Monsieur A by Andre Saraiva
Graffiti’s media influence has grown worldwide thanks to generational artists such as Futura 2000, Blek le Rat, Jean-Michael Basquiat, and Banksy. But what is it about graffiti that has drawn in the likings of the public, as far as even collaborating with designer fashion companies?
With the recent popularity of all things urban and street art related that have benefited a great number of contemporary urban artists who now combine street art with studio-based works, it is always good to remind ourselves of the originators of the street art and graffiti scene.
The world of street art and graffiti has changed dramatically since the days of Cornbread or Darryl McCray, the man who is often credited with being the first graffiti writer, tagging his name all over North Philadelphia in the late 1960s. Now, with the liberty of graffiti art as its being gentrified throughout the word, it gives the open space for artists to roam freely and give a different take on their work, one of those many artists being Sweden born Andre Saraiva.
Andre Saraiva was born 1971 in Uppsala, Sweden while his parents fled the Portuguese revolution and dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salaz, settling there temporarily. With a talent for drawing and ignorance of the French language after moving to Paris in the 1980s, Andre became drawn to the underground culture of graffiti artists.
At the age of 13, he started doing graffiti in his neighborhood. He viewed the non-verbal expression as a logical and natural progression for him. As he gained early street notoriety for bombing his name in lurid pink, so did his tagging letters on walls and empty club spaces. This was during the infancy of Parisian graffiti when most artists concentrated on tagging letters and names in order to gain the attention of comrades. Establishing his now world-known character, Mr. A, a dapper stick figure with a top hat, easily recognizable with his slender shape and rounded face.
By the end of 1995, Andre’s grinning, winking character had thoroughly infiltrated Paris’ urban canvas. During these years, he drew this character all over the world. By Andre’s own account, he tagged Monsieur A. an average of 10 times per day for more than 10 years. As his notoriety grew increasingly, he went on to sell some of his paintings in a shop in Paris in 1997 from which he was spotted by Japanese patrons that transcended him into the art scene of Tokyo. Coming into the early 2000s, Andre established his “Love Graffiti” series. These works featured expansively sprayed painted first names, often framed by rows of small hearts.
He quickly received requests and then commissions for these subjects. His relations and contacts allowed him to reach a more artistic, glamour world. In 2002, he opened the concept store “BlackBlock” in Paris at Palais de Tokyo, a creation around which he organized concerts, parades, and other performances, and whose profits were reinvested in new projects art.
Andre Saraiva’s Businesses
At the end of 2004, he became the owner of the “Baron” night club in Paris, later opening other clubs in New York, London, and Tokyo in 2012. As Andre’s nightlife empire expanded, so too did his commercial art. By 2009 he ran his own Paris boutique and then designed the label for the high-end Belvedere IX Vodka. He does not forget the artistic part of his life, organizing exhibitions, including at Colette’s in 2010, and “Andréopolis” in 2012. Commercial success has driven the character of Monsieur A. into the realm of toys, knickknacks and apparel.
So, as we see how much Andre the graffiti artist achieved street credibility built on sheer volume, we can see he also achieved entrepreneurial success with his flair for underground chic. Andre’s fingers and thumb tell the real story, showing the impact of holding a hard, metallic cylinder and depressing its nozzle hundreds of thousands of times. Graffiti’s history may go back decades ago but the path is opened for many artists just like Andre Saraiva, who’s to know what the future could bring.
Written by Karen Pasos.