Brazilian twin artists Octavio and Gustavo Pandalfo, internationally known as Os Gêmeos, came through Miami on Friday to promote booze and drop beats. The Magic City was the third stop on a six-city tour for the quirky duo, who are hawking a new limited edition bottle of Hennessy VS featuring their favela-inspired, children's story book graffiti stylings. Over the last two years, the liquor brand has embraced its status as the preferred spirit for the hip-hop cognoscenti by recruiting famous graffiti artists to create labels for Hennessy VS bottles.
In 2011, the cognac maker partnered with New Jersey native KAWS and last year hooked up with New York City legend Futura. The marketing campaign is the latest example of corporate America co-opting street art to bolster a brand's street cred. In exchange, the colloborating artists get to affix their artwork on a few hundred thousand bottles of cognac and free publicity from an all expenses paid tour promoting the colloboration. Some purists may call that selling out. And it probably is. But isn't that the end game in the art world any way?
Certainly, Os Gêmeos weren't sweating that question when they strolled into Catch restaurant inside the newly renovated Shorecrest Hotel looking like a pair of Wes Andersen characters vacationing on Collins Ave. Sporting fine-trimmed beards, eye-glasses, and tourist attire (i.e. floral print bicycle caps and short sleeve button down cabana shirts), Octavio and Gustavo met with a small gaggle of journalists for a seafood lunch and Hennessy cocktails.
At first, Cultist thought the twins' curt responses were due to the fact that no one at the table falas português, but it turns out they really don't like to talk much. In between moments of awkward silence, Octavio and Gustavo revealed their work is inspired by the slums of Sao Paulo, where they grew up, and the Eighties b-boy culture they were a part of. "We were influenced by Afrika Bambataa, Grandmaster Flash, and all the early hip-hop greats," Gustavo relays. "Normally we don't explain our art. We just give it to you guys and you decide."
Since the late Eighties, the identical twins have been working under the name Os Gêmeos, which means translates to "twin brothers" in Portuguese. Octavio and Gustavo say it also stands for "one world, one voice," among other associations they make. Originally, they emulated New York City-style graffitti, but over the years they developed their own signature. They've painted murals in Berlin, Lisbon, New York, Moscow, Athens, Krakow, and in their native Brazil featuring animated characters in bright, vibrant colors.
Octavio is also a pretty bad ass DJ. Later in the evening, during a VIP Hennessy party at Blackbird Ordinary, he threw down an ill set that combined Samba, dubstep, old school hip-hop, and Dancehall, repping b-boy culture to the fullest. He even paid props to the 305 by finishing his set with Maggatron's classic "The Bass That Ate Miami."
Miamians witness Os Gêmeos handiwork whenever they take a trip down to Wynwood Walls. They colloborated with two other Brazilian artists to create one of the murals on the facade of Wynwood Kitchen & Bar that depicts a group of people riding in the bed of a truck that's been converted into a seafaring vessel, a nod to Miami's Cuban refugee roots.
"We both come up with same ideas," Gustavo says. "We never disagree. Ever."
When asked why they never split up to do their own thing, Octavio replies emphatically: "No. We feel this is the best choice we make. We compliment [each other]."
A far as the story behind the label they made for Hennessy, well, you'll just have to figure it out on your own. "There's a very long story, but we can't tell you," Octavio says cryptically. "It's complicated."
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