Renowned British street art maven D*Face knows a thing or two about the value of local skateboard roots and international opportunities. The globe-trotting artist was recently in New York City for the unveiling of an NBC Sports-commissioned soccer billboard in the Times Square area. But don’t tell him and his fellow countrymen on the other side of the pond that, they strictly know it as football. How about that?
Synchronicity, on the other hand, a term both American and British language sensibilities can agree on, also made it possible for our protagonist to be in town for a very special Wooster Collective anniversary show that opened to the public last week. It included art and installations from the likes of other renowned street artists such as Shepard Fairey, Buff Monster, Invader, and WK, among countless famous others.
Mass Appeal’s On The Grind caught up with the busy chap to discuss all of these endeavors and more, including the move of his StolenSpace Gallery in London, gentrification, and how it was skateboarding, not soccer, that really propelled him into individuality and art.
Can you tell us a bit about who you are and what brings you to New York City?
I Am D*Face. I’ve come over for this NBC Premiere League Football billboard in Times Square, which is kind of a crazy project. And that coincides with, just fortunately, being here for the Wooster Collective 10 year anniversary, which I have some work in. Everything just tied in real nice. It wasn’t planned that way. It just happened to be that way, so it was really sweet.
What’s behind the Wooster Collective show and why is it such a benchmark for you and the group?
The Wooster show is 10 years of the Wooster Collective. Wooster is quite an early day blog that used to document street stuff really. I guess more outside of graffiti, like posters, stickers, stencils. And they started featuring a few bits of my pieces which were in the U.K. at the time. I hadn’t really stretched out to the U.S. at that time and it was kind of like one of the first windows into that world that was documenting it globally and online. So that was pretty exciting and they’ve curated a show that’s based around the 60 people that have been around for the 10 years that they’ve been around. It’s kind of an honorable thing to be part of.
How did the whole NBC Sports football/soccer billboard opportunity initially come about?
When [NBC Sports] came to me they were like, “We’d like you to represent English football in America and we want an English artist to do it.” In truth, even though I’m not a big soccer fan or football fan, it was an honor to be asked to do that. They were like, “We just want you to do your thing, there’s no brief and we’ve got pretty little time to do it, so you’ve got to get a quick jump on it.” So I did a graphic for it and they were like, “Yea, we love it!” They loved the saying as well. It’s called soccer here [in America] and everyone’s going to call it soccer, but we know it’s football, so don’t call it soccer! And they were like, “Do you want to come and paint the billboard in Times Square as part of it?” It’s not what I normally do, because normally I just paint my stuff for me, for no other reason. But how many opportunities will I get to paint in Times Square? That’s never going to happen in my life again. I can’t imagine it happening again, at least. So I was like, “Hell yea, I’ll come over and do that!” So there you go. That was it, really.
We know that skateboarding has been a huge influence on your individual and artistic journey. How so?
In a way, psychologically, [skateboarding] was almost like getting back at football. At school I was always the last guy to get picked for the team. There were always two kids waiting to get picked at the end and I was always one of those kids. So I always looked for my own thing, which I guess was an isolated and individual activity. And that led me into graffiti and skateboarding, primarily skateboarding. And that was an activity that was seen as being outcast and I guess I felt myself as being that, as not being part of that team mentality. So skateboarding had a profound influence on my life. I guess as profound an influence on my life as football has on other people.
Now that you’ve been commissioned to work with it, do you see or have you considered any similarities between football and skateboarding?
I guess the physicality of it for sure. When I was a kid you didn’t have to be that good to be [considered] good at skateboarding. Now, you have to be a true athlete. You have to really be on top of your game. You have to take it dead seriously to be at the highest level if that’s where you wish to go with it. What I like about skateboarding is that it can appeal to every kid from any background, from any generation. And it’s raceless. It’s ageless. It’s classless. It’s sexless. And that’s like football [with regard] to the same things. A kid that comes from the ghetto can pick up a ball and go and play in the park. Equally, the kid that comes from a really well-to-do background has a football and goes and kicks it in his backyard. It’s the same thing. The same with skateboarding, you need very little. All you need is commitment and time and the physicality to it. I guess [it’s true] with football being the multimillion dollar business now more than it ever has been, and now skateboarding kind of heading that way. Skateboarding is one of the biggest growing sports now. In the consumerist view, people want to dress like skaters even though they don’t skate and that’s kind of ironic. Just like people that wear football kits that don’t actually play football and just support a team.