Steve Kaufman Biography
December 29, 1960 - February 12, 2010
1960 Steve Alan Kaufman was born on December 29, 1960 in the Bronx, NY.
1963 "My dad died, maybe that is why I'm a dad, or a
big brother to so many kids today..."
1968 Sponsored by a Jewish temple in the Bronx, Steve created Holocaust paintings, later donated the paintings to the Holocaust Museum in Brooklyn.
1972 Steve Kaufman worked for Macy's on
34th street in Manhattan, where he painted dog and cat faces on pet rocks.
1975 Participated in group graffiti show at the
1978-81 Enrolled in the School of Visual Arts.
Met Andy Warhol, and became his assistant at the Factory. Designed theme parties
at Studio 54, Mud Club, Underground, Magique. Sold his art to Calvin Klein and
Steve Rubell. Met artist Keith Haring at School of Visual Arts (SVA) show.
Participated in a group show at Club 57 with Haring.
1982 Created graphics for NBC's Saturday Night
Live. Graduates from School of Visual Arts (SVA) with a BFA. Held art shows at
the Air Gallery in London, White Freud, and Fiorucci store window in NYC.
1983-1985 Arrested with AIDS demonstrators for
chain-locking New York City mayor Ed Koch in his office. Exhibition: Sex, Rock &
Roll at Off Centre Gallery and Common Wealth Gallery in London.
1986-88 Formed SAK Studio. Began citywide
campaign for AIDS awareness with art shows that featured paintings of Trojan condom
wrappers measuring 5 feet by 5 feet. Condom art exhibit shown at Main Fine Art,
Edinburgh College of Art, Zanzibar Club and the Smith Gallery.
1989-1990 Opened Art Studio. Hired New York City
homeless. Painted portraits of three homeless people for Transportation Display,
Inc. These portraits are shown in 46 cities on bus billboards, and helped to raise
$4.72 million to benefit the homeless. Completed unfinished portraits for Andy
Warhol clients. Trojan Condoms/Carter Wallace sponsors 5000 AIDS awareness
buttons to be given away in Greenwich Village and at an art auction for AMFAR.
Painted first Racial Harmony Mural in Harlem to bring awareness to inner city
problems. Exhibition at White Gallery, where all art was covered in black cloth in
memorial of those who died of AIDS. This show developed the concept for the
"Day Without Art" tribute. Exhibition at Loft Gallery in Tokyo, Japan.
1991-92 Completed 55 Racial Harmony Murals in the
New York City area with Malcolm X images. Appeared on Fox TV, MTV and radio
stations to speak out on racial harmony. Accepted award as Underground Artist of
the Year. Painted Mickey Mantle portrait for Mantle's restaurant, painted Joe
Frazier portrait to raise money for Police Athletic League. Created AIDS
Memorial in New York City. Draped red fabric over the letter "D" of
the Hollywood Sign in remembrance of everyone who has died of AIDS. Art
collected by Spike Lee, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Dee Williams, Eddie Murphy and
Larry Mullen of U2.
1993-94 Art Studio moves to Los Angeles,
California. Started a new style called "Comic Book Pop Art." Used original paintings of super heroes -- Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, to name a
few -- as the icons. Hired more than 100 of Los Angeles' ex-gang kids from
prison to assist him in the studio.
1995 Worked with Martin Lawrence Gallery. Hand
painted new editions, giving new meaning to hand-embellishment. Created limited
editions of Beethoven, which sold out, and Marilyn Monroe, which broke all
gallery sales records for a new artist. Created portraits of Muhammad Ali and
John Travolta, who autographed their editions. First artist to form a bridge
between Marvel Comics (Spider-Man) and DC Comics (Superman). Worked with Stan
Lee, who autographed the edition.
Started the following programs:
- Worked with Los Angeles' "South Central"
- Hired more than 200 kids from prison to work in the
- Received award from Los Angeles mayor.
- Increased charity work to include 100 different
1995 Commissioned by Warner Brothers Stores to paint editions of Superman, The Wizard of Oz, Tazmanian Devil, Michigan J. Frog, Sylvester, Marvin the Martian, Bugs Bunny, and Tweety Bird. This commission also included paintings of Muhammad Ali, all of which were all hand signed by "The Greatest."
1996 Contacted the Sinatra Family about painting Frank Sinatra's portrait. Campbell's Soup asked Steve to paint a limited edition
to mark Campbell's Soup's 100th Year Anniversary. Painted Muhammad Ali's face on 500
boxing gloves, which proved that art doesn't have to be on canvas. By now, 325 kids
have worked for the Art Studio and 85% have gone on to a better way of life.
Painted two Harley-Davidson motorcycles: one a Campbell's Soup theme, and the
other a Cohiba Cigar theme. Created Ali portrait for the 1996 Olympics. Ali
signed the edition for the first time with both his Muslim name, Muhammad Ali,
and his birth name, Cassius Clay.
1997-98 Tina Sinatra presented portrait of Frank
Sinatra on Larry King's CNN show. Steve Kaufman held art shows in Japan and Amsterdam. Participated in a boxing exhibition versus Don Diego, a European boxing champion. After some
minor controversy, Kaufman is awarded a win. Painted a Harley-Davidson
motorcycle for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. The bike is driven around
Dodger Stadium before each game and televised to four million households. By now, Steve Kaufman has hired 546 ex-gang kids and homeless. Supported more than 176
1999-2000 Steve Kaufman had a cardiac episode and a motorcycle
"I'm truly blessed to be doing what I've always
wanted - CREATE. I have found a freedom that is hard to put into words. I
always wondered about my projects - which artists are working on what, and
which directions should I take? I don't even think of those things now. I
passionately go into my studio and ask myself, what would I like to create
Released Sinatra's Rat Pack and Mug shot, Al Pacino as
The Godfather and Scarface, Barbie, and a new Marilyn Monroe edition. He
released Van Gogh and Picasso in a new style: a 100% hand-painted edition that gave new meaning to the hand-embellishment process. Released New York
City's radio shock-jock icon Howard Stern, Disney's Mickey Mouse, and other
surprises at 2001 New York City Art Expo. Expanded charity work once again
by donating the proceeds of several upcoming projects.
2001-2002 At this point, Kaufman supported 170 charities per year. His Art Studio to date had hired 759 LA ex-gang kids and LA homeless men. Kaufman
created two new art styles called "Portrait Collage" and Museum
Art," his 14th and 15th distinct styles added to his body of
work. The only other artist to have this many different styles is Picasso.
While most artists keep the same style and choice of
images, year after year, Kaufman was always changing and inventing. His new
"Portrait Collage" style was a collage of images to support his main
image, which gave the portrait more impact. You can see this new style in his
editions of Rat Pack, Hollywood Marilyn, Van Gogh, Picasso, and Jackie Kennedy.
They were a new departure from his standard portraits.
His "Museum Art" paintings "September 11th Memorial", a tribute to the heroes of the World Trade
Center attack, and "Caesars 35 Year History", a commemorative for Caesars'
history, were hung in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. "Caesars 35 Year
History" is a 3D, 500-foot x 25-foot, painted canvas on the wall. He also
created a 10-foot Fender guitar for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in
Cleveland, Ohio. He worked on the "World War II Memorial" and
filmed a TV pilot: "You Call That Art?" Art Shows at a Las Vegas gallery which had shown LeRoy Neiman art for decades. Group art show with Pop artist Rizzi in NYC Gallery. Donated the "Princess Diana" portrait to
the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Kaufman proposed a new art studio inside the Las
Vegas correction center. Just like the movie "Jackson Pollock," a
Hollywood writer made a screenplay about Kaufman's life. Kaufman began placing his icon paintings in public viewing places
around the country, so that the public would enjoy his art as
much as private collectors. As part of this program, Kaufman placed a Muhammad
Ali portrait in Brooklyn's famous Gleason's Boxing Gym which has trained over
200 world champions; he placed a Frank Sinatra portrait at Hofstra University,
New York, where Kaufman and artist LeRoy Neiman were both guest speakers. He
placed a Marilyn Monroe at the Foundation Fighting Blindness, gifted a
painting to David Letterman to inspire heart recovery, and gifted Howard Stern
with a portrait live on the Howard Stern Show. He unveiled the
Holocaust painting, "Remember," at New York ArtExpo in 2001. This
piece was showcased on NBC's Dateline.
2002-2003 Art events with Muhammad Ali, the
cast of HBO's The Sopranos, two events with Oscar De La Hoya, Paris
Casino in Las
Vegas. Met with Las Vegas's Mayor Goodman about building the Las Vegas
sign, locations; met with the engineering company, and with police
about using prisoners for work on the sign. Created Celine Dion
portrait edition to help fund the sign project. Held 22 weekly Art shows
with Paris Casino. NYC's Studio 54 held a one man show of Kaufman art.
Held art show at
Paramount Studio in LA. Steve Kaufman started working with sculpture
again. Sold out a show in NYC. Created paintings using old masters
paintings Dali, Picasso, Van Gogh, with theirs and Steve's art styles.
Participated in Love Ride event
with Jay Leno, Peter Fonda, other riders, which raised $1 million for
charity. Steve supported this cause for at least 10 years by donating
art, plus 190 charities a year. By now, 1,873
kids and homeless had worked for Art Studio. Las Vegas' Steve Winn
became a collector of Kaufman paintings, with one Martin Luther King and
one Rat Pack.
April 2003 "I had a stroke. My
cholesterol was 576. I’ve been told I flat line died. That night, I had 6
jelly donuts. During my
sleep, I saw quick flashes of my life like I was on VCR tape recorder
my life story very fast. Then it stopped. Everything when black. I heard
a voice, 'You did good kid, but now go back and do better.' When I
awoke, I tried to get out
of bed. I fell to the floor. I was paralyzed on one side of my body. In
3 months, I re-taught myself to walk, wipe my ass; I had the best art
show of my
life 4 weeks after my stroke, as it was a sold out show of $400,000 in
one night. But everyone was buying the art because they thought I was
dying. A good
friend of my died soon after. His body just gave up on him. My
me. She said she didn’t want to be with me when I die in my bed. I
looked at my
father's photo one night. He died at the age of 36 years old. I said
'not me.' I
lost 75 lbs. in 3 months. I was walking 5 mile walks everyday. I started
my nonprofit charity, Give Kids A Break.
From that day on, I live life like I was dying. I climb
mountains. I went sky diving. I walked halfway across the USA, then I came back
home. I looked into my soul. I like me. I was good to people. I can walk to
South Central to East LA to Beverly Hills CA to High rollers card games in Las
Vegas. Everyone likes me. I feel I've helped and touched many people. I step 4
steps away from my art, and then I drove into my art like I never did before. I
created the 6-color silkscreen method. I started welding new metal Campbell's
soup art tables. I was at a cigar shop looking at cigar boxes. I took 500 cigar
boxes home that day to paint Fidel Castro portraits on to the Cigar boxes
as if they were paintings. I took a wall of boxing gloves and painted boxing
matches onto the wall of gloves. I had Fidel Castro from Cuba sign my Cohiba
motorcycle gas tank. I created 4 more motorcycles: LA Lakers, LA Dodgers, Campbell's
soup, Las Vegas with a slot machine as part of the back sissy bar. I
started painting originals, not just on canvas, but 3D items (one-of-a-kind museum
2004 "I got sick again. I had 2 more minor strokes,
and cancer. I had trouble breathing. The doctor said, 'you have asthma and you need to
stop working with paint.' I said, 'Sorry, doctor. I can't do that. I'm on this planet
to paint.' I took the year off. I was very ill, but I still created art as
2005 1,875+ kids have worked at Art studio, their first job. Pope John Paul II accepted Kaufman's paintings of the
Pope into his private apt and office in Rome. Kaufman paintings of
Lance Armstrong were shown in art galleries during the Tour de France.
Kaufman created paintings to help raise money for Hurricane Katrina
victims. Created paintings of SLR McLaren for the 100th anniversary of
"I started painting on mini motorcycles, sculptures, cars, wooden
screen doors, I just kept painting on anything other than canvas
just wanted to created art."
2006 Drastically increased his exhibition schedule including a July art show in Aspen, and in December, four shows Vale and Beaver Creek. Kaufman got sick again. "I was 40 lbs. heavy, and my cholesterol was 416."
2007 Steve painted wall of fame at MGM and the Hoya vs. Mayweather fight; Wine, Las Vegas sign, CSI David Caruso came
to Steve's art studio and signed portraits of himself.
September-October 2007 Las Vegas show at a gallery that has shown Picasso, Norman Rockwell, Dali, and LeRoy Neiman works. "When I'm in Europe, I can feel my
future as a Museum artist. I know my future is secure, my
mark in art history."
November 2007 Five Europe art gallery shows, London,
Dublin Ireland, Basel and Zurich Switzerland, Germany. Created art of these
countries' icons, Roma Shyler, Brittani Ireland, Guinness beer.
1,975+ kids have worked at LA Art Studio. Talks to open an Art Studio on
Martin Luther King Blvd. in Nevada, and an Art Studio in Zona Rio. 400
soccer balls were given to
kids outside Kaufman art studio, which is next door to Dayton Heights
Elementary School. The balls were given to the kids KG-5th grade as
they went home. One night show in Canada sold out, 4 shows in Val
and B Creek in Col $350,000. 200 paintings were sent as holiday gifts to
Pitt, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Matthew Perry, Rolling
Stones, Donald Sutherland, Oliver Stone, Patrick Swayze, Billy
Bob Thornton, Steven Tyler, Quentin Tarantino, Donald Trump, Gary
Sinise, Rod Stewart, M. Night Shyamalan, Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Star,
Simon, Patrick Stewart, Ben Stiller, Jimmy Smits, Ted Danson, Jerry
Bruckheimer, Mickey Rourke, Carlos Santana, Gavin Rossdale, Tim Roth,
Scorsese, Ryan Seacrest, Jerry Seinfeld, Gary Shandling, Ridley Scott,
Segal, Tom Selleck, Colin Quinn, Keanu Reeves, Keith Richards, Anthony
Robbins, Lou Reed, John C Reilly, Kid Rock, Sam Raimi, Andy Roddick,
Murphy, Joe Pantoliano, Penn & Teller, Joaquin Phoenix, David Hyde
Tom Petty, Quincy Jones, Lenny Kravitz, Jude Law, Val Kilmer, Earvin
Johnson, Ethan Hawke, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Dustin Hoffman, Chris
Hugh Jackman, Colin Farrell, Andy Garcia, Brendan Fraser, Tom Hanks,
Hartnett, Morgan Freeman, James Gandolfini, Kelsey Grammer, Tony Hawke,
Douglas, David Duchovny, Robert Duvall, Emilio Estevez, Mat Dillion,
Eastwood, Michael Eisner, Vin Diesel, Oscar De La Hoya, Tom Arnold,
Vaughn, Conan O’Brian, Tiger Woods, Oliver Stone, Bono, Shaquille
Jagger, Luke Wilson, and dozens of top CEOs including Warren E. Buffet, William Clay Ford Jr. of Ford Motor Company.
2008 NYC Art Expo, Las Vegas Visitor bureau set up a
display of Kaufman art seen by 2 million people a year. Caesar Palace casino
asked Steve to paint portraits of Cher, Bette Midler and Elton John. Held a sold out
Japan show, Las Vegas July 4 show where Steve unveiled his stained glass art. Steve
created a new painting art style with his Coca-Cola and the iPod Apple campaign.
November 2008 Toured Europe with 16 art shows.
December 2008 Gifted paintings of Steve
Wynn, Cher, Bette
Midler, Elton John, Penn and Teller, Carrot Top, Blueman, Rita Rudner,
Wayne Brady, XAO Yang, Jamie Gold, Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, Vegas fame,
Mayor Oscar B. Goodman of Las Vegas, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los
Angeles, Mayor Bloomberg of New York City, Mayor Richard Daley of
37 World leaders, Frank Langella, Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke, Kate
Streep, and Anne Hathaway.
January 2009 Art exhibit for 6 days at a gallery at
Sundance. One hundred kids painted the floor of the art gallery with a pop art
theme; 400 kids received 8x8 paintings as free gifts, which was all filmed
for an independent film for Sundance 2010.
February 2009 Art exhibit for an art gallery in Tyson's
Corner, Virginia, Dylan's candy painting edition, the Oscars awards as Steve
created paintings of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk,
The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire movies. Suffers 2nd Major Stroke.
"I was seeing spots that day. I
woke up in Las Vegas and, being paralyzed, I couldn’t get into a wheel chair."
Four works from Steve Kaufman's series of Coca-Cola paintings are
featured at The Pop Culture Gallery at The World of Coca-Cola in
March 2009 "As John Lennon said, 'I’m just watching
the wheels turn.'”
February 12, 2010 Steve
Kaufman suffered a fatal heart attack in Vail, Colorado as he prepared
for an art exhibition. He is remembered through his words: "This is what I live for... I had a great life, so please don't cry for me. I've has the life of 100 men."