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THE KING OF ART BASEL

Monday, December 7, 2015
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Miami Art Basel is hectic almost by definition and rushing around from party to installation to exhibit is par for the course at the week-long festival. Mixed media artist King Saladeen, though, might be the busiest person in the city–full stop. King Saladeen is a Warhol for the Instagram generation, seamlessly blending neon colors, pop culture references, quotes, symbols, and his own signature motifs into vibrant and trippy pieces of collectable art that’s caught the eye of celebrities and mega-brands, making King a star in his own right.

Despite his insane schedule that included customizing a Bugatti, bottles of Dom, and a star-studded party co-hosted with The Game, we were able to talk with the King on the night of his collaboration with Footaction to ask about his inspiration, process, and next move.

AVENUE: How is Art Basel going so far? You’ve already done a ton this week. 

KING SALADEEN: It’s going great–I mean, I customized a Bugatti last night! I had about two other shows, but the event with Revolt and Footaction tonight is my kind of my main show that I’ve been really, really focused on. So tonight is going to be crazy.

AVE: You’re offered lots of work and collaborations, but what drew you to the Footaction project in particular?

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King Saladeen with his finished piece for Footaction


KS: I think I’m the perfect person for it. The mantra of the brand is “OWN IT” and that’s how I live my life. I’m from the bottom, I was just starting out, and now I’ve been doing so much stuff. All of my clients are these big, big guys but I’m just here to motivate.  I have so many kids who want to do art now! That’s pretty much how I got put on to this situation. It just all fit.

AVE: It sounds like you guys are the perfect match. I know the theme of your live exhibit tonight is the Footaction tagline. Do you have any ideas for the painting going in or are you going to just go with what you feel in the moment?

KS: I actually started the piece already. I have it about 25 percent done because I didn’t want to have to build this whole thing from scratch in front of everyone, so I have some things laid out. I wake up with that “OWN IT” mindset every day. I walked out of my job four years ago with just $400 in my pocket, so I know that to accomplish anything you have to own it. So that’s my whole mindset behind the piece, and my idea for it. I want to represent their brand and my brand all at once. It’s sometimes hard to explain, but once I start creating it’s going to be a lot easier because I’ll have the art in front of me.

AVE: Have you been able to check out any other exhibits or has it all been prep?

KS: I had two other shows earlier this week and it’s been a lot of stuff like my manager dropping off art work, meeting clients, going to the studio. I got out of the studio at 5 a.m. this morning so I haven’t even slept. I haven’t had the chance to see any exhibits–every time I’m at Basel I never get to see anything because I’m so busy! But I love Basel, I love the energy and the people.

AVE: Is that what keeps you coming back to Basel?

KS: Yeah, and it’s actually what made me quit my job and start doing my art full-time. When I was working at my job, I would dream of this but I never had the time. I never had days off, I never could think of a good enough lie to have the weekend off to come down here. So doing stuff like this is my fuel to keep dreaming big. It’s like, I have to come to Art Basel! This is why I quit my job, to get my art in the hands of the actual art world.

AVE: Beyond Basel, what’s next for you?

KS: Right before Basel, I did a collaboration with Neiman Marcus and it went really well so they asked me to come back so I’m doing some stuff for them this Christmas. I also have a lot of different commissions and I just linked up with some people in Indonesia so I have a lot of stuff just waiting on the back burner. I’m really just working. I already did the groundwork, the super hustling, so now it’s just fulfilling the orders and creating. I’m ready.
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