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André Arrives at Colette

From street to gallery: for the first time ever, graffiti artist André shows works in frames.

André Saraiva, aka André, once tattooed French streets everywhere with his infamous alter-ego character, a round-headed figure nicknamed Mr A. In the early noughties, he went on to opening clubs worldwide, including Le Baron in Paris and Beatrice Inn in New York. Today, this artist about town is trying his hand at classical drawings. His very first show, entitled Drawingsopened at Colette on February 1. Consisting of 30 illustrations, made out of ink and colour pencils, that have been never shown before that mix up childhood cartoons, LSD aesthetics and his infatuation with New York, these works reveal a brand new André.

Dazed Digital: How would you describe the art you are showing?
André Saraiva: They are more classical than the work I’m famous for, but more intimate too. I’m self-taught but have always drawn. I’ve just never shown it before.

DD: What are your influences?
André Saraiva: I’m inspired by universes I fantasized about as a child, such as Pierre le Tan’s illustrations, Krazy Kat comic strips, or a Night in the Kitchen by Maurice Sendak.

DD: How does the nightlife you now work in relate to you art (both on streets and off the street)
André Saraiva: I’ve always lived at night, from the moment I started making graffiti. Music too is part of my universe – the underground, the avant-garde are scenes that exist only at night. Night events were a way of bringing all these elements together, of creating new atmospheres.  I still have the same friends, guys who can’t get into typical nightclubs. It’s for them that I created my places. Le Baron used to be a hooker bar; I took over it to put on concerts. Since its opening five years ago, we’ve had 250 gigs. In short, I use the night as a platform to show new things.

DD: So it seems your life has changed quite a bit since your street art debuts. Is this why your art is changing too?
André Saraiva: It’s not replacing graffiti, it’s just another side of my work. You can’t put street art into a gallery, it’s condescending and limiting: 80 per cent of the graffiti is in the act, the challenge. The result is meant to disappear. Galleries are traditional spaces, and street art is what it is: it’s a vandalizing act.

DD: So is this the end of graffiti?
André Saraiva: No no no, of course not! But as you know, I’ve had quite a few problems with the law so I have to behave for now – or at least in France!

The exhibition ‘Drawings’, is on at Colette, 213 Rue Saint-Honoré, Paris, from the 1st to the 27th of February