Born 1967 in Tokyo/Japan, Peter Vahlefeld grew up in Hong Kong and Hamburg. He received a grant from Parsons School of Design in Paris and completed his studies in New York with an honor degree in Fine Arts. Having his headquarters located in Berlin and a studio in Munich, he is still oftern traveling around. We caught up the artist to discuss his career and work.
I was very much interested in the history of art and image making. The ability to produce & reproduce images, bigger, better, hotter, and wetter than before, was my focus. Every day I am seeing nonstop; every day there are a myriad of images being dumped into my awareness. The various categories, media and art histories become materials to use—it´s all now—this is what makes me tick. And since art and money go together like peanut butter and jelly, I am very much interested in the topic of the “art market”. The notion that art has some inherent value, I guess, is the central and most productive illusion of it.
I´ve recognized that works of art in our culture inevitably are reduced to the condition of commodity. What I do is to short-circuit the process and start with the commodity. I over-paint advertisements for international galleries, museums, auction houses and museum shop merchandising—focusing on the interface between analog and digital painting. These over-paintings of printed matter are digitized, over-painted again on the computer, before being transferred to canvas to be over-painted again, digitized again, and so forth, thus becoming a conceptual and formal construct. I combine heterogeneous elements, which eventually fuse with the painted surface, composed of seemingly informal gestures, swipes and erasures.
Of course Andy Warhol is an important artist and is still quite contemporary. To confront painting with serial mass production and to go on canvas with silkscreen were conceptually radical moves. And… I like to reference blue-chip icons, which have been monetized by auction houses or museum shops in order to gain value.
Right now I absolutely adore Vincent Van Gogh´s Sunflowers, being commercially highjacked as a tee towel, jigsaw puzzle, umbrella, chocolate square, fridge magnet, silk scarf, even as an iPhone 5 (not 6) cover, etc., by the National Gallery´s Museum Shop in London.
Yes, it was a curated Auction of Contemporary Art at the Semperdepot, which belongs to the Academy of Fine Arts, in cooperation with Sotheby´s. I showed an almost abstract painting of Goya´s “El Quitasol“ which has been highjacked as a “7-Pieces Self-Adhesive File Label” by the Museum Shop Prado in Madrid. I have expropriated this file label by over-painting it and making it my own.
Absolutely, I have a one-artist show at the “art Karlsruhe” which is an international fair for classic modern and contemporary art coming up, and a 64-page catalogue with the title: “Monet Manet Money” coming out in April.