Kenny Scharf on Tony Goldman: "Everyone Is Thinking About Him"

Here we thought we knew everything there was to know about painter Kenny Scharf, and then he surprises us. He may not be a Miami native, but Scharf lived in the city during the '90s, which during the time his pieces were exhibited at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, Bass Museum of Art, and Miami Art Museum, along with a smattering of gallery shows.

However, these day Scharf is still coming back to the Magic City, in large part thanks to Wynwood Walls, where he just completed his third mural for the late Tony Goldman's outdoor gallery.

See also:
- Wynwood Walls to Pay Tribute to Tony Goldman During Art Basel
- Shepard Fairey: New Tony Goldman Mural is About "Celebration and Inspiration"

But in addition to the a mural, Scharf also has a new partnership with cosmetics brand Kiehl's to promote. Like Jeff Koons and KAWS before him, Scharf helped Kiehl's design the packing for its fourth annual limited edition Creme de Corps Holiday Collection (available in stores or at kiehls.com), with all the proceeds benefiting RxArt.

We talked to Scharf last week on his last full day in Miami about his latest mural, his Kiehl's partnership, and the late Tony Goldman.

New Times: Are you in Miami right now?
Kenny Scharf: I'm in Miami. My shirt says "I'm in Miami, bitch."

Guess that's to remind you where you are.
Yeah. [Laughs]

Other than the stuff at Wynwood Walls, was there anything else you did?
Yes, I did the large mural in Wynwood, and I did this little wall by the pool at the Park Central Hotel on Ocean Drive, and I did something at somebody's house, and I have things at the fairs. That's it for me as far as I know.

How did you and Kiehl's come to work together?
Well, pretty simply, they asked me.

Was there an inspiration behind the design for Kiehl's or did you just stick to what you know?
We based all the design from this one painting. They did a good job and made it very easy for me. The graphics department took this one painting and applied it to different things. They sent me stuff and asked me how it looked and I said, "Great!" They made my job very easy.

So why should people buy the Kenny Scharf-branded products?
I'm not a really good salesman, but I think the product sell themselves. I hope the packaging makes it more enticing. Also all the money goes to charity. So that's a good combination of reasons to buy it.

Going back to Wynwood Walls, the biggest news this year was perhaps the passing of Tony Goldman. Did you think much about it?
Yes, of course. Tony was a huge, wonderful spirit. He really was part of this new process going on at Wynwood Walls. For the past couple of weeks, you know, everyone is thinking about him and what great guy he was and how much we miss him. I know I feel like I'm making the mural for him, and I know a lot of the other artists feel the same way.

Can you describe a little bit about what you did this time for the Walls?
There is a plan we've got going; we're making a garden. Tony, before the last few months of his life, he was talking to me about wanting to do a sculpture garden in the vacant lot next the last mural I did last spring. We were talking about doing a garden and sculptures there. It was something he wanted to do. I talked to the family after he passed and suggested why don't we do the garden he wanted to do. There is nothing better than a growing, living thing in the spirit and memory of someone that everyone loved. So I'm excited the mural I just did is flanking the one I did last year. And in the next few months there will be a fountain and trees -- it will be an oasis, we're not calling it a memorial garden. The mural I did is thinking about the garden that is going to be planted, so I kind of made a Floridian Everglades jungle.

Can't wait to see it completed.
Thank you. I'm really excited about it and very tired from doing it. It was a lot of work.

Speaking of Wynwood, you don't live here, but you come back pretty often. What do you think of the area's transformation?
Actually, I lived [in Miami]. I lived here for seven years in the '90s.

Wow, didn't know that.
Yea, I was here from '92 to '99. Then course, I've been coming back for years afterwards and I've seen Wynwood change. However, I noticed this year it changed the most. It seems me it's really, really hopping. The past couple of years I thought it was an amazing place with paintings everywhere but it seemed pretty dead. And now it seems completely transformed. There are so many people and activity going on there.

When you do get the time to breathe, what do you like doing in Miami during Basel?
You know, I get overwhelmed a bit. It's almost like there is too much. A few year's ago, when I had been coming to the fairs for a while and tried doing everything, I decide that wherever I was at is the place I should be. It's very hard for me to plan. I get kind of crazy with it.

There only so much I can see. When I go to the art fairs, I get overloaded. Art fairs, to me, are more for collectors and dealers. I don't feel, as an artist, that it's the best place to show art or to look at art. I guess it's a great place to sell it. I prefer seeing a whole show by an artist in a setting that doesn't have a million other things around it and don't have anything to do with it, other than it's all art. At the same time, Wynwood Walls is a million different artist everywhere and that to me I love. The more the better I think. In city streets, not only in Wynwood but and cities all over the world, there are just so many boring surfaces and they really need to be covered with art to make them alive and give people good energy. That I get stimulated by.

Having lived in Miami, is there anything non-art related you look forward to?
My very favorite thing in Miami is the sea. I'm an ocean fanatic. Today was the nicest day since I've been here in the past two weeks, so I just got a really good swim in. That's something I really love to do.

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