Exclusive: Amit Shimoni Paints History Into Hipsters
From what started as a project re-styling old portraits of Israeli politicians in a modern dress context, has turned into a collective titled HIPSTORY featuring iconic international leaders looking cooler than your average. Created by Israeli designer and illustrator Amit Shimoni, HIPSTORY is a fun series of colorful portraits that show Gandhi rocking tea-shades, Mao Zedong in a backwards Hawaiian fitted, and Vladimir Lenin wearing a studded black vest with gauges in his ears. The portraits not only make us laugh, but they also call on us to remember these freedom fighters, and in a way, despite their silly appearances help remind us of their humanity.
Take a look at what the artist has to say about HIPSTORY in regards to the reception of identity and leadership in the modern world.
What inspired this project?
The history of the last century is heavily defined by it’s prominent figures–the main leaders who shaped the course of history. I often find myself imagining a world where some of these leaders are less interested in influencing lives, and more focused on their own persona. Imagine Gandhi obsessing about his looks, and not about releasing India from the British rule? Or Abraham Lincoln searching for a hip bar, instead of abolishing slavery? Although all of these great leaders were a part of a collective identity, they were all still unique and innovative in their own way.
HIPSTORY tries to recreate these iconic figures and places them in different times and cultures in attempt to create new and altered portraits of them. In modern times collective identity is less binding and anyone can reinvent himself or herself. Google a random 18 years old guy from Beijing, and you would find tons of photos of him all in different outfits; now do the same for Mao Zedong—there are only a few.
HIPSTORY’s intention lies not in choosing the better generation but rather in highlighting the differences, by changing the point of view and introducing a new perspective. It is my hope that this series will encourage us to reflect upon our leaders, our society, and ourselves. If that fails, HIPSTORY will at least make us smile.
What kind of impact did you think your pieces would have on the Internet?
I started with illustrating the Israeli founding fathers and you can’t believe the reaction. It was amazing, the young and the old all were inspired, and had their own perspective of the series. Everyone had something to connect with.
So after the success the of Israeli series, I thought people would identify with this notion and this kind of illustration all over the world.
My favorite is probably Lincoln, after all he was my first, and he is the oldest, he is so detached from the hipster scene, and even by his look you can see that he is not related to this whole thing at all. And let me tell you truth, I think even some of the hipsters today are detached from their identity, yet they keep it anyway.
How did you choose how you would dress each figure?
I put hints toward every character in regards to their history, ideology, and background. I tried to show how everyone is becoming more distinct from his or her collective identity, or from his or her Meta ideology rather than trying to be more unique. So you see, Mandela has African influenced clothes, Lenin is sort of anarchist, Churchill is still the strong (not literally) person he used to be, Che wears a Che t-shirt, and so on.
If you could have dinner with 3 of the characters you painted which ones would you choose and why?
If I could have a sit down dinner with three of the characters, I would choose Gandhi. He is the only one that hasn’t done any wrong, and didn’t take part in any violence what so ever. The second would be [Che]( http://www.milkmade.com/articles?utf8=✓&search=che+), as I think he was sort of a hipster of his time, but it was all about ideology and less about outer appearance. The third I would sit with would be Margaret Thatcher—such a cold and a bit grumpy woman, I would love to know how she actually is in person.
What upcoming projects are your working on?
There are few on the way, I am now doing a series of posters and designs for Hercules, an organization that promotes animal rights. I have a dog myself, and if my art can contribute to animals, I would definitely use it for this purpose.