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Meet The Artist: Alec Monopoly

Meet The Artist: Alec Monopoly

By anyone’s standards, graffiti artist Alec Monopoly is a winner. The NYC-born, LA-based painter has more than a few successes under his spray-can belt, including Art Basel exhibitions and a cult celebrity following that counts Robert DeNiro, Seth Rogan, the Kardashians and Miley Cyrus among its high-profile disciples. His depictions of famously wealthy pop-culture icons, from the Monopoly Man to Richie Rich, are cartoon comments upon capitalism, consumerism and the nature of success – and have proven a hit among their equally wealthy real-life counterparts. The artist’s triumph breaking into the art world has seen him assimilate the character of Mr Monopoly as his own. By his omission, he is the Monopoly Man. The clue’s in the name.

Although he chooses to avoid vandalism these days – preferring instead to paint on abandoned warehouses, canvas and the occasional helicopter – Monopoly keeps his identity concealed. The anonymity is a throwback to his days of illicit street art and tagging that contributes to the myth that has grown up around him. At the launch of the FLANNELS London flagship, Monopoly turned Oxford Street into art when he abseiled down the side of our building to create a very British version of his famous Monopoly Man whilst suspended 40 feet above the crowds below. Before the stunt, FLANNELS caught up with Monopoly in-store, where a pop-up exhibition of his work was on show in our 2nd Floor concept space.

We met the man behind the mask to talk hard cash, luxe fashion, and what it’s like to play the game.

Artist Alec Monopoly stood in the new FLANNELS London store wearing a black and white Gucci GG tracksuit, black Gucci logo T-shirt and white Gucci trainers
Artist Alec Monopoly stood in the new FLANNELS London store wearing a black and white Gucci GG tracksuit, black Gucci logo T-shirt and white Gucci trainers


What was your your first experience making art?

I was in my mom’s garage practicing with spray cans and playing around. It kind of grew from there. I started out writing my name, doing lettering and graffiti style. It was in 2008 that I started to combine my artwork with street art and graffiti. When it merged, that was when I became successful.

Tell us about the Monopoly concept that defines your work.

I started painting Mr Monopoly in around 2008. It was kind of ironic. In 2008 I was playing the game Monopoly and I was watching the news, just as the crash happened and Bernie Madoff was being arrested, and all of the banks were in trouble. So I was playing Monopoly, and I thought how ironic it was that this was all happening, and I thought I’d paint Bernie Madoff dressed as the Monopoly Man. It was one of my first Monopoly pieces. I went out that night and did some graffiti of Mr Monopoly, just for fun, and as a symbol of what was happening with the economy. Immediately it started gaining traction, people started noticing it, and it all just grew from there. Today, Mr Monopoly’s connotations are much more positive, and I feel like I’ve been absorbed myself by Mr Monopoly. I am Mr Monopoly.

Artist Alec Monopoly stood in front of one of his Richie Rich sculptures inside the FLANNELS London store wearing blue silk Gucci tracksuit bottoms, a GG GUcci track top and T-shirt and chunky white Gucci logo trainers
Artist Alec Monopoly stood in front of one of his Richie Rich sculptures inside the FLANNELS London store wearing blue silk Gucci tracksuit bottoms, a GG GUcci track top and T-shirt and chunky white Gucci logo trainers


How do you maintain the subversive nature of street art when working on legal walls and canvas?

I love painting in the street the most. There’s no way of duplicating the emotions of painting in the street, doing graffiti, looking out over your shoulder for police. It’s more of a rush, it’s fun. But for your work to be truly enjoyed and for it to last, you have to do canvas work. I think it’s important, because that’s how your legacy lives on. With graffiti, one day the building will be knocked down, or the painting painted over, but the canvas that I’ve created in my studio, that’ll live on forever in museums and galleries, people’s homes. It’s a way of preserving your work after you’re gone.

Tell us about the pieces you’re showing at FLANNELS London.

I couldn’t be happier with what’s here because I think it fits exactly with the vibe and the energy of the store. There are some of my Hermès bags, a crocodile Kelly and an orange Hermès Birkin that I painted. I think they’re the perfect fit for this store because there are some epic, unique pieces here. I’ve created them as pieces of art, they’re a sculptural work, although there are some crazy collectors that wear them. It’s cool. There are also some of my stock certificates that I paint with markers, like drawings. The canvas is one of my favourite pieces that I created recently. It’s a graduation from my other styles. Instead of a portrait of Mr Monopoly, it’s a scene. It gives you that Richie Rich, childish, comic book vibe, where it’s fun, with bright colours. There’s the Rich mansion, and they’re taking all of their cash from their house and depositing it in the bank, into this crazy armed safe. We have some sculptures of mine here too, including the large Richie Rich sculpture. They’re resin casted, with electro-chrome plating. It’s the same process you’d do to electro-chrome plate your cars, rims and bumpers, so it has that really shiny, untouchable feel.

Artist Alec Monopoly stood in front of shelves inside the FLANNELS London store stacked with his painted Hermes Birkins wearing black Off-White trackpants and an orange Off-White hooded sweatshirt
Artist Alec Monopoly stood in front of shelves inside the FLANNELS London store stacked with his painted Hermes Birkins wearing black Off-White trackpants and an orange Off-White hooded sweatshirt


What role does fashion play in your life?

It’s very important. I love fashion. I think art and fashion go hand in hand. They’re one and the same. You see a lot of art inspired by fashion, and a lot of fashion inspired by art. So I think it’s very important. Fashion, as an artist, it’s part of my creativity and another way I express myself.

How do you spend your time when you're in London?

When I’m in London, I spend my time kind of like I would at home. It’s like a second home to me. I have a lot of friends here, we go out, there are a lot of amazing restaurants, the shopping is amazing, you can find some of the coolest stuff, especially now that FLANNELS is open, it’s the new stop-off for some of the dopest stuff. I don’t know where else in London you could find a Flight Club and all of these unique pieces.

Artist Alec Monopoly stood in front of shelves inside the FLANNELS London store stacked with his painted Hermes Birkins wearing black Off-White trackpants and an orange Off-White hooded sweatshirt
Artist Alec Monopoly stood in front of shelves inside the FLANNELS London store stacked with his painted Hermes Birkins wearing black Off-White trackpants and an orange Off-White hooded sweatshirt


QUICKFIRE ROUND:

Favourite place on earth?

St. Barts

Your biggest indulgence?

Jewellery

Most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?

A speedboat that was £750,000

The artist you most respect?

Andy Warhol, because he paved the way for pop artists and street artists

Favourite place to eat in London?

Scalini for lunch, because they have those bomb shrimps. For dinner, Nobu.

Best advice anyone has ever given you?

Keep it simple, stupid. KISS. My teacher taught it to me in eighth grade, and it’s been my motto ever since. I don’t know why, but it’s worked out.

Photography: Matthew Brann, Styling: Gemma Baguley, Words: Florence Trott