WhIsBe is a New York City-based street artist of unverified identity known both for his street and fine art. His work included in several museum collections and public installation spaces, including: The New Museum in New York, MOCO Museum in Amsterdam and real estate developer Larry Silverstein's rebuilt World Trade Center complex. In 2014, WhIsBe's work was included in the Governers Ball Music Festival on Randall's Island and in 2017, he installed a 7 foot sculpture in the lobby of the 4 World Trade Center building.
WhIsBe (an acronym for “what is beautiful”) who was born in New York City and then moved to the exurbs is a New York City-based street artist of unverified identity known both for his street and fine art.
WhIsBe attended New York’s School of Visual Arts; however, the art techniques he utilizes are largely autogenous. Inspired by Andy Warhol’s ingenious use of commercial imagery coupled with Jean-Michel Basquiat’s disruption of public space, WhIsBe wanted to share his message with a broad spectrum of people, not only those who have access to museums and galleries, and began putting up self-sanctioned work in the street in 2011. WhIsBe has since gone on to generate more and more content that sparks thoughtful dialogue and nuanced socio-awareness. Using a subversive formula of colliding seemingly innocent images with meaningful messages, WhIsBe’s subtle alterations to known designs irrevocably disrupt their meaning. For instance, in his iconic Vandal Gummy series, WhIsBe places the beloved sugary treat against a prison mugshot background, gripping an identity placard in between his gelatin paws. This juxtaposition between the nostalgic and the sinister has become a hallmark of WhIsBe’s body of work—in presenting attractive images that viewers initially feel safe absorbing, WhIsBe cleverly and strategically encourages them to examine their own critique of problematic institutions.
WhIsBe has partnered with charities and corporations ranging from the Art Works Charity Foundation to Charity Water to Red Bull to COACH and has exhibited work at notable events including: Art Basel through Castle Fitzjohns Gallery, Context & Art New York, and Art Southampton through the Keszler Gallery. In 2016, he collaborated with the New Museum in New York City to create a large-scale installation of three-dimensional, polychrome Vandal Gummies as well as a series of limited-edition prints. In 2017, publications such as business insider, Vice HBO and Forbes wrote articles focusing on the artist along with the MOCO Museum Amsterdam acquiring a seven-foot tall “Vandal Gummy” sculpture. Also in 2017, WhIsBe was invited among select significant contemporaries to create work for 4 World Trade Center's 69th floor and commissioned to place a seven foot tall “Vandal Gummy” sculpture for the buildings lobby centerpiece.
Inspired by Andy Warhol’s use of commercial imagery and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s disruption of public space, WhIsBe wanted to share his message with a wide range of people and began putting up illegal work on the streets in 2011. He first gained notoriety for his “McDictator” image—a mashup of Ronald McDonald’s iconic clown face and Adolf Hitler’s body frozen in heil salute—commenting on, as The Huffington Post descries, “the McDonaldization of America.”
Taking known images and making subtle alterations to their design, WhIsBe changes the intended meaning of the image and adds his own, often political, commentary. In his Vandal Gummy series, WhIsBe places an image of a candy gummy bear against a prison mugshot background. The juxtaposition between the harshness of the Department of Corrections and the innocence of the piece of candy encourages viewers to examine institutions and has become a hallmark of WhIsBe’s body of work.
Charity Work and Corporate Partnerships
WhIsBe has partnered with charities and corporations ranging from the ArtWorks Charity Foundation to Charity: Water to Red Bull and has exhibited work at notable events including: the Governors Ball Music Festival, Art Basel through Castle Fitzjohns Gallery and Art Southampton through the Keszler Gallery. In 2016, he collaborated with the New Museum in New York City to create a large-scale sculptural installation of his Vandal Gummies as well as a series of limited-edition prints.
The Vandal Gummy
The Vandal Gummy was first created in 2011 as a nostalgia piece for the artist. “At first, it represented the idea of innocence lost,” WhIsBe explains.
The works feature a full-body portrait of an expressionless bear holding a Department of Corrections sign as if it were posing for a mug shot. The Gummy has undergone several iterations as a 2-D silkscreen on paper and a 3-D sculpture.
Presence at Auction
WhIsBe has sold multiple works at auction through Julien's Auction, Artsy and Paddle8.
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