AskMen Interviews Alec Monopoly

Posted: December 18, 2014 in Uncategorized
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With Art Basel (the international art show that’s on every millionaire’s or billionaire’s party circuit) approaching, I asked myself, “Who are the most relevant and interesting artists today?” Names such as Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Jasper Johns quickly came to mind. While they all certainly produce impressive, iconic and germane contemporary art, I felt that that they didn’t quite muster the personal intrigue of artists of eras past — like, say, Warhol.

Warhol created buzz not only through his “pop” spin on iconic figures and objects, but his life personified his work. Perhaps it was the bevy of models by his side or his regular patronage of haunts like Studio 54, but his name lives on as something that represents the nostalgic best of his era. Today one artist in particular seems to be well on his way to developing a Warhol-like status and that is the graffiti artist Alec Monopoly. His street and canvas art foster a conversation centric to wealth and excess and the artist himself seems to have become the proverbial Monopoly Man who wears a top hat and is often chauffeured to some of the world’s most exclusive parties in a white Rolls (and has even designed custom Rolexes available through

While this New York native may have somewhat of a bad boy rap, you need only sit down with Alec Monopoly to quickly realize how well spoken, passionate and humble he is about not only his work, but life. Yes, his caricature is over the top, but it’s really about performance art… even when he’s busy autographing Miley Cyrus’ inner thigh backstage at LIV Nightclub in Miami.

I spent some time with Monopoly before, during and after Basel to get a better appreciation of who he is, where he came from and how his life informs his art. Here are our conversations:

David Morris (DM): How did you end up in LA?

Alec Monopoly (AM): I was in New York and then I had some issues where I was getting into a lot of trouble with my graffiti, so I came out here just to take a break from it all and then I just ended up staying.

DM: When you say trouble…

AM: I was doing a lot of illegal graffiti at the time in New York City. I had an art show there. It was my first show and I was there doing a lot of graffiti promoting the show and the police showed up to my gallery. They actually tried to arrest me and I fled the state and I went to New Jersey. I took the train there and then I left from there.

DM: You literally left your show and fled to LA?

AM: Exactly.

DM: Warrants out for your arrest?

AM: They were. They finally caught up to me. The cops always catch you.

DM: All that’s in the past now?

AM: Yeah, all that’s in the past. I’m chilling now.

DM: What were you graffitiing in New York?

AM: I’m not going to say exact details because the case really isn’t closed and they never really got me, but I was doing a couple of landmarks, areas that you really weren’t supposed to graffiti.

DM: You came up very quickly in the LA scene since your arrival in 2006.

AM: I was always known in the graffiti scene in New York, but not really in LA. I gained notoriety really quickly just because LA is so much easier to do graffiti. It’s so spread out. There’s not as many cops around. The cops really pass by you and they don’t even really care. They have bigger stuff to deal with. They have drunk drivers. They have the gangs. There’s shootings. In New York, the cops are bored because in Manhattan there’s not really much crime really anymore, so they’re really out for you. Here, they’re a little more lenient.

DM: And now people actually seek out your work.

AM: Yes, I was even able to get a lot of legal walls where I could do more intricate things. A lot of the walls you see now in LA I have are legal, done with permission.

DM: Is everything legal that you’re doing now?

AM: No, not everything, but most of the stuff. I always try to find time to do some graffiti here and there, but most of the time, I have so many walls that are given to me now, so anytime I want to go out and do something illegal, I can just do it legally.

DM: When did that change?

AM: I got my first permission mural in 2010 and then it snowballed because I used it as an example to show other building owners.

DM: What was your reaction when someone asks you to graffiti their wall?

AM: It was surprising. I spent maybe a week all day every day working on the wall, my first legal wall because I was just so excited and it was nice to be able to chill and relax and work on the piece instead of doing it quickly and running from the cops or whatever. Then it just really grew from there. Other people saw it and appreciated the skill.

DM: Then you started really making the transition to gallery art?

AM: My first show was in New York as I had mentioned. I had just been doing graffiti around New York and this real estate investor guy had walked through meat packing in New York and saw some of my graffiti. He was impressed and asked if I sold canvases. I really had not made any canvases of my graffiti work yet, but told him I could make one for him. He then commissioned me to make ten paintings and put on my first art show. Between the sold out show and the cops chasing after me it created a lot of media and I’ve been doing really well since then.

DM: Rewinding a little bit, everyone knows you as Alec Monopoly. Obviously that’s the alias of who you are in the media, but you grew up in New York? Who were you before you put on graffiti mask?

AM: I grew up in New York. My mom is a painter, so I’ve been doing drawings and paintings as early as I can remember. Then there was this gap where I was doing graffiti in high school and making as much [traditional] art. Then after high school, I focused mainly on [traditional] art and I wasn’t doing any graffiti. I did an art show for Donald Trump at his house in Palm Beach, Florida. It was a bunch of pop art and stuff like that, so I wasn’t doing any graffiti at that time, so I’d say from about 2000 to 2006, I wasn’t doing any graffiti.

DM: How did you get hooked up with Mr. Trump?

AM: My friend was actually doing a fashion show with a bunch of models at his house and asked if I wanted to come and exhibit there. It was an amazing opportunity for me. I ended up selling most of my canvas work there. Back then I was doing these Van sneakers to match the canvas and doing paintings on the shoes. They were pretty cool.

DM: When did you start to put on the mask and create your persona?

AM: I first created Alec Monopoly when I started doing graffiti of Monopoly figures. There are so many different routes you can go as a graffiti artist, but I wanted to keep my identity anonymous so I could continue to do more illegal graffiti. It was just for legal purposes that I was hiding my identity in the beginning. I never really even named myself Alec Monopoly. I was just going Alec and would always do the Monopoly guy. On the internet I just became known as Alec Monopoly. I’ve kept it not for legal purposes anymore, but it’s just more for my convenience so I could live a normal life.

DM: And you wear a top hat.

AM: I started wearing the top hat in 2012. It’s when I felt a little more comfortable with the character and felt almost absorbed by him, so now I really am the Monopoly guy.

DM: You’ll roll up in Hollywood in a white Rolls Royce to a venue, top hat, scarf and all, and everyone knows exactly who you are.

AM: Exactly. It’s fun because for me, I’ve become performance art. The life I live is my art work.

DM: Do you do this to further your brand?

AM: I’m going to carry on with it for a little bit longer, but I have some new concepts coming out and am going to do the death of Monopoly.

DM: The death of Monopoly?

AM: Yeah. We’re not releasing that series yet, but it will come soon.


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