George Condo

George Condo (b. 1957) has carved a remarkable career spanning over four decades, solidifying his status as one of America's most influential contemporary artists. Renowned for his profoundly unique and instantly recognizable body of work, Condo's art is populated by vividly stylized, almost caricature-like characters. These figures draw inspiration from art history's Old Master paintings while infusing elements of popular American culture, including references to icons like Playboy magazine, comics, and cartoons.

Condo's artistic journey began at the University of Massachusetts, where he pursued studies in art history and music theory. His fascination with Baroque and Rococo painting flourished during this time. Following his graduation, he relocated to Boston in 1978, where he immersed himself in the world of art by working in a silk screen shop and contributing as a bassist to the proto-synth/punk band known as The Girls.

In 1979, fate brought Condo face to face with Jean-Michel Basquiat when Basquiat's band, Gray, opened for The Girls at a downtown nightclub. This encounter sparked a lasting friendship and prompted Condo to heed Basquiat's advice to move to New York City to pursue his artistic ambitions. In the bustling artistic scene of New York, Condo further cemented his connections by forming a close friendship with Keith Haring. In 1980, he found himself working at Andy Warhol's Factory, applying diamond dust to Warhol's "Myths" series. However, the intensity of the work led him to depart after nine months, even though Warhol would later acquire Condo's artworks without realizing he had once employed the artist.

During the early 1980s, Condo coined the term "Artificial Realism" to describe his approach to art creation. This approach involved deconstructing one reality and assembling another from the same components. Inspired by Picasso, Condo referred to his style as "Psychological Cubism," emphasizing his exploration of a subject's various psychological states, akin to Picasso's depiction of a violin from multiple perspectives simultaneously.

In the context of early 1980s New York, Condo's "fake old masters" exuded a provocative sense of anachronism. While many artists were appropriating specific imagery from historical sources, Condo was distinctively adapting styles, techniques, and methods from earlier painters and applying them to his unique subjects. From these early days, Condo earned recognition as the 'missing link' bridging the figurative tradition initiated by artists like Rembrandt, Bacon, and Picasso to contemporaries such as Glenn Brown, Dana Schutz, and John Currin.

In 1983, Condo made a move to Los Angeles, where he held his first solo exhibition, "Paintings and Works on Paper," at the Ulrike Kantor gallery. This exhibition featured his "fake old masters," and it marked a milestone as he sold his inaugural painting, "The Adoration of a Sacred Cow" (1982), to a private collector. In 1984, he relocated to Germany, debuting his first European solo exhibition at the Monika Sprüth gallery in Cologne, initiating a long-standing collaboration with the gallery. During this period, he also forged a partnership with American dealer Barbara Gladstone, who played a pivotal role in organizing simultaneous exhibitions, including his first solo showcases in New York at the Pat Hearn and Barbara Gladstone galleries, coinciding with the brief East Village gallery boom.

Condo achieved his first solo museum exhibition, "Gemälde/Paintings 1984-1987," at the Kunstverein Munich in March 1987. The following month, he participated in the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. This was the beginning of Condo's illustrious museum career, with subsequent appearances in significant international exhibitions, including the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), the 10th Gwangju Biennale (2014), and, most recently, the 58th Venice Biennale as part of the exhibition "May You Live in Interesting Times" (2019).