Emerging from the eclectic, brightly hued world of Andy Warhol, Steve Kaufman has established himself across the globe as a leading creator of pop art.
Paintings created by Kaufman, a former assistant to Warhol, hang in the homes of celebrities such as Jay Leno and Muhammad Ali. Kaufman will make three public appearances today and Saturday in Reno to help promote his participation in Addi Galleries' Web site invites browsers to examine Kaufman's work and purchase posters.
Based in Reno, operators of Addi Galleries's Internet site are ecstatic to have Kaufman participate in the venture.
"Steve Kaufman will be our feature artist to bring us even more traffic to Gallery Row," said Steve Addi, the company's owner.
Kaufman's work hangs in more than 600 galleries spanning the United States , Japan and Europe. He also has work in Warner Bros. stores.
His international popularity first began in the 70's, when he served as a Warhol protege.
"I did not even know who Andy Warhol was when he hired me – and maybe that's' why he did it," Kaufman said.
By the late 70's, Kaufman was doing portraits shown weekly during the original years of NBC-TV's "Saturday Night Live."
Those images of quest stars garnered Kaufman international acclaim and art awards. He admits the works took little effort to create. But he says people made a big deal of it because it was a new art method.
To create "SNL" images – show briefly before commercial breaks – he took photos of celebrities, duplicated the shots on copy machines and used various marking methods to enhance those images.
Kaufman won a contest New York City sponsored to find its "Artist of the Millennium."
Owners of two competing Reno art stores said there are many deserving artists.
While Kaufman is talented, it's difficult to think one artist should get that designation, said Donna Marie Antraccoli, co-owner of Reno's Hermitage Gallery. She's familiar with Kaufman's motorcycle paintings and likes them, but does'nt recall seeing any of his paintings on canvas.
Mark Richardson, owner of Reno's Richardson Gallery of Fine Art, doesn't carry
"He hasn't appealed to me as being different enough to put in this gallery," Richardson said. "It's matter of taste. He is doing things that are different as far as colors – slightly different that is, than Warhol or Peter Max. But it's not all that different."
Nonetheless, Addi official are banking on their association with Kaufman, due largely to his widespread popularity and continued strong sales. While keeping its seven galleries in the Western United States privately owned, Addi plans to spin off its Internet site into a publicly traded company this year.
Many of Kaufman's best-known works will be offered for sale through Gallery Row.
Gallery Row visitors can access information on its feature artists as well as arts gatherings and museums worldwide. And artists and arts-related organizations worldwide are beginning to sign on so they can be seen on a single site people will want to use, said Douglas "Doogie" Collins, a financial adviser and marketing consultant for Addi.
Kaufman has draw. At a recent arts show in Japan , more than 30,000 people lined up to meet Kaufman or see his work. Some of Kaufman's original work's or prints sell from $5,000 to $10,000.
"I just found out today that I will probably be doing Al Pacino's portrait," Kaufman said during a brief phone interview this week as he prepared for his Reno visit. "What an honor it was to be chosen."
Kaufman's latest deal comes as the U.S. Postal Service considers issuing 33-cent stamps embossed with his Sinatra portraits. Those were only portraits the late singer authorized of himself; Sinatra kept the portraits by his bedside in the last months of his life.
"I am a workaholic," Kaufman said. "Everyone gets annoyed, eventually, with me. It's worth the work."
Kaufman will bring a painted motorcycle to Addi Galleries in the Reno Hilton. The Harley Davidson is entitled "Doger Harley," detailed for the Los Angeles Dodger's baseball team; it's usually on display at Dodger Stadium.
Steve High, Nevada Museum of Art executive director believes Kaufman's works will help add to northwest Nevada's growing reputation as a high-quality area for the arts.
"We' d be happy and pleased to accept such a gift into our permanent collection," Steve High, museum executive director, said of the work Kaufman will donate to the museum at his appearance Friday.