In Conversation: Javier Calleja & Christian Luiten

Ahead of the launch of three new hand-finished editions, Javier Calleja caught up with Avant Arte co-founder to discuss his career, practice and inspirations.

Artist Javier Calleja hand-finishing his prints at the printing house

Ahead of the launch of Javier Calleja‘s second Avant Arte edition, Christian Luiten caught up with the globally-adored Spanish artist.

The pair discuss Javier’s practice, eclectic inspirations (from Mark Rothko to Studio Ghibli) and the traditional printmaking techniques employed to create First Look, Second Chance Always and Third Time Lucky.

How it all started

Collectors often ask us how different collaborations come about. Read Christian’s account of his and Javier’s first meeting, and the years since, below:

“We started doing editions in 2017. From that moment, we dreamt of working with Javier Calleja. At the time, he wasn’t a huge artist, but he was quickly getting more and more popular — he was actually pretty hard to get hold of! Eventually, I met his wife and studio manager Alicia over email. They liked what we were doing but they didn’t yet want to commit to a print project.

Later in 2018 I went to visit Javier and Alicia in Malaga where they live. I went to Javier’s studio which was really small at the time. It was full of drawings and paintings, and we started to talk about his inspirations and influences. He is, of course, really inspired by Yoshitomo Nara — Javier was once his studio assistant. Javier’s paintings are also full of loads more art world references: a mashup of all the things he loves about the history of painting. We talked about the clouds of René Magritte but also Shrigley, Rothko, even comic artists who have been an inspiration for him. We went to his show together and it was quite special. There was also a really young collector from Hong Kong who was still in his teens and he treated Javier like a celebrity.

Javier was still a young artist but you could feel that something special was going to happen. When we were walking through the show, he paid close attention to how I was viewing his work. I didn’t know this at the time. He told me later at dinner after a few drinks! He knew exactly how many seconds I was looking at the work. He found it interesting that I was touching the sculpture and that I spent more time in front of the works on paper than the paintings.

In 2019 we finally started to work together. He is super passionate about every small detail — he flew over three times to the London print house to make sure every colour was exactly right. I’ve never experienced an artist who is such a perfectionist.

The prints we worked on were released in 2020 and were a big success, collectors really begged us to get one. His career started to take off. He did big shows at great galleries and also some of his works that came to auction reached new heights. It has been a privilege to see his career develop from the inside. And it’s also a privilege to do a project with him again in the coming weeks. We’re really looking forward to sharing this new series of prints.”

Artist Javier Calleja quality checking his prints at the printing house

Artist Javier Calleja hand-finishing an artwork with a marker - close up detail
Edition details

Launching 9th June 2021 – First Look, Second Chance Always and Third Time Lucky, each one an entirely new composition incorporating the artist's distinctive character stylings and irreverent slogans.