LTD Gallery celebrates one year of making ‘low-brow’ pop pay on Capitol Hill

James Monosmith and companion (Image: CHS)

LTD Art Gallery is celebrating its one year anniversary on the Hill with a show featuring over 50 artists. We’ve posted the details of the art walk-connected party here. CHS checked in with LTD to find out what we could learn about the business of art on the Hill from the new gallery’s first year at 307 E Pike. 

“I’m not from Seattle,” said LTD’s James Monosmith. “I moved here to open this gallery. This was my first business, my first business in Seattle, and my first business on Capitol Hill.”

His background is in art publishing. Having spent ten years creating limited edition prints and originals, working for Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Disney, Microsoft — and then selling artwork to galleries around the world, he was ready to do his own thing.

It wasn’t until he started going to places like Gallery 1988 in LA, and saw their success with selling pop culture-inspired art firsthand that he chose to open a gallery of his own. “I chose Seattle because it’s a really geeky city, but there wasn’t a lot going on with low-brow pop culture artwork,” said Monosmith. He also saw that there was already support in seattle for a version of his aesthetic, as indicated by the success of galleries like Roq la Rue with their pop surrealism and perennial celebrations of the lowbrow like the Official Bad Art Museum of Art. 

“I saw that all of these Seattle artists kept selling their work at Gallery 1988, and I thought I could pull it all together up there,” he said. Going back further, the gallery was inspired by the now defunct market of selling animation cels. When animation went all digital, studios supplemented that market with limited edition prints. Movements beget movements. 

One Lesson of the past year has been about growing the local base of artists. “I try to use Seattle-based artists as much as I can, but at the same time I think it’s important to bring in artists from around the country and world who are doing the same thing as here as well.” The best ratio has worked out to be roughly 60/40 local vs imports. Another lesson has been that group shows mitigate the damage that would otherwise be unavoidable with a poorly received solo show. With group shows there’s more variety, and likelihood for sales. 

As Monosmith sees it, part of the success for LTD comes from the one-two punches of Seattle’s innate geekiness, and the current trend of geekiness being cool. He points to the success and growth of Gamma Ray Games, the expansion and the new tables surrounded by gamers at Raygun Lounge, as well as the imminent pinball joint John John’s Gameroom, and he sees the western slope of the Hill as showing lots of geek love. 

Another way that LTD has made its mark has been by working with PAX, and Emerald City Comicon. Mint Condition, a comic book-themed art show sponsored by ECC, was one of the most successful shows of the past year. “It was a hugely successful show for us. We’re doing it again next year.” This next show will be called Mint Condition Issue Two. Knowing your audience seems to have worked out for LTD. The most successful show was Press Start, a video game-themed show during PAX. 

The largest stumbling block is being overlooked by local media. The business has a strong online presence, and they show the work of many nationally known artists. This has led to write-ups in Wired, Gawker, Boing Boing, etc., but not much local attention. Hopefully we just helped to fix that situation.

Going forward, the James and Melissa Monosmith intend to play to past successes with ECC and PAX tie-ins and continue to serve the Hill, Seattle, and the online world their lowbrow pop culture art. After a year their doors are still open. They intend to keep them that way.

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