Article by Dr Ruth Polleit Riechert, Art Expert at kultart.com
After having introduced the basics about pop and street art as an art movement that is very hot right now and perfectly reflects the dynamics of postmodernity in my previous article, allow me to present to you our selection for the first Kult Art collection. They are top stars of the pop and street art scene such as Banksy, KAWS, SWOON, Takashi Murakami, Dabsmyla, Damien Hirst and Moses & Taps.
The most famous contemporary street artist is Banksy (b. 1974) from Bristol, England. Very little is known about the artist himself. He refuses to be interviewed and keeps his identity carefully under wraps. That leaves art lovers pining for more, and inspires beginning and advanced artists, causing the “Banksy Effect” and making the artist a cultural icon.
Active since the 1990s, Banksy works as a street artist, political activist, and film director. His often-satirical street art combines dark humour with graffiti using stencils on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world. His trips abroad include Australia, England, the United States, Israel, Jamaica, and even Canada.
Since 2005, his silkscreen prints, and stencil paintings have been sold at auctions where they fetched record prices. Banksy’s latest piece has been recently discovered at a hotel in Bethlehem — his interpretation of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus: “The Scar of Bethlehem”. Instead of a star shining over the manger, there is a large bullet hole piercing into a grey wall.
Los Angeles-based artist Revok (born Jason Williams in 1977) first became interested in art through his father’s collection of 60s and 70s album covers and comic books.
In the 1990s, the self-taught artist started to spray graffiti in Los Angeles, where he became one of the most prominent graffiti artists. As he got arrested several times, he moved to Detroit. There, he started a series made from collectables to explore themes connected with the human experience. Since his return to Los Angeles, he has started working in his studio, refining the techniques he mastered as a street artist.
A wider audience became aware of street art by Revok through a lawsuit against fashion retailer H&M which used his art in public places for an advertisement series.
KAWS is a New York-based American graffiti artist and designer known for his toys, paintings, and prints. Born as Brian Donnelly in 1974, he studied illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Later, he worked as an illustrator for Disney for films such as 101 Dalmatians, and cult shows Daria and Doug.
Donnelly became known for marking buildings in New Jersey and Manhattan with KAWS because he liked the way the letters looked together. He then developed cartoon-like figures that he added to bus-shelter advertisements.
In 1999 KAWS created his first toy, ‘COMPANION’ as a limited edition together with the Japanese brand Bounty Hunter which reflected KAWS’s desire to make his work more accessible to the public. Meanwhile, KAWS’ sculptures often sell out in just seconds. For example, collector demand was so high at the Museum of Art design store, that the museum’s website crashed. KAWS has not only launched his own fashion label, Original Fake in the early 2000s but is also set up collaborations with Uniqlo, Nike, and Dior.
KAWS museum exhibitions include solo shows at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, High Museum of Art, Modern Art Museum, and the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum. His work has been seen in Paris, London, Berlin, and Tokyo.
One of the first women in street art is SWOON, born Caledonia Curry in 1977, in London. She moved to New York and graduated with a BA in Fine Arts from Pratt Institute in 2002. Already around 1999 she became renowned for her street art and large-scale installations.
In her mixed media works, she explores humanity through portraiture, printmaking, and immersive installation. Her signature works are life-size wheatpaste prints and paper cutouts of human figures.
Swoon’s 2014 Brooklyn Museum exhibition, Submerged Motherlands, was the Museum’s first solo show devoted to a living street artist. Her works are part of the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern, LA MOCA, Mass MoCA, the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Takashi Murakami is a Japanese artist who virtuously ignores any boundary between fine and commercial art. Born in 1962 in Tokyo, Murakami earned a BA, MFA, and PhD from Tokyo University of the Arts, where he studied traditional Japanese painting. In 1996, he founded the Hiropon Factory, an art production and artist management company, now better known as Kaikai Kiki Co. Ltd, based in New York and Munich.
Murakami became famous in the 1990s for his “Superflat” theory based on an exhibition of the same title, which linked the origins of contemporary Japanese visual culture to historical Japanese art. His works include paintings, sculptures, drawings, animations. With his popular collaboration with the fashion label Louis Vuitton, Murakami has established himself as an innovator of promoting art as a brand.
His works have been at numerous museums’ exhibitions around the world, such as the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and the Versailles Palace.
(Dabs and Myla) are a husband-and-wife team of artists from Melbourne, Australia. They met while studying illustrations at art school. In 1995 Dabs started painting graffiti, unlike Myla who has been painting with a brush most of her career. As they liked their collaborative work better than their individual work, they started working together.
They moved to Los Angeles in 2009 and have shared their work in large, public formats from the walls of Rio de Janeiro, London, Detroit, Norway and Tahiti to downtown LA.
In 2014, they created a large-scale installation for the first-ever Hello Kitty Con at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. In 2015, DabsMyla transformed a 4,000-foot Spanish revival-style building in Los Angeles into the immersive installation “Before and Further” in collaboration with Modernica, the American Modernism furniture brand.
London-based artist Damien Hirst was born in 1965 in Bristol and grew up in Leeds. He graduated with a BA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths in 1989. He was awarded the Turner Prize in 1995.
Since the late 1980s, Hirst has used a varied practice of installation, sculpture, painting and drawing to explore the complex relationship between art, life, and death. At Goldsmiths, Hirst began to work on some of his most important series, the “Medicine Cabinets”. In 1988 he curated “Freeze,” an exhibition that showed his work and that of his friends and fellow students at Goldsmiths College who became later known as the “Young British Artists”. For this exhibition, he started his series of later becoming famous spot paintings. Other groundbreaking works of Hirst include “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” (1991), a shark in formaldehyde; “Mother and Child Divided” (1993) a four-part sculpture of a bisected cow and calf; and “For the Love of God” (2007), a human skull studded with 8,601 diamonds.
In 2008, he was the first artist to sell 244 new works directly from his studio without any gallery involved at Sotheby’s auction house in London, with the aim to democratise the art market. Since 1987, over 80 solo Damien Hirst exhibitions have taken place worldwide.
MOSES & TAPS
The artistic careers of MOSES & TAPS™ began independently of each other in 1994. Similar graffiti concepts brought the two sprayers together in 2007, and they formed the artist collective TOP SPRAYER™.
The duo is famous for their graffities on trains and walls all over the world. To keep their anonymity, the collective works under different names such as TOPSPRAYER™ or ERNI & BERT™. In fact, it is unclear how many artists collaborate under these names.
In their first project, they sprayed 1000 trains all over the world in 1000 days, using each other’s names. This led to a change in law practice in favour of graffiti artists and to their first book INTERNATIONAL TOPSPRAYER™.
As a whole, all these pop and graffiti artists have done a lot — each in their distinctive way — to blur the boundaries between art and commerce, making art more accessible to everyone, and democratising the art market.
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Text: Ruth Polleit Riechert
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RPR ART // Dr. Ruth Polleit Riechert // Email: firstname.lastname@example.org // Phone: +49 (0)6174-955694