Spanning politics, history and culture, Israeli artist Amit Shimoni reimagines the most iconic figures of past and present on canvas. By dressing them up in street styles and clichéd clothing typical of Generation Y (aka Millennials), he juxtaposes the generation’s hip sensibilities with personalities of power. Without passing judgement, he artfully exposes gaps between ideologies, times and personalities. The result is a strikingly relevant commentary on contemporary society.
We sat down to learn more about the man behind the satire—one of Forbes’ top 30 under 30 Israelis and the subject of much international media acclaim for his HIPSTORY series.
How do you choose which public figures you want to include in your work?
I try to find the most iconic figures possible. Leaders whose actions, as well as physical appearance, are widely known. Then they go through my filter and get a little twist. On the one hand, I try to distance the figure from the personality. But on the other hand, I still stay true to them, so the resemblance is clear. It’s the interplay between these two levels which make the illustrations interesting, I feel.
Which is your favourite hipstorized portrait to date and who would you like to draw next?
Einstein definitely—he’s one of the most recent and also the first figure from my non-political series! Who's next? The next non-political figure! [laughs]
Is there anyone you definitely wouldn’t hipstorize?
Basically, I try to avoid controversial characters. I get a lot of people in Israel asking for Benjamin Netanyahu—Bibi—but that’s probably not going to happen [laughs].
Do you feel that there’s some level of controversy to making cartoons of people who, for some, are lifelong heroes or unspeakable villains?
Yes, I do. I’m not indifferent to reactions sometimes I even get hostile ones from people who hate or adore these figures. However, the aim of HIPSTORY is to deal more with our generation, Generation Y, which is more individualistic than idealistic. I tried to find leaders that have or had an agenda and actions that were completely distinct, rather than people typical of our generation. But it’s important to stress that I’m not looking to criticise—I just want to shed some light on our generation. I want to make us think about our culture.
Why do you think Generation Y is more individualistic than idealistic?
We are too exposed to the constant changes in the world we live in—we can’t even take in one event before another is already happening! This, I think, creates an atmosphere in which people are in permanent need for change just to “keep up”. Maybe this is why people are trying so hard to be unique, by concentrating more on what's cool today and less about tomorrow.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
That is a difficult one! If I wasn't an artist, maybe I would do something in agriculture, or maybe even behind the scenes in showbiz. My main aspiration is to be part of a creative process, whatever it may be.
Where do you get your inspiration for hipster fashion from?
I follow many fashion and design magazines from around the world but when there's a “bingo” moment, it's usually on the streets with people I come across.
Wool cap or moustache?
It’s so hot in Tel Aviv, I can't even imagine a wool cap...so moustache it is!
Text: Diane Mironesco
Translation: Nicholas Potter