We caught up with artist-cum-nightclub mogul André Saraiva to talk graffiti, Parisian nightlife, and social art projects. The graffiti artist, best known for trademark stick-figure with an x-ed out eye, has thrown a series of pop-up karaoke parties around the world, most recently at the Standard in the East Village. His next stop? Art Basel Miami Beach.
Tell me about the pop-up karaoke parties you hosted at the Standard.
It was a project with André (Balazs) called Chez André. We used the space under the Standard East on Bowery, and it was kind of fun to use the old building. There was graffiti and all these lights, although it’s not about the décor. It’s more about bringing people together. At the Shelborne in Miami I’m doing the same thing, karaoke for the art fair.
You’ve said that when you were starting out in graffiti, nightclubs became your second home. How do you see art merging with these spaces?
Yes (laughs). I always liked artists who did social art projects and relations between places where artists can meet and interact. A club could be a piece of art in the sense that I don’t do it for economic purposes. I do it more for the aesthetic of people I like, artists who come and stay and do events as performances or installations.
What was it like getting involved in New York nightlife after having lived in Paris for so long? How has club culture evolved?
I’m not a big expert in the history of nightlife—I wasn’t there for it in New York. It’s very related to the artists, to the creative place where the artists could be free, could do what they wanted.
How do you think graffiti culture has changed?
Now you can travel all over the world and find graffiti. When I started, people didn’t understand. It’s part of the visual reference today, and people understand better. They don’t necessarily like it better, but they know what it is and what it’s about. Graffiti is political in itself. You are painting in a public space, and it’s an illegal act.
Where do you see what you’re doing, combining art with nightlife, going in the next few years?
I take what’s happening day by day. I don’t separate projects. It’s about the pleasure of creating new things, new images. It’s the same global act, creating my ideas with different mediums.
Excerpt from André Saraiva’s The Shoe