People - March 15, 2019

The Blonde Salad meets… TVBOY

A few months ago, in the middle of a Milanese night, a mystical wall painting suddenly appeared in Via Torino. “Saint Chiara with Holy Water” was the name of the artwork, starring our muse Chiara Ferragni and her little boy Leone. Who made it? An Italian street artist who decided to hide his real identity behind the name of TVBOY . His graffiti artworks, especially the ones where global leaders share passionate kisses with each other, are shaking the contemporary art world. Beloved by actors, chefs, football players and rappers, Salvatore Benintende (this is his real name) told The Blonde Salad everything about his work and his upcoming projects. Don’t miss our interview with TVBOY!


Which was your first experience with the art world?

I’ve been experiencing art since I was a little kid. My father was an art teacher, and I grew up surrounded by drawings and graffitis. My bedroom’s walls were decorated with all my favorite animals. As an adult, I graduated at Politecnico di Milano in design. I never studied Fine Arts, and I think that this helped me a lot. I made my first steps in the contemporary art world as a traditional artist, but I soon realized I needed to use the street as my own gallery. I started in Milan in 1996, then in 2003, working with other street artists such as Pao e Bros, I created my pseudonym TVBOY.


Does the word “artist” represent your work?

I’m an artist because I’m working in this field, but I’m also an entrepreneur, as many other contemporary artists are. I’m building a well-formed project, that’s why I registered a trademark and started doing partnerships. I think it’s the best way to make art accessible and democratic.


Why did you decide to create the TVBOY pseudonym? Why don’t you like to show your identity?

Street artists usually hide their real identities behind a fictional character. I created TVBOY because I wanted to represent my generations, girls, and boys who grew up in the Eighties and Nineties watching TV. He smiles, he’s funny and his name sounds familiar. TVBOY also protects me: I never ask for permissions when I make my artworks. After the huge success of Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio kiss, I want to show my artworks, not myself.

You recently dedicated a wall painting to Chiara Ferragni. Tell us more about this artwork.

It’s a consideration on the icons of today. Chiara Ferragni reminds of Madonna. I grew up in the Eighties and I was a big fan of her, I think Chiara it’s a contemporary Madonna. It’s a sarcastic artwork, but it was well received, especially by Chiara herself who shared it on her Instagram stories with all her followers.


Which was your very first artwork? Which one had the biggest media impact?

To be honest, I realized my very first artwork when I was only 3 years old: I drew a wolf wailing on a mountain. When I was 14 years old, I made my first graffiti, which represented a sun wearing a cap and smoking a cigarette. Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo kiss in Barcelona probably got the biggest media coverage ever, as much as Pope Francis and Donald Trump kiss. They literally broke the Internet all over the world, and they helped me to become more confident about my project’s global potentials. A street artwork can be removed or damaged, we all know the risks we’re taking once it’s on the street. But media and social networks can make it viral.


Tell us, if you can, how you create your wall paintings.

I work as a designer. Everything starts with an idea that I try to translate into an image. At the beginning of my career as TVBOY I used to paint on the street, now I prefer to prepare the artwork in the studio. This technique allows me not only to be more accurate but also to work faster because it’s very hard nowadays to make graffitis all over the world because of the strict city laws. We risk fines, materials’ requisition and charges. I always try to find a place that can have a connection with the image, that’s why I decided to paint Chiara Ferragni in Via Torino, a shopping street.


Your works are always connected with current news. How does your art relate to latest events? Do you want to make people reflect on something or do you want to express your thoughts?

Contemporary artists must represent what’s happening in the world. Some critics accused me to follow media, but also Van Gogh or Impressionists portrayed their time. In my opinion, art is always connected to events, it’s like a testament we’re giving to the next generations. Salvini and Di Maio kiss will make history because it captures a moment in an image. I want my artworks to be shocking, but also to push people to think. Chiara Ferragni’s artwork, for example, is a consideration about ritual icons. People used to venerate saints and virgins, now they idolize influencers. They adore them and I wanted to portray this new attitude. Obviously, there’s a little sarcasm, too, but also a consideration on what’s happening in society. I don’t like to criticize because I’m not a moralist, but of course, I like to push people to question about current affairs.


Three words to define your aesthetic.

Urban because it’s street art; pop because I love Andy Warhol’s pop art; rebel because I like to work without permissions. If you want to get them, in fact, you must submit a graffiti’s draft. I think this restricts a lot the artist’s freedom.


You worked for many famous clients for custom artworks. Which one made your day? Have you ever thought to make your art more accessible?

My canvas artworks are appreciated by high-level collectors, that’s why are not very affordable anymore. Street art is democratic by nature, it’s a gift the artist give to the city. That’s why I decided to create some products that could be more affordable to younger generations. We created silk-screen printings, with a price tag of 100-200 euros, but also gadgets and apparel collections such as T-shirts and smartphone cases. These collections help us to make art more democratic. Keith Haring as well, in the Eighties, opened in New York the Pop shop to create products inspired by his designs. Which artworks made my day? Many. Hublot, for example, asked me to create a canvas for an event in Milan in partnership with Lapo Elkann’s brand Italia Independent. I worked for 15 years to arrive where I am now, it wasn’t easy. I always say to younger artists to persist and never give up. Dedication and hard work are the keys to success.

Is it true you’re working on a Milan exhibition? What can you tell us about?

It’s a huge project. I’ve always worked with galleries, but I think it’s time for me to make a qualitative leap. I want to create a culture with art, not sales and earnings. I also want to involve a new audience, people that don’t usually attend art exhibitions.


Which are your next projects?

I’m working on many proejcts at the same time right now. My latest actions had a huge media impact and they helped me to find much more interesting projects. Unfortunately, I can’t spoiler anything! I’m working on new street actions in different European cities.

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