As a Londoner I often find myself disgusted by just how greedy New York can be on the art scene. Over the years they’ve laid claim to far, far too many creative giants for my liking: Edward Hopper, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, the list goes on. What’s more, they don’t seem to be stopping any time soon.
Bradley Theodore might have been born in Turks and Caicos but over the past decade he’s firmly taken a bite out of the Big Apple. Indeed, his rise has put plenty of NASA projects to shame. It’s not hard to see why either; when your work starts getting compared to the inimitable Jean-Michel Basquiat, you have to be doing something right.
In the case of Theodore, that something takes the form of some exceptionally vibrant, Dia de los Muertos-inspired pieces. It’s an instantly-recognisable aesthetic to anyone that’s had any experience of Mexican culture, particularly around the event itself.
Rather than the kind of skeletons we see around Halloween, the Mexican tradition is to celebrate and honour the dead in colourful, festive fashion. It leads to a kind of dichotomy in western eyes, the combining the morbid with bright, summer hues.
Granted not all of Theodore’s pieces use skulls and skeletons exactly, but they all have that strange fusion of the creepy and the colourful. His portrait of Prince for example uses those same colours to outline the late artists face, layering an almost ghostly visage on the otherwise faithful painting.
It’s a style that’s found a strong following in equally-vibrant fashion. According to the artist, “fashion allows people to become art,” and that’s certainly true of many of his subjects. Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld, Kate Moss and Cara Delevigne are just a handful of the fashion icons now in Theodore’s portfolio.
Theodore’s are the kind of works that do well enough in a gallery, but to really appreciate them you need to see them in their natural environment: the streets. Theodore doesn’t specialise in small-scale canvases but can be seen far more readily in the form of murals in Hong Kong, London, Oslo and Paris. It explains his rise when hundreds if not thousands of people walk past his work every day. It’s not exactly the kind of style you can miss.
Not that they lose anything exactly on the scaling down to canvas, it’s more the environment. Theodore is an artist who wants his work to be accessible, to be seen by and affect as many people as possible. That doesn’t stop his work being a particularly savvy investment at the moment, especially as Theodore’s still offering bespoke commissions.
We’re not about to advise purchasing art for financial investment… you can never really tell how the market will go and it’s always better to opt for something you can live with keeping forever. Even so, Bradley Theodore is one artist to pay close attention to.