Artist TVBoy on LGBT murals, collabs, and Keith Haring

    Provocative street art meets luxury retail: Italian street artist TVBoy reveals the secret sauce of brand x artist crossovers in an exclusive interview with Jing Daily.
    TVBoy stands with one of his most famous illustrations of Ronaldo and Messi, currently seen at La Roca Village. Photo: La Roca Village
      Published   in Collaborations

    If you’ve come across images depicting 45th US President Donald Trump passionately kissing the Pope, or Lionel Messi’s lips attached to those of Christiano Ronaldo, then you’ve likely encountered the work of Barcelona-based, Italian neo-pop street artist TVBoy.

    Salvatore Benintende, better known by his pseudonym of TVBoy, found fame through his provocative celebrity graffiti art and is the latest name to collaborate with the luxury retail destination in Barcelona, La Roca Village.

    The artist-retail partnership dates back to when TVBoy first moved to the Spanish city in 2004, so the two names have evolved organically together.

    La Roca Village's TVBoy collaboration demonstrates one possibility of artist-brand crossovers in retail. Photo: La Roca Village
    La Roca Village's TVBoy collaboration demonstrates one possibility of artist-brand crossovers in retail. Photo: La Roca Village

    One of the 11 Bicester Collection shopping centers owned by Value Retail, La Roca Village is home to over 150 designer stores, and now, more than 20 thought-provoking murals tackling issues like LGBTQIA+ rights, female empowerment and global warming by TVBoy, created as part of a project celebrating the retail mecca’s 25th anniversary.

    "Normally, these kinds of themes would be considered more taboo. You can't always talk openly about refugees or LGBT rights with brands, but La Roca Village gave me freedom to do whatever I wanted,” TVBoy, 42, tells Jing Daily.

    The artist showcases the ways creatives can help luxury retailers engage with consumers in a meaningful way, while championing the culture that surrounds brick-and-mortar stores.

    In 2022, he created a mural which read "Follow Your Dreams" depicting footballer LGBT+ Alexia Putellas as superwoman, and in February this year, he made headlines for painting murals across the Ukrainian city of Bucha in the Kyiv Region to protest against the war there.

    Today, people truly want retail environments that provide emotional engagement. This is particularly apparent amid post-Covid travel as the Chinese diaspora return in their droves, among other valuable tourist groups this summer.

    Yet, as TVBoy’s career demonstrates, creative license and an open-minded approach are key to the success of brand-artist collaborations. La Roca Village x TVBoy works because he had full control in the conceptualization of his art pieces, while the retail outlet assisted during the production process.

    For a retail location, graffiti works perfectly as an art form that is able to be understood by the masses. It’s this accessibility that attracted TVBoy to the visual art style.

    "When I was 16 years old, I fell in love with this form of art because it's a way to attract new people to the artworld. It's hard to be accepted into museums, but street art is very accessible. It's for everyone, and a language that everybody can understand,” says TVBoy.

    Creative commerce#

    The archaic notion that authentic artists do not venture into branded product drops has evidently waned. For TVBoy, co-branded ventures are a channel to reach a wider audience, thus spreading each message further.

    "Most kids who like my art can't afford to buy a painting; so street art became a way to reach a wider audience,” says TVBoy. “I liked Keith Haring's Pop Shop in the 1980s, that philosophy. He was giving stickers to kids and painting murals — it helped the art world become more democratic."

    TVBoy had artistic freedom to address moral issues, while La Roca Village simply helped out on production to create sculptures and murals. Photo: La Roca Village
    TVBoy had artistic freedom to address moral issues, while La Roca Village simply helped out on production to create sculptures and murals. Photo: La Roca Village

    That openness to selling products through art is being embraced widely by today’s young artists, who are becoming platforms for brands to engage with their audiences on a personal level.

    Just as TVBoy used celebrities in his early work to pique consumer interest, brands deploy key opinion leaders, or artists to attract fanbases. Oftentimes, brands that espouse morals are not viewed as exhibiting the same level of sincerity as artists who convey similar messages.

    Furthermore, La Roca Village is a destination for holidaymakers. The opportunity, therefore, to attend an exhibition by a local artist adds another layer to the destination’s appeal, just as the UK’s Bicester Village hosted a pop-up to celebrate Elton John’s tour this year, or the Shanghai Village appointed Into1's Nattawat Finkler (aka Patrick) as brand ambassador in 2021.

    Ruffling feathers#

    Artistic freedom means pushing boundaries, but for some brands, tackling moral issues runs the risk of appearing insincere.

    Some of TVBoy’s murals at the Barcelona-based fashion retail destination address climate change, for instance, which conflicts to the notorious impact of the industry.

    One artwork sees "Save The World" emblazoned across a wall next to a Calvin Klein store, a brand that straddles fast and luxury fashion. Rated as "not good enough" for the planet by GoodOnYou, the American brand does use organic cotton, but there is no evidence that it is on track to meet its publicized sustainability targets.

    The placement of TVBoy’s disruptive visuals is telling, highlighting the work the fashion industry needs to implement. Either way, the exhibition is a provocative crossover between a retail company and artist that provides a valuable lesson in luxury branding.

    As long as brands understand that their function is to provide a platform for artists to interpret their identity and have space to work their magic, collaborations will always make sense creatively and connect with consumers.

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