Pricing Art

C-Note’s Paula Picassa Wall Art Print

The price to own a work by American prison-artist C-Note only becomes more desirable and pricey as he transitions out of the “Emerging Artist” label.

To his fans, Donald “C-Note” Hooker is already an Established artist; however the rules of defining where an artist is at in their career are well established. The life cycle of an artist’s career is either Emerging, Mid-career, and Established. What differentiates one moment in an artist’s career from another is detailed in, How to Solve Your Overseas Gift Problem.”

King of the Emerging Artists in the Underground Art World

Underground Art is defined as any form of art that operates outside of conventional norms in the art world, or is part of an underground culture. Generally, any genre of art that is not popular in the art world. According to the Tate Museum, “Now-a-days the term underground art is used to describe a subculture of art, like graffiti art or comic strip art. Since the late 1990s, the internet has become a forum for underground art thanks to its ability to communicate with a wide audience for free and without the support of an art establishment.” See Underground art – Art Term | Tate who began documenting the most expensive things in the world in 2013, and is now known as, “The place where future billionaires come to get inspired,” documented in a 2020 video, “15 REAL Reasons Why RICH PEOPLE Buy ART.” The number one reason was for the love of art, but another reason was the intrinsic value of art. It does not depreciate in value the second it leaves the store, or is driven off the showroom floor, and is immune from other factors of depreciation, like age and use.

What makes Underground Art a very intriguing purchase is its upside to go from Underground to Mainstream. Impressionism is now mainstream, but came from the Underground Art World. In a 2017 Rolling Stone article,” San Diego Comic-Con: The Untold History,” Chris Chafin interviewed Mike Towry.

 “In the late 1960s, the landscape was very different. In those days, you were an oddball or an outcast if you were into that stuff,” says Mike Towry, who now runs his own convention, San Diego Comic Fest. “Society looked down on science fiction fans, but even science fiction fans looked down on [comics fans]. We were at the bottom – unless you were into outright pornography, we were as low as you could get.”

According to Visit San Diego’s 2019 pre-pandemic estimates, “Comic-Con guests are expected to generate an estimated $149 million in regional impact to San Diego, with a direct attendee spend of $88 million.”

The combined 2021 art sales of these three artists who come from the Graffiti art tradition, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Banksy, and Keith Haring has been well over one-third of a billion dollars. Banksy sold 455 prints through three quarters in 2021 at $32.7 million.

In 2016, Executive Producer of The Hangover film franchise and founder of The Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) Scott Budnick, which includes on its Board, film actor and former prisoner Robert Downey Jr. wrote in an ARC newsletter that was distributed to prisoners, of having a Prison art exhibition and sale that would generate Prison art sales 10x its normal value. Prison art, Graffiti, and Street art are all from the same family tree of Underground Art. 

In a 2020 London Daily Post article, “Donald “C-Note” Hooker the World’s Most Prolific Prisoner Artist,” C-Note is a poet, playwright, performing artist, award-winning visual artist, and The King of Prison Hip Hop. His Works have either been exhibited, recited, performed, or sold, from Alcatraz to Berlin.

In 2015, C-Note’s role as Money Mike in his semi-autobiographical play Birth of a Salesman, and the opening act to the play Redemption in Our State of Blues led to a four day run and an encore run of Redemption. It in turn led to  “BREAK IT TO MAKE IT (BITMI): Busting Barriers for the Incarcerated Project, Los Angeles, California.” A first-in-the-nation public-private funded prison reentry project. BITMI provides two years of free housing from the Los Angeles Mission. Two years of free education from the Los Angeles City College, and participation in the jails to jobs program of actual paid theatrical work with the theater group The Strindberg Laboratory.

In a December 2015 letter written by Republican, California Assemblyman Tom Lackey of the 36 District addressed to Michael Berman of The Steinberg Laboratory, “I was curious and pressed by the outstanding acapella vocals, the humor of Money Mike, and the literary skills and powerful delivery of the Poet. I was reminded that there is great potential for all men to be a viable part of our culture.”

Three-years later in 2018, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Scott Kernan endorsed in writing the CDCR’s continued partnership with the BITMI program; and in a 2021 interview, Co-director of the play Destiny Is The Journey Nicole Abbink shared her story of putting on a production with actors in the BITMI program.

In 2015, the The Strindberg Laboratory founders had never worked inside of a prison. They were assigned the prison’s most violent prison yard and had a hostile work environment from prison administrators and guards who were unaccustomed to observing these kinds of prisoners involved in rehabilitation services. But for C-Note’s leadership and artistic prowess, there never would have been encore performances to inspire a public-private partnership to create the innovative prisoner re-entry service known as BITMI. ln all likelihood, there never would have been a first run of their play Redemption in Our State of Blues.

It would be hard-pressed to find a comparable Emerging artist from the Contemporary underground art World, whose art has reverberated in affecting so many lives and raised millions of dollars.

In 2017, Category 5 Hurricane Harvey struck the Gulf Coast of Texas. It prompted C-Note to create one of his most disseminated Works as a Public Service Announcement, During the Flood.

In 2019, several individuals and grassroots organizations used During the Flood as a Public Service Announcement to evacuate prisons in the path of the Category 5 Hurricane Dorian.

In 2021, several individuals and grassroots organizations used During the Flood as a Public Service Announcement to evacuate prisons in the path of the Category 4 Hurricane Ida. 

It would be hard-pressed to find a comparable Emerging artist from the Contemporary underground art World, whose art has been used to save thousands of lives.

In 2018, C-Note created the paintoem (painting + poem) Today We Are Sisters. The digital work was created to raise awareness of the 150 forced sterilizations in California’s women prisons from 2006 – 2010, and the lack of reparations to the prisoner victims. The painting and poem tells of a truce between women who are Pro-Life, with women who are Pro-Choice, to lend their combined strengths to end forced sterilizations of women prisoners.

While other individuals and organizations were involved in this advocacy, it wasn’t until the release of Free Virtual Art Exhibition  (1-Artist; 1-Subject; 21-Works) , which concluded with Today We Are Sisters in February of 2021, that in April of 2021, California legislative committees finally acquiesced to the lobbying for reparations to California women prisoners who were forcibly sterilized. 

AB 1007 Forced or Involuntary Sterilization Compensation Program (2021-2022) provides $7.5 million in reparations to anyone who were forcibly sterilized by the State. It was the first time prisoners were included for reparations in California’s forced sterilization budget.

It would be hard-pressed to find a comparable Emerging artist from the Contemporary underground art World whose art has reverberated into raising millions of dollars for State-sanctioned crime victims. 

D. Hafash Al-Amin of California Coalition for Women Prisoners with a wood block of Today We Are Sisters. 

In 2019 – 2020 C-Note worked with Fashion designer Makenzie Stiles for her fashion line Mercy. COVID-19 lockdowns in the Spring of 2020 prevented a global first in the 100-year-plus history of the Catwalk, models walking the Runway in clothes designed with Prison art.

It would be hard-pressed to find a comparable Emerging artist from the Contemporary underground art World whose art has made history in the World of Fashion.

It’s called ICONS. Forbes and other publications call them Look Up! Usually social justice artists with their works of art on Billboards. ICONS is an image of a Keith Haring Special Edition Polaroid Photo of C-Note’s 2017 Incarceration Nation on a Billboard. It’s known as ICONS, as it’s an image of Three Icons.

It would be hard-pressed to find a comparable Emerging artist from the Contemporary underground art World, whose art is making ICONIC moves.

In 2020 as the result of a theme to a poetry Festival, the 400 years of African Americans in California, C-Note created the poem Journey to Afrofuturism. The poem is a Back to the Future theme work of the true tale naming of the State of California after a Black woman by Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes; and how it would become the fertile nursing ground for the maturation of the Pan African art movement known as Afrofuturism.

The poem was recited at the 30th Annual Celebration of African American Poets and Their Poetry. Later he created a visual work with the same title as the poem. Speculative City Magazine paid him to use these Works in their Winter of 2020, #10 Issue, Afrofuturism. Speculative fiction critic Charles Payseur said of the work, “This piece speaks to me of tradition, of tracing the ideas and influences of Afrofuturism from Africa and to California, finding there a sort of forgotten, parallel history to draw off of, to complicate, and to reclaim.”

In 2021, these works were exhibited and recited at the conclusion of a Zoom event held by the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), Afrofuturism Then and Now. The event was the inaugural 2021 – 2022 Academic Year Global discussion and performances on what Afrofuturism means and how it manifests in cultural practices. The Zoom call panelists consisted of speakers in diverse locations such as the Congo in Central Africa, Burkina Faso in West Africa, and several cities in the Northern California Bay Area in the United States.

In the Winter of 2021, Anna D.Smith’s “Look Up! 2” Hope & Beauty Art Exhibition will feature on a Billboard, C-Note’s 2015 work Colored Girl Warholed. The work was inspired by Andy Warhol’s 1962 Four Marilyns. C-Note’s work is from his 2009 Colored Girl. Six months after C-Note made prints available of this work, Warhol’s Four Marilyns sold at Christie’s for $36 million.

What Does Google Say?

While C-Note is clearly an Emerging artist, Google artificial intelligence has paired him in their search engine results with Established artists whose Works have sold in the eight and nine figures. To date, these Established artists include Chuck Close, who has sold several Works in the seven figures. Eight-figure artist Ai Weiwei, whose Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads sold for $28 million.

On four occasions, C-Note has been paired with fellow African-American Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat has sold a Work in the nine figures. To learn more about these specific Basquiat search engine results click the link: Five-years of Contemporary Art’s Greatest Hits.

In 2017, C-Note created the poem Tho Her Name Is Not Gibraltar, Still She’s Called “The Rock”. It spent 8-weeks showcased at the Anne T. Kent California Room, Marin County Free Library, Marin County Civic Center Complex. The Complex was the final architectural project of the late, great, architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Known as the King of Prison Hip Hop, Google search results have paired C-Note with some of North America’s greatest Established poets. These include the King of Southern Rap T.I.; New York and West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur; Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar; Yonkers New York rapper DMX; Canadian rapper Drake; Philadelphia rapper PnB Rock;  Southern rapper Lil Wayne; L.A. Gangsta Rap founder and billionaire Dr. Dre; NYC rapper and billionaire Jay-Z; Chicago rapper and billionaire Kanye West; and the great Bob Dylan.

Top row: (l) DMX; (r) Kendrick Lamar
Center row: (l) Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Drake; (r) C-Note
Bottom row: (l) PnB Rock; (r) Lil Wayne


Image: My Art Broker

The United Kingdom’s, living, Established underground artist Banksy sold on average $70,000 a print through three quarters in 2021, to total $32 million. The United States is the big dog in the room when it comes to Global art sales. In 2020, the US generated 42% of the global art sales. China and the UK were a distant second at 20% each. From June of 2020 through June of 2021, the Contemporary Art Market had a record-breaking $2.7 billion in sales.

While Banksy’s 2021 art sales through three-quarters are impressive, Global art buyers have an affinity towards purchasing their fellow countrymen. This predilection by Art buyers can explain why the African American Basquiat topped a $quarter-billion in 2021 art sales through three quarters. According to Alux, the top three selling living artists in the world are all Americans, with Ed Ruscha topping the list at $1.2 billion.

Using Established underground UK artist Banksy as an example, when Emerging underground artist, African-American prison artist C-Note becomes an Established artist, to own one of his prints on average will cost $150,000 per print. That’s because the American Art Market is double the size of the UK Art Market.

Discover How Investing in Prison Art Can Make You a Smarter Art Investor

Be sure to check out the over 200 Art prints for sale by C-Note. 

American Philanthropist Agnes Gund becomes Prison Art’s $100,000,000 Patron in 2017 | darealprisonart

American Prisoner Ross Ulbricht’s debut NFT, “Perspective,” Graphite on Paper sold for $6.2M at Auction to Kick Off Art Basel in Miami for 2021 | Coin Telegraph

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