Brainwash (uncensored) (Mr. Lunn resides in Charlottesville, United States)

Continuing our series of interviews with print collectors, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Sean Lunn. In addition to collecting prints, he has also been selling prints as his main occupation since 2005 and he is the man behind Jojo’s Posters (opened in 2007) and Jojo’s Fine Art & Emporium (opened in 2010). Note that any print purchased from Sean contributes to the growth of the Jojo empire which could, at some point in a not too distant future, include the opening, somewhere in the Caribbeans, of a Jojo’s Chicken Shack, serving the world’s finest rotisserie chicken! In the meantime, he was kind enough to share his knowledge and perspective on the world of prints.

BACKGROUND

von Scaramouche: Do you remember what visual art work first caught your attention / imagination and what was it about the work that captivated you?
Sean Lunn: I remember going to the Smithsonian museums as a kid growing up in the DC area………I always thought to myself, “this is a bunch of crap”. I think a lot of my art history came from DC and Marvel comic books. Later in college, I had some buddies that were going to Fillmore shows and Maritime Hall shows out in San Francisco during the mid-90’s…….they were always coming home w/ cool posters that they picked up at the shows. They always caught my eye because I could relate to the artwork and to the bands they advertised.

vS: As a young person, did you collect other things.
SL: Yes……coins, stamps, baseball/football cards, star wars cards, comic books.

vS: Have you studied visual arts in college / university?
SL: I hated art classes in general…….freaking snooze fest.

vS: How and when did you become aware the world of limited edition prints? What drew you in?
SL: I used to work late nights as a computer/server tech. Other than surfing porn and playing spades and quake all night long…….I would browse posters on sites like artrock and d-king gallery and some of the other early websites that were selling posters. I was one of those “I’m never going to pay more than $25 for a poster” guys…….funny, how times will change. So, I kind of collected and acquired all kinds of prints over a 10 year period….mostly because I liked the bands or the artwork. I never really thought much about it or what it was worth; maybe framed a few things.

ACQUIRING & SELLING PRINTS

vS: To what extent will you research an artist and his works before making a purchase? Will the ‘buzz / hype’ related to a release influence your decision to buy a print?
SL: As a retailer in the poster world; it’s my business to know the marketplace. I spend most of a good day researching (drymounting around) on the internet and poster forums. Buzz and hype certainly influences my decisions a bit, but I really have to like a piece or an artist to stand behind their work.

vS: In a situation where you are seeking a print that matters to you and the print is only available on the secondary market, tell us about what you will typically do to locate and get the print.
SL: While I mostly buy wholesale and/or original retail, I do sometimes buy stuff from the secondary market. I use eBay rarely these days to buy stuff secondhand, most of the people selling on there are wingnuts who don’t know how to grade poster condition. When I do buy some stuff on the secondary market, most of it is done via Expressobeans.com……although, some folks do approach me to buy their collections and/or random prints once in a while.

vS: When seeking to purchase a print on the secondary market, what are the most important criterias on your list in determining the value of the print? Is there more to it to you than the last 6-month average? When you find a potential seller, will you generally engage in a price negotiation?
SL: Since I pretty much resell most everything; condition is probably the most important thing to me. I do look at averages some…..but, I mostly look at trends. Sometimes I haggle, but if the asking price is fair……I generally just pay it.

vS: When seeking to purchase a print on the secondary market, what information is important to ask the seller about the print itself and/or packaging?
SL: Standard stuff like “What’s the condition?” & “Is it signed and/or numbered?” Other than that, I trust the seller knows what he is doing. It’s pretty much on the seller’s back that the print arrives in decent shape…….I always recommend that people insure shipments.

vS: Do you sometimes buy a print strictly on the basis that you believe this particular print is a worthy investment? Do you generally give some thought to resale value when you consider purchasing a print or it is not an important consideration?
SL: As an art reseller, It’s the main consideration for me. I have had enough dead weight/fire hazard prints in my lifetime; I don’t need any more. Outside of my business, I do maintain a small collection…….I don’t buy a bunch of crap, but value is of no importance to me as far as my collection is concerned.

vS: Will you first seek to trade prints when looking to acquire a print? Do you like trading as a means to acquire prints? If so, in a given year, approximately what percentage of your acquisitions are done via trade? If not, why?
SL: Less than 1% of my posters come via trade………other than trading w/ artists or other dealers, I would say trading kind of sucks. It never seems to work out for some reason or another. I guess to find a hard to find print that I’m in search of, I’ll tolerate it. But, I’d much rather just buy prints……..you have actual recourse if something goes wrong. Buying prints just works better for what I’m doing.

vS: As a means to build your collection, how important is it for you to build relationships with other collectors? What about galleries? Or a direct relationship with the artists? If deemed important, how do you generally go about building those relationships and what channels have proved to be rewarding for you in that respect? Can you provide an example of how one such relationship proved to be rewarding?
SL: I have a lot of allies in the business. I have established a lot of good working relationships w/ artist, galleries, other retailers, other collectors, etc. Sure, it certainly helps when trying to purchase prints. I would say go to events where you can meet people; the artists like to put a face to a name. Other than a few jackwads, there are mostly good folks involved in this industry……..they do it because they love it, you know?

vS: In building your collection, approximately what percentage of your purchases are done on the secondary market vs primary market?
SL: my Business – 5-10%
my Collection – maybe 25%

vS: In the cases where there is a lot of anticipated demand for a print release (the demand is greater than the offer), what is in your opinion the better way for the seller to proceed in selling his prints to the buyers? First come, first serve? Draws? Other?
SL: First come, first serve…….the rest is bogus.

vS: How would you rank your prefered outlets to acquire prints (other collectors, online auctions, galleries, etc.)? Please elaborate with a few pros & cons.
SL: Direct from the artists
Direct from merch companies
From friends that go to concerts
Direct from galleries/resellers
eBay and/or forums

It’s just easier for me to buy in bulk from the top 2 or 3 on the list…….buying one poster really doesn’t help me out much. It’s really more trouble than it’s worth most of the time when I don’t have multiple copies of prints.

vS: When considering the purchase of a print, does the printing technique matter to you? If so, can you explain? Have you returned prints because you were not satisfied with the printing quality?
SL: I mostly stick to silkscreens…….now that I’m venturing out into more “fine” art crap, I’m more accepting of giclees. I just like the hand made feel of silkscreens……..they’re certainly more more striking then the older lithograph concert posters. I rarely return prints for anything other then physical damage.

vS: Do you have tips to share for when one buys prints from someone he doesn’t know or has not been recommended to him/her?
SL: If you don’t know someone, use your credit card…….you can pretty much always get your money back via a charge back.

vS: Once you have determined to sell a specific print, please tell us what you typically do to try to sell it. What has been the most effective channel for you to sell prints? As well, have you noticed that there are better times during the year to sell prints? Or the opposite?
SL: I used to use eBay almost exclusively…….but the fees suck. About 5 years ago, I started up my first website jojosposters.com and last year I launched jojosfineart.com. It’s been great. The better times of the year are Oct. through March and May/June…….the rest of the year is pretty slow.

vS: Do you generally agree with the statement “if a print is not going to find itself on a wall, then it’s not worth keeping”?
SL: Don’t be silly.

COLLECTION

vS: Is there a main focus / direction to your print collection? As a collector, do you tend to be a completist?
SL: I mostly collect original poster artwork these days. Although, I do still collect Emek handbills, Mig Kokinda posters, and posters from shows I went to……everything else is pretty much expendable. I used to be a completist…….I’m too busy for that now. Maybe one day though.

vS: What style of artwork are you attracted to / seek to add to your collection?
SL: I mostly prefer hand drawn/illustrations over design stuff……..but, I certainly see a need/use for both.

vS: Tell us about one or two prints that you are most proud of to have in your collection?
SL: My favorite poster of all time is Mike King’s Widespread Panic poster from Portland 1999…….they are my favorite band and it captures them perfectly.

I also love my Keith Neltner “Reinstate Hank Sr” on wood panel……people always comment on that piece when they see it.

vS: What print is currently at the top of your most wanted list?
SL: I can’t think of anything at the moment that I have to have.

vS: Is there an artist(s) that is featured prominently in your collection? If so, please tell us about him/her and what you like about his/her art.
SL: I like Rene Gagnon and Mr. Brainwash……..they both crack me up and I think the American street art scene is pretty much in it’s infancy. That’s mostly what I’ve been buying for the last two years or so.
Wash It Away by Rene Gagnon

vS: Do you have original works in your collection? If so, which one would you like to tell us about?
SL: Yes. I have some framed up and displayed………an Emek, Spusta, a couple Forbes, Tidwell, Grzeca, Tapecat, Replete, Prefab, Everett, Mear One, Burwell, Klutch, Mazza, Eine, some donkey in a boat, Rene Gagnon, Handiedan, etc. Most of my stuff isn’t up unfortunately…….maybe one day.

vS: Do you have specific requirements when you have a print framed? Do you have tips to share about what one should look for in a professional framer?
SL: Don’t go to Michael’s. Do it right…….Support your local frame shops.

GENERAL

vS: What in your opinion would make collecting prints easier and / or even more enjoyable than it is now?
SL: Nothing.

vS: What art gallery do you most admire and tell us why?
SL: Any that can stay in business……..I couldn’t imagine taking on that kind of overhead.

vS: What are the most valuable online / offline ressources that you use to keep up with art & print related news / happenings?
SL: I mostly follow the forums on Expressobeans.com. I like OMG Posters and Inside the Rock Poster Frame as well……..wish I had more time to waste keeping up; seems to be harder and harder these days as the business has grown.

It’s all very fun…….I love the poster world!

Merci Sean!

Invite Sean to share a fine mexican meal next time you see him!

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by Denis on May 4, 2011

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