Everyone’s favorite mouse has taken yet another form. The Miami-based gallery, Artwork Partners, is offering a new collection that turns classic characters like Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck, and scenes from films such as The Lion King and Mulan into stone. The line features mosaics made of colorful inlaid stones that will cost $650 to $6,580, depending on the size of the artwork. Sanders Art Studio, a provider of exclusive animation art, serves as the line’s distributor.
Disney approached Artwork Partners after seeing the company’s work at an event in Miami Beach’s Avant Gallery in December 2010. Five months later, the mosaics became a reality.
“Disney is such an amazing company and it’s been incredible to work with them,” Artwork Partners managing member Rafael Lorenzo said. “When I went to California to sign the contracts, I saw their art teams and they are incredible. They’re very detail-oriented, which is great in this line of work.”
Animation art made its debut in galleries in the mid-1970s when Vince Jefferds, the vice president of publications for Disney, had the idea to sell the original animation cels — transparent sheets that were used for drawing and painting for traditional hand-drawn animation art. The idea appealed to art dealer and entrepreneur Jack Solomon, who agreed to sell the cels through Circle Fine Art Corp., a national network of galleries that he operated until 1993.
At that time, Disney offered the majority of the cels from Robin Hood, which were the originals used in the making of the film. Although Disney kept a small portion of them in the studio archives, most of the cels were used for this new venture.
Merrie Lasky, global sales manager for Sanders Art Studio’s DreamWorks Animation Fine Art, says the project was quickly successful
“Creating limited editions of classic scenes from the Disney library of films came shortly after, when we saw the market for cels from the classic films,” said Lasky, who has been in the animation art industry for more than 30 years. “Those cels were either nonexistent or kept by Disney, so we recreated them in limited editions.”
However, the animation art aspect of this new line isn’t what makes it novel. The mosaics are made through an Italian inlay technique, pietra dura. Artisans hand cut stones, such as granite, onyx, limestone and marble, and fit them together. The pieces are placed so precisely that the spaces between them are indiscernible. The meticulous process can be used for artwork like tabletops and wall art.
“This technique is very unique,” said Filipe Millan, head designer at Artwork Partners. “It’s not something you can buy anywhere and it really blows your mind because it is so different.”
Pietra dura, which originated in Rome in the 16th century, has recently experienced a revival after a decline in popularity in the 1900s. The inlay technique has long been incorporated into several works, notably the Taj Mahal.
But today’s technology has modified the original process. Millan, along with the other craft makers at Artwork Partners, uses a water jet machine to cut the stones. The scenes and characters depicted in the works are taken from Disney’s original images. The stone workers must keep in mind how the image will translate into the medium. The stones that make up the piece are selected based on the colors as well as the characters of the stone.
“We want to stay as true to the image as possible,” Lorenzo said. “It’s amazing to see what can happen when you join an ancient artwork and modern technology.”
Reyne Haines, who has worked with pietra dura for more than 20 years, says the mosaic line is a smart move for Disney collectibles.
“With watercolors and painting, you have the ability to manipulate your coloring,” Haines said. “But with stones, you don’t have that manipulation. You have to be very precise; there is no room for error. I think the complexity of the pieces is what makes it so appealing.”
Especially for hard-core fans, Lasky says. “For the baby-boomer generation, Disney collectibles are an investment in their childhood because they grew up with these stories and messages. It also appeals to the high-end collector, whether their interest is art or Disney, because of the price point.”
The pieces span from 8 by 8 inches to 36 by 26 inches. They also come in several forms, including wall art and tabletops.
“You’re given so many options to enjoy these artworks,” Lorenzo said. “There’s something for everyone.”