Interview with Borbay

Borbay is a self-represented artist, living and thriving in the vibrant city of Manhattan. Collected globally and featured by an impressive breadth of revered news outlets, Borbay has created a successful business model outside of the ‘art world’ you read about.

Borbay’s creations, with their chasm-deep detail and painstaking process, have garnered the artist a large following from Manhattan to Milan, and his Warhol-esque willingness to mine pop imagery has earned the admiration of fans,educators and celebrities alike. With a pre-art résumé that includes everything from advertising to Reality TV (to, yes, working for Donald Trump), it’s no wonder that he’s lauded as one of the most game changing players emerging in the contemporary art scene. His collages incorporating New York Post headlines became a New York Post headline. He’s painting the Guggenheim each year for 20 years, and intends to show the series in the Guggenheim itself. Borbay is being celebrated by everyone fromBBC World to the Wall Street Journal Japan.


Hi Borbay, today MoW selected your artworks inspired by music from the « Kings of Hip-Hop » project. Can you tell MoW why you chose to create about these music artist ? What was the music behind the artworks ? What inspired you to create them ?

First, thank you — I appreciate the love. I'll take you back to the very beginning... Towards the end of 2010, I decided to create a portrait series… but the question was — who? The first person that came to mind was Jay-Z (or JayZ or Jay Z, the spacing has changed over the years). Why? I love hip-hop. He's an innovator, an enterpreneur. And, as it turns out, an inspiration. From there, I decided to create seven "Kings of Hip-Hop" — but the series required a set of criteria — so, I went with this: they had to release an album during 2011, be entrepreneurial and involved in social media. As it happens, these parameters predicted the Forbes Cash Kings of Hip Hop almost exactly — this lead to good things.



Why is music important to you and your art? 

Music and Art. Hearing and Seeing. Both modes of expression are sensory, experiential, complimentary and visceral. The rhythm of music is essential to the painting process… but, perhaps more importantly, the emotions music can elicit delivers you to another place. So, when you are creating a world on canvas, mental transportation is important. To deeply immerse myself in the experience, I frequently live-paint at concerts, allowing the energy to guide my brush. (see picture on the left)




If you had to choose between the artworks presented today, which of your artwork would be your favorite ? And why ?

Each of these paintings have a special place in my heart for different reasons… Jay Z was my first, and the day he was completed, HOV made the front page, and my Moms smiles every time my art is up on The Source. Dre was a breakthrough visually (many raw headlines), and I sold him immediately — so that was huge. Kanye was a major challenge, but I remain really satisfied with the result. If I had to pick one, I’d probably choose based on who would win in a cage fight… HOV would take Kanye, but the newly ripped Dre would smash Jay in his stash spot… so there you have it. 

Can you tell MoW more about the techniques you used. How old is your technique? How did it start? How long does it take you to make an artwork ? 

On my wife's birthday in 2009, I broke my leg in an ice hockey game and found myself tethered to the couch for a month. This was the first major time-out in my adult life, so I had a great deal of time to think. As an avid reader of the New York Post, I found myself aghast noticing the horrific and callous juxtapositions of headlines and advertisements we the people read without a second thought. On the same spread, 'Bloomberg Bans Salt', 'Priest Molests Child', 'JC Penny 99 Dollar Sale' — I thought… what if I put an entire paper on the surface of a canvas? From there, my collage-painting process began to take shape. I start with sourcing the appropriate headlines for the subject… I paste them down, and begin to make the image emerge from the words. These works can take anywhere between 2-4 weeks to create. The style has evolved quite a bit over the years (here is my most recent collage painting of Walter White), but the Kings represented a major breakthrough.

Watch - Borbay Paints Lil Wayne For The Kings Of Hip-Hop" 

Do you have plans on creating new artworks insipired by music?

My latest music-related piece is the album cover for MH the Verb.

I also just completed a collage-painting of the Gloved One for the book Michael Jackson, Inc. which hits the shelves in the Summer of 2014. The tome is spectacular — anyone with interest in the business end of music should snag Zack O’Malley Greenburg’s latest book.

Do you listen to music when you’re working ? If so, what kind of music ?

I listen to music constantly, and my taste is quite eclectic… I’ll bounce from Credence to Wayne to Sinatra to Tchaikovsky to the Beasties — it completely depends on my mood and what I am creating.

What is the song you liked the most lately? The album ? What was the last gig you went to ?

I’m really excited about MH the Verb's new album, in particular, a track he didn't release (yet) — a song about my Daughter Coraline.  I was in the recording studio when they laid down the vocals, and even got on the mic for a (very) small portion of the song — I’m excited to build my “featuring Borbay” cred…

Are you a musician yourself ? If so can you tell MoW more about your music projects ? 

My utter lack of musical talent is the reason I admire musicians so deeply. From the minute I retired my alto saxophone at the age of ten, it was all brush.

Thank you for a terrific interview. 



Borbay's 4th Solo Exhibition entitled ‘The Futurism‘, opens Wednesday, March 26th, 2014, from 7:00 – 9:00PM on the 8th Floor of the World Famous Wix Lounge, located at 235 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011. Check out a sneak preview here 

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