The Flower Guy’s Fashion Takeover Makes the New York Gallery Scene

Arttwork: Left: Untitled (Julia Fox by Greg Manis for Playboy, November, 2015), 2016. Acrylic on Magazine Page. 10.75 x 8 inches. Right: Untitled (Julia Fox by Greg Manis for Playboy, November, 2015), 2016. Acrylic on Magazine Page, 10.75 x 8 inches.

In 2013, Michael De Feo received a key to the city, one that is the thing that street art dreams art made of; the key gave him access to the advertising space in bus shelters across New York City. With this key, he selected specific ads, which he then removed without permission, remade, and reinstalled, deftly and deviously creating a fresh new work of public art.

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De Feo has long been a figure on the street art scene. Best known as The Flower Guy, he has left his mark on streets worldwide for nearly a quarter of a century. From Los Angeles, Miami, and Cabo San Lucas to Venice, Buenos Aires, and Hong Kong, De Feo has brought his signature style around the globe with panache and élan. So much so that his illegal bus shelter works were widely embraced by the fashion brands that he so gloriously defaced.

Left: Untitled (Rihanna by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for Vogue, April, 2016), 2016. Acrylic on Magazine Page, 10.75 x 8 inches. Right: Untitled (Kristy Garett by Sasha Eisenman for Playboy - last nude playmate/last nude issue, January/February, 2016), 2016. Acrylic on Magazine Page, 10.75 x 8 inches.

Left: Untitled (Rihanna by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for Vogue, April, 2016), 2016. Acrylic on Magazine Page, 10.75 x 8 inches.

Right: Untitled (Kristy Garett by Sasha Eisenman for Playboy – last nude playmate/last nude issue, January/February, 2016), 2016. Acrylic on Magazine Page, 10.75 x 8 inches.

Because, let’s face it—this is the candy-colored wonderland that makes fashion fiends stop and stare, then shop and wear, because De Feo’s flora is addictive to the extend the brands themselves want in. Since his bush shelter takeover, De Feo is defining a twenty-first century vision of King of the Line. Granted, it’s not trains, but it travels just as fast, with 2016 collaborations with Christian Louboutin and Neiman Marcus. Nah mean?

Indeed, De Feo’s work goes beyond the purview of street art and fashion collabs, as it is just as beautifully suited to the white walls of a gallery—or the walls of collectors, whatever the case may be. Danziger Gallery, New York, presents a selection of these works in Michael De Feo, now through August 12, 2016.

Left: Untitled (Kristen Stewart by Mario Testino for Chanel), 2016. Acrylic on Magazine Page, 10.875 x 8 inches Right: Untitled (Kristy Garrett by Sasha Eisenman for Playboy - last nude playmate/last nude issue, January/February, 2016), 2016. Acrylic on Magazine Page, 10.75 x 8 inches.

Left: Untitled (Kristen Stewart by Mario Testino for Chanel), 2016. Acrylic on Magazine Page, 10.875 x 8 inches

Right: Untitled (Kristy Garrett by Sasha Eisenman for Playboy – last nude playmate/last nude issue, January/February, 2016), 2016. Acrylic on Magazine Page, 10.75 x 8 inches.

The exhibition features 34 pieces ranging in size from small magazine pages to six foot tall bus shelter ads, featuring subjects including Muhammad Ali, Naomi Campbell, Rihanna, Beyonce, Kate Moss, Karlie Kloss, Jourdan Dunn, Scarlet Johanson, and FKA Twigs on photographs by luminaries including Patrick Demarchelier, Craig McDean, Mario Sorrenti, Mert & Marcus, and Bruce Weber, among others.

In an age where appropriation is disappointingly de rigeur, De Feo’s work offers a happy spin on complicity, one that does not punch down or up, but rather embraces the standards of beauty, and then adds to them. There is little left of the original, so much as they have been consumed by the fabulous flowers that inhabit De Feo’s world, much like the way Nature is quick to overrun human civilization. Yet they are there, present in the work, letting it be known that once upon a time, the work had existed in its own right without De Feo’s interventions. And that’s when you realize how much you appreciate his intention to breathe new life into commercial art.

Left: Untitled (Naomi Campbell by Zee Nunes for cover of Brasil Vogue, May, 2016), 2016. Acrylic on Magazine Page, 10.75 x 8 inches. Right: Untitled (Lili Summer by Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent), 2016. Acrylic on Magazine Page, 13.75 x 9.75 inches.

Left: Untitled (Naomi Campbell by Zee Nunes for cover of Brasil Vogue, May, 2016), 2016. Acrylic on Magazine Page, 10.75 x 8 inches.

Right: Untitled (Lili Summer by Hedi Slimane for Saint Laurent), 2016. Acrylic on Magazine Page, 13.75 x 9.75 inches.

All artwork: Courtesy of Danziger Gallery, New York.

Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.