Steve Kaufman
The Official Website 

BBC Steve Kaufman Interview

December 1, 2004

Steve Kaufman is the former assistant of legendary pop artist Andy Warhol and Steve aka SAK is now regarded as one of the most important pop artist of our time.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the exhibition opening in the UK on the 19-th November?

"I do a lot of celebrity portraits and the income I'll receive from this show I’ll give to a charity in the US called Give Kids A Break. The charity hires kids here in Los Angeles from the inner city as well as from the LA prison system. We plan to open a new art studio in the Las Vegas correction center in Nevada as well."

"The exhibition features portraits of everyone from Frank Sinatra to Al Pacino to Marilyn Monroe – it's all icons. There's a painting of Princess Diana. I got to meet her before she passed away and I told her I was going to do her portrait but she passed away before I got a chance to show it to her."

"I've never sold a single painting, I've always donated them to charity and this will be one of the first gallery events that this painting will be shown at, because I'm donating all the income to Give Kids A Break."

"There is a difference between the celebrities and the icons. I mean Frank Sinatra is an icon. Princess Diana is an icon. What I mean by an icon is, a person who reaches out beyond, their real people and they help people."

Did it help that you got to meet Princess Diana?

"I'm friends with Muhammad Ali and I see him all the time, but when I met Princess Diana she had all these people there to see her but she made it special for each person."

Can you tell us more about your plans for an art studio in the Las Vegas correction centre?

"We're going to be opening an art studio of about 100,000 square feet studio and we'll have a staff of over 100 employees at a time."

Obviously social issues affect you. Do you think your treatment of these issues in your work have given you a stronger voice?

"I do it because I have no other choice but to help. It’s how you feel when you help people, at Halloween we go to a inner city school in our area of our art studio & I’ll take my staff of ex-gang kids & hundreds of dollars of candy & have my kids help me go into the school yard and give away the candy by yelling out FREE CANDY. I'm talking about hundreds of kids running up to you so excited because they're getting free candy, wow what a rush. Why everyone's not helping, I don't know, u give away the house get a castle."

Do you think you could make all this happen if you weren't so well known?

"I don't think of myself as well known. I'm just a regular guy. I'm surrounded by ex-gang kids and homeless people all day long and they don't care who I am."

"I mean I may go to charity event and Al Pacino or the Sinatra family will be there and they treat me normally too and I'm normal right back. I don't really go to fancy restaurants because people come up to me all the time and I'm nice to them but I don't even get to eat my meal!"

"This week I went to a charity event and there was this kid and something had happened to his face – it was so sad it would make you cry. I was talking to his father about giving the kid a painting and I turned around and I took the painted coat of my back and put it on the kid. I said take it to a tailor and tell him to hem it, don't cut it
and this way maybe people will look at the jacket and not so much at his face. The kid was smiling. I had such a warm feeling. I'm still feeling choked up about it. What are we talking about here – all I gave him was a coat that I'd drawn on that feeling. In the art world people would say the coat is worth thousands but to me it was just old coat and it was time it to go a new owner & for me to get a new coat anyway!”