Hong Kong is New York’s creative sibling, says street artist Bradley Theodore
Fashion-themed works in signature skeletal style have struck a chord with everyone from hip-hop crew the Wu-Tang Clan to the makers of Monopoly
“I consider Hong Kong New York’s sister city,” says Bradley Theodore.
The New York-based street artist might not ring many bells in Hong Kong, but in his native city the artist is carving an enviable reputation, his distinctive skeletal style, use of colour, composition and brush strokes making his work instantly recognisable.
Exploring fashion, graphic design and popular culture, it’s Theodore’s colourful skeleton works of fashion industry figures that have stirred interest among big brands impressed with his images of style mavens such as Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld, Coco Chanel, Tom Ford, Terry Richardson and models Cara Delevingne, Kate Moss, Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” says the 32-year-old. “I’ve been able to learn how to paint and to have exhibitions around the world.”
Moët, Jordan Brand, RMK and Kent & Curwen have all used Theodore for campaigns. He has also worked with hardcore hip-hop collective the Wu-Tang Clan, provided images for Sony and Universal Records and created logos for everything from cameras (Leica) to board games (Monopoly).
Theodore believes in creating art that is available to everyone and to that end he has conducted live painting sessions in New York, Los Angeles, Oslo, Paris and Tokyo. His pieces can be found on walls throughout New York, on the pages of international fashion magazines, and are heavily shared on social media platforms.
Last year, the local arm of Japanese department store Sogo collaborated with Theodore to present a series of three-dimensional head sculptures alongside 12 paintings created for a Hong Kong audience.
His work is often described as a fusion between Jean-Michel Basquiat and Banksy.
“My early influencers were classical painters, and then I became a big fan of French Impressionism. When I decided to quit my day job and paint full time I researched some of the first American abstract painters such as Willem de Kooning and Robert Rauschenberg.”
Theodore says fashion is a huge part of his life. “Fashion is weaved into my work, because in New York fashion is a part of life. When I was in college, I had fashion designer friends and always went to New York Fashion Week. It’s a part of my lifestyle in New York city.
And as for teaming up with brands. “Most influential artists in history understood the commercialisation of art. Michelangelo, Andy Warhol and Picasso all understood the relationship between art promotion and art sales, and in today’s world it’s called commercialisation.
“I’ve always found Hong Kong to be one the most amazing cities in the world. The people are some of the most educated and sophisticated on the planet. I was beyond honoured to have a chance to present my work in Hong Kong and equally excited about the response.
“New Yorkers consider Hong Kong their sister city ... so my concept was to bring New York to Hong Kong. And the response was amazing.”