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Written by Flora King
23 Monday 23rd August 2010

It’s been a significant couple of years for street art, with Obama turning to Shepard Fairey for a campaign poster, and Cameron presenting the President with an Eine painting on his first official visit to Washington. Slowly, but surely, the art establishment is beginning to take notice of the street art movement, and artists who until recently remained relatively low-key and anonymous are now being applauded in the press and catapulted on to the world stage. Despite the fact that publicity spells money, however, some artists would still rather eat a sandwich doused in petrol than have to deal with an interview, suck up to a sponsor or allow their art to become a platform for advertising. And Brooklyn-based collagist Bäst is one that seems to fall in to this category.

Whether it’s a mutant multi-eyed Papa Smurf or Donald Duck wielding an AK-47, Bäst’s trademark wheat-pastes have been decorating downtown doorways and Brooklyn bus shelters since the 1990s. In more recent years, his art has achieved global recognition, with work featured in a spate of group gallery shows, including the critically acclaimed Deluxx Fluxx arcade show with artist duo Faile at Lazarides, and Beach Blanket Bingo at NYC’s Jonathan LeVine Gallery. But, despite this increasing celebrity, Bäst remains a notoriously private figure, preferring to let the public interpret his art as they choose than be grilled by a string of over-zealous art writers on his political stance and what messages lie behind those gun-toting mums and dubious-looking Dopey dwarfs.
With Bäst’s first much anticipated UK solo show Botulism opened at Lazarides on Rathbone Place on Friday, what do we know about the ever-elusive collagist? Classic Bäst is chaotic and colourful, distorted, sexed-up and typically subversive. Often using a variety of media – anything from old newsprint cuttings, food packaging, advertising logos and bits of scrap metal – Bäst likes to alter the familiar, and turn the recognisable in to its distorted counterpart. Inspired by the punk movement and punk fliers from the 80s, cartoon and comic characters with warped faces appear alongside pornographic depictions of women and gruesome images of violence and guerrilla warfare. Botulism (which is an aggressive type of food poisoning, by the way – your guess is as good as ours), combines a collection of characteristic Bäst collages with some fresh, new mixed media sculptures and acrylics on wood. From the artist’s signature multi-eyed faces to pigs on speedboats and cowboy kids on hobby horses, the collection is bright and energetic, and doesn’t fail in packing a punch.
The show runs until October 1, and Lazarides Rathbone is open Tuesday to Saturday, 11am – 7pm. Admission is free. For more information visit


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