Like a Boss: Faust’s Work Diary: ‘I’ve Just Arrived and I’m Already Behind Schedule’

anastasios pallis

A lot of people associate graffiti with covert spray-painting in the dead of night. But in the years since teenagers began tagging subway cars and train yards in the Bronx in the 1970s, a professional marketplace has exploded. Street artists have produced some of the most recognizable — and monetizable — images in the world, like President Barack Obama’s 2008 “Hope” campaign poster. Museums, galleries and documentaries have all helped to broaden graffiti artists’ platform. Now, billion-dollar brands are eager to pay big money for iconic work.

That’s created career opportunities for artists like Faust, 34, who has practiced his form of stylized calligraphy in New York City for decades, and now has an Instagram following of nearly 60,000. “Faust” is a pseudonym born of necessity, since he got his start largely by painting other people’s property without permission, but it’s stuck even as his work has gained commercial success. (He also refuses to show his face in photographs.)

Today, Faust earns a living creating art for companies like Tiffany’s, Nike and Apple. Several of his murals are currently on display on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where Faust spent much of his time as a child. Recently, he flew to Moscow to participate in the Biennale Artmossphere, a Russian exposition of street artists from around the world.


6 a.m. Land in Moscow. In the 1980s and ’90s the goal of a New York graffiti artist was to go “all city,” making your name known throughout the five boroughs. Today, for a handful of us, the world is our canvas. This is my second time visiting Moscow in as many years. With the current investigation into Russian collusion during the 2016 election, it feels like a rebellious act just to be here.

7:30 a.m. Check into the Azimut Hotel Smolenskaya. I spend the morning tracing my previous visit, observing changes to the city (largely because of hosting the World Cup), and keeping an eye out for name-badge stickers I had put up along Old Arbat Street. I only spot one. It’s rare for graffiti on the streets of Moscow to last longer than 24 hours.

12 p.m. The purpose of my visit is to take part in the Artmossphere Biennale, which features approximately 40 international artists that come from graffiti and street art backgrounds. In addition to being a great venue to share your work, it’s also an ideal opportunity to meet other artists and curators working in the same vein around the world. I join a couple familiar faces for lunch, including Martha Cooper, the legendary photographer and co-author of the book “Subway Art,” which is regarded as “the graffiti bible.”

4 p.m. The wall I’m here to paint hasn’t been primed yet. It’s 80 degrees and sunny and I’m not going to let the day go to waste. I join the co-founder/director of Artmossphere at Gorky Park, the Central Park of Moscow, where the organization had temporary walls set up for local artists to paint, as well as turntables and a platform for a break-dance competition. From the perception of Moscow in the media, I would have never expected this — hip-hop, youth culture and freedom of expression.

7:30 p.m. Jet lag catches up. After dinner I call it an early night.

11:30 a.m. I make my way to the Winzavod Contemporary Arts Center, the venue for this year’s Artmossphere. It’s in a former industrial area that reminds me of Urban Spree in Berlin — a bohemian cultural hub in the center of the city. My wall is in the main plaza for all to see. It’s still yet to be primed and ready to paint. I express my concern to the organizers. I’ve just arrived and I’m already behind schedule.

3 p.m. Unable to begin my mural, I instead join two of the curators of Artmossphere on a day of museum-going.

11 p.m. My wall is finally prepped. My concept was solidified in New York, and the blueprint of my design was created to fit the wall exactly. I work until 1 a.m. getting the outline of the letters in place before calling it a night.

11 a.m. Walk to Red Square, passing by the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral. Then to the new Zaryadye Park, designed by a New York-based architecture firm. It’s a totally different design aesthetic than the rest of Moscow.

1:30 p.m. Meet with local graffiti artist Cozek, who I consider to have the best style in Moscow. His crew, ADED (All Day Every Day), has been tapped for a collaboration with the fashion label Off-White that’s scheduled to release next week at KM20, a fashion-forward shop in town. We discuss how artists can leverage working with designer brands to benefit their careers. Cozek also has a collaboration with a furniture company debuting next week at the Cosmoscow art fair, and he was hired as the curator for Social Club, a new restaurant and private club opening next week in Patriarch Ponds. He wants to commission me to paint a mural at the restaurant while I’m in town.

2:30 p.m. Cozek gives me a tour of the space. The venue is beautifully designed and he invites me to choose any wall I want. All of the walls are exposed concrete, and if you paint it, there’s no going back. I seem more concerned about that than he does. I’m drawn to a horizontal wall that would be perfect for my work, but also recognize I have an 80-foot mural to paint and have my return flight scheduled for the end of the week. It would be great real estate, as this place will cater to Moscow society, but I’m reluctant to bite off more than I can chew with my limited time in town.

4 p.m. Cozek and I walk to Belief Moscow, one of the coolest shops in the city. I painted a mural in the entryway last year, and I’m happy to see that it’s still there. The co-owner, Sergey Kub, lights up when he sees me, as the visit was completely unexpected. He’s also preserved another 20-foot mural of mine behind a false wall. It reads “Resistance is Patriotic.” I show him that it’s one of the designs selected by Rei Kawakubo for my upcoming collaboration with Commes des Garçons, coming out in January.

6 p.m. I’d planned on putting in a full night of work on the mural, but receive an email that there’s a big group dinner for all of the artists and curators. Afterward, when everyone else goes back to the hotel to sleep or keep drinking, I go to Winzavod to work.

2 a.m. Back at the hotel.

12 p.m. Return to Winzavod to work on the mural. Many of today’s well-known street artists travel with an assistant, if not a team, to help bring their vision to life. Some artists are hands-on, while others don’t even touch the wall themselves. You can call me a perfectionist, or perhaps a masochist, but I typically travel alone, and create my works solely with my own two hands from start to finish. Which, admittedly, is not always most efficient.

I begin filling the letterforms with two to three coats of white, until they are solid. This part of the process is labor- and time-intensive. With help from a volunteer, the work goes twice as quickly. The language barrier keeps our conversation at a minimum.

12 a.m. Sleep.

10 a.m. After breakfast, head to Winzavod intent on finishing my mural. After all of the letters are filled in, I repaint the background with a fresh coat of black, cleaning up all of the over-spray and dust that accumulated on the wall over the past few days. Once that’s done, it takes hours to refine the edges of the letters, pushing and pulling lines a quarter of an inch — making straight lines straighter and freehanding curves that could easily be mistaken for computer vectors.

7 p.m. I could always keep working on a mural, perpetually trying to make it perfect. However, as the sun sets, I pack up my paint, put away the ladder, and consider this piece finished.

11 p.m. Return to Winzavod to meet up with the art director of the Atrium, a mall in Moscow. We walked around the building twice looking at potential spots to paint. It seems like a great reason to stay another week, but I’m not sure what I would do.

9 a.m. The Deputy Minister of Culture arranged for the guests of Artmossphere to take a tour of Zaryadye Park. Reluctant to decline the invitation, everyone was eager to get back to the Winzavod as there’s still much to get done before the opening reception hours away.

2 p.m. Meet with Pavel about a mural for the Atrium. We discuss fabricating the work out of metal to have more presence. He also shows me the “townhouse” — a man cave in the mall where artists stay. I debate extending my stay for a week to work on Social Club and Atrium commissions.

10 a.m. Move my return flight to next Thursday to work on the two new commissions. Atrium has booked me a nice hotel suite close to their venue. Their driver picks me up in a Mercedes — a very different experience than the past week in Moscow.

1 p.m. I spend the afternoon catching up on emails, following up with the P.R. lead for Tiffany’s and signing an N.D.A. for Apple to hear about a potential project.

2:30 p.m. Google “best lunch in Moscow.” It’s my first time having to think about where I’m going to eat since I got here. I go for the least expensive option, Stolovaya 57, in the big mall next to Red Square — Soviet-style serve-yourself classic Russian food.

Interviews are conducted by email, text and phone, then condensed and edited.

This article is from NYT – go to source

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