World of Art Showcase Welcomes Morpheus Gallery in Las Vegas, Now thru 12/22

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The World of Art Showcase (www.worldofartshowcase.com) invites the Morpheus Gallery (www.morpheusgallery.com), a renowned online venue dedicated to art books and works from prominent surreal and fantastique artists, to exhibit at its inaugural event at the Wynn Las Vegas today, December 20-22, 2012.

Created and directed by James Cowan, the Gallery (the primary aspect of Morpheus Fine Art) opened a brick and mortar location in Beverly Hills, Calif. from 1995-2002 but has run exclusively as an online outlet and fine art book publisher since then. Starting with its first artist H.R. Giger (also a participant at the World of Art Showcase), the Morpheus Gallery currently features some of the world's top imaginative painters in the surreal/fantastic genres-including Zdzislaw Beksinski, Jacek Yerka, De Es Schwertberger, Wayne D. Barlowe, Judson Huss, Gerard Di-Maccio, Viktor Safonkin, Dariusz Zawadzki and Piotr Naliwajko. Additionally, Morpheus publishes and represents Jota Leal, the master transformative portraitist who will be exhibiting, as well.

"We originally contacted James because we were excited about the possibility of featuring the work of Giger at our first event," says World of Art Showcase Executive Director Mario Parga. "When we looked at more of the artists in the Morpheus Gallery, we realized that they were doing exciting things in the fantastic/surreal genre and thought it would be a wonderful idea to have the gallery exhibit so these artists' works would have the opportunity to connect with our patrons. James has a global clientele but is based here in Vegas, which makes this a perfect match."

Cowan uses the term "painterly" when he describes the high quality classical painting approach taken by all of the artists whose work he represents. He has a simple response to the question of why the Morpheus Gallery exclusively features artists in this niche genre: "That's the style I personally like, and this genre of art has not been given enough contemporary attention despite the fact that historically, great artists like (15th Century Dutch painter) Hieronymous Bosch, (Spanish Romantic painter) Francisco Goya and Salvador Dalí have delved into it."

In addition to selling high end painting from its featured artists, the Morpheus Gallery publishes limited edition prints and lithographs. Since publishing its first high quality large format book showcasing the work of Giger, the gallery has published 15 widely distributed books dedicated to its artists. Three years ago, Cowan launched Morpheus Fine Watches (www.morpheuswatches.com), an offshoot company creating and selling high end watches, some (but not all) of which are based on the work of some of the Morpheus artists. Among its current offerings are the Culinary Watch for chefs, the Passagen Watch (a series inspired by Giger's industrial paintings) and The Cinema Watch for lovers of the art of cinema. The later watches are fully custom and Swiss made.

"Oscar Wilde once said, 'if you cannot be a work of art, you must wear one,'" Cowan says.

A little history of fantastic art which has driven the success of the Morpheus Gallery: its parameters have been rigorously defined in the scholarship on the subject ever since the 19th century Fantastic art explores fantasy, the imagination, the dream state, the grotesque, and visions of pure whimsy. Most great artists have contributed to the genre, if not specifically focused on it.

Surreal visual art grew out of a cultural movement that developed out of the Dada avant-garde movement during World War I and the most important center of the movement was in Paris. From the 1920s on, the movement spread around the world, affecting the visual arts, literature, film and music, as well as political thought and practice, philosophy and social theory. Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur. Sigmund Freud's work with free association, dream analysis and the unconscious was of utmost importance to the Surrealists in developing methods to liberate imagination. They embraced idiosyncrasy while rejecting the idea of underlying madness. Dalí once explained it as: "There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad." Art of the fantastic has some resonance with the surreal, but is not specifically that in most cases.

Cowan attended USC film school and brought a background in film and as a writer into the creation of the Morpheus Gallery, which was and is driven by his lifelong passion for fine art of the imagination. After years of running a physical gallery location, he found it made more sense to move the collection online where it would be accessible to collectors from all over the world. "People who were coming in were not buying anything," he says, "and then I would get a phone call and make a five figure sale. I realized I didn't need to sit here. We actually started publishing the books first, and when people started calling about the art, we started selling it directly.

Most of the artists that Morpheus works with are Europeans who have a certain classical aesthetic that appeals to Cowan and his ever-growing clientele. "All have a tremendous skill at painting that is very detail oriented and takes a long time to finish," he says. "These are not abstract or simple paintings to be used for décor or interior decoration, which is a lot of what often passes for 'fine art' these days. Our artists' works can take weeks to do, and many of today's artists don't have that kind of patience. But great art doesn't limit itself to a schedule."

"It's my great joy to disseminate the works of artists in these genres," he says. "Someone had to pick up the sword for these wonderful artists who were not getting shown. The gallery was something of a quixotic effort on my part to promote their art. The beauty of publishing books is that it's a democratic process. I can show people the works through that medium so they don't have to venture out or travel to a literal gallery."

That concept becomes concrete when Cowan discusses Morpheus' range of clientele, which include those who exclusively buy books and prints and those in a different market who want to buy original paintings like the ones that will be offered at World of Art Showcase. In addition to clients in the U.S., the gallery has customers throughout Europe (Germany, Switzerland, Holland, etc.) and Japan.

"The people who buy our art are fairly well educated in this genre and know what they like," he says. "These are not impulse purchases, and generally our clients have been studying or thinking about acquiring art for a while before committing. It's not hard to sell - in fact, our main challenge is working out prices for people. Our clients range from DJs to heads of corporations. I think one of the reasons Europeans are such a large part of our clientele is that they are often more in tune with centuries of art history on their continent. Knowing the history of a genre makes the purchase more informed and exciting.

Cowan adds, "At heart, we just want to disseminate as many wonderful surreal and fantastic artists as we can find. I think the key to our success at Morpheus has been an ability to discern real talent and then share that with people who are likeminded and can appreciate it. This is why we're excited to be part of the first World of Art Showcase. It's always a special treat to meet patrons face to face and discuss works as we look at them. A few of our artists were already famous when we took them on, but we love to champion newcomers and help them build their careers. Ultimately, this is our passion and it's what we do-and what we love."

Pictured: "Abyss" by Dariusz Zawadzki

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