The graffiti artist known as “Alec Monopoly” has found a safe haven for his work through a new deal with DreamWorks Classics and Forever 21.
The New York-born, Los Angeles-based muralist has created limited-edition women’s and men’s apparel and accessories for Forever 21 covered with his take on “Richie Rich,” “Casper the Friendly Ghost” and other icons. Fans will find him working away at Thursday night’s launch party in the mammoth Forever 21 Times Square store. As a warm-up of sorts, as soon as the artist landed in New York, he headed straight to Sant Ambroeus in SoHo to paint a plate for the restaurant’s wall and then beelined it to the Horatio Street Mobil Mart to tag a wall with “King Saladen.” “The owner gave us permission so we’re just chillin,’ taking our time.” Monopoly said.
On Saturday he was at it again, hosting a party at Surf Lodge, giving guests a glimpse of the Forever 21 x Alec Monopoly collection and painting a surfboard that was auctioned to benefit the yet-to-be-opened Montauk Surf Museum. The artist, who said he sold his first painting for $500 at the age of 12, said his artistic epiphany crystallized in 2008. While playing the board game Monopoly, he saw Bernie Madoff being arrested on the news and “something just clicked. I started tagging the Monopoly Man just as a joke but people recognized it and really liked it. [And his paintings that riffed Michael Douglas in “Wall Street” and Christian Bale in “American Psycho” soon followed.] he said. “Then a lot of bankers and Wall Street guys started collecting my work.”
Like the money-grabbing Monopoly man character he likes to replicate, the 28-year-old is known for wearing a top hat. “One day my Mom found one that my grandfather used to wear to the opera. I just started wearing it and it became a thing.” he said. His black Rolls Royce with gold-rim tires is another signature look, and the artist is known to do some “phantom surfing” in his Beverly Hills – as in have a driver ferry him around while he surfs on the roof of his car.
Designing a capsule clothing collection has been on his check list for a while, but he said he held out, not wanting to do just do one T-shirt. “I didn’t think that would do my work justice.” he said. Through the DreamWorks Classics and Forever 21 deal, there are hoodies, crewneck sweatshirts, T-shirts, canvas tote bags, nail art decor, note pads, a Richie Rich cellphone case and Casper the Friendly Ghost bandanas. In May, he went more upscale, by painting an Hermès Birkin bag neon green with the Monopoly Man for Khloe Kardashian.
Sculpture is another new medium for the artist who will have his first solo museum show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bangkok in October. Unlike Jeff Koons’ cartoonish pieces, Alec Monopoly’s sculptures are painted. “It’s a tough process to have them built. It takes months upon months.” he said. “I’m a graffiti artist so I like to work quickly.”
Undaunted by the fact that fellow street artist Shepard Fairey recently turned himself in for arrest in Detroit, Alec Monopoly said arrests come with the job description, but he tries to be respectful. “I don’t paint on small businesses or nice places. I try to find abandoned buildings and derelict things.” he said.
As for the irony of how his Bernie Madoff-inspired career has resulted in his own lavish life, the artist said, “I think about that every day. Being a graffiti artist has taken me all over the world and to all these amazing places.” he said. “For me, it’s all a joke. I don’t take myself too seriously. I’m just a happy person.”