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Carnivalesque, imaginative and utterly unique, George Condo is a key figure in American contemporary art, best known for his distorted portraits. The artist's reverence for the works of Velázquez, Picasso, and Francis Bacon is combined with bold references from pop culture, Disney, graffiti, and Surrealism to create a distinct aesthetic that is entirely his own.


Born in 1957, in New Hampshire, Condo attended the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, studying Music Theory and Art History. Two years after graduating, Condo moved to Boston and began work with a silkscreen shop. In Boston, his career began with music. He joined the punk band The Girls with abstract painter Mark Dagley; and through this met legendary Jean-Michel Basquiat, who enhanced Condo’s experience of art and its abstract, emotive potential. It was Basquiat who eventually inspired the young Condo to move to New York and pursue an artistic path.

First Works

Condo began showing his work for the first time in New York East Village galleries in the early 1980s. It was during these years that he coined the term ‘Artificial Realism,’ and defined it as the distinctive hybrid-merging of Old Master portraiture with American Pop elements. In Condo’s own words:

'It’s the realistic representation of that which is artificial. And in order to get to that realistic representation, you need a kind of traditional background in painting. And that’s what’s genius about Picasso. We all know he mastered painting as a teenager, and that from there on it was a mission of deconstruction.'


In 1983, Condo moved to LA for a short period, where he had his first solo exhibition with the Ulrike Kantor Gallery, which was followed by a long, highly successful period spent in Europe. His first solo presentation in Europe was in Germany in 1984, at the Monika Sprueth Gallery, which featured what is perhaps his most well-known piece: The Cloudmaker (1984). 

During his travels in Europe, Condo started working with art dealer and gallerist Barbara Gladstone, which resulted in two exhibitions in New York in 1984 with Gladstone Gallery and the Pat Hearn Gallery. He also met and became life-long friends with Keith Haring, continuing their friendship back in New York until Haring’s death in 1990.

Most Famous Works

Unlike many artists, Condo’s most famous and popular works did not necessarily appear later in his career or together in one series. One of his most famous works, The Cloudmaker (1984), emerged in his very first solo exhibition, and, a year later, Dancing to Miles (1985) was painted by Condo in Keith Haring’s New York studio. The latter was included as part of the 1987 Whitney Biennial and is now kept in the Broad Foundation collection in LA.

His most famous later works take a different form. Condo’s work is perhaps most accessible to the public in the form of pop-culture attachments, be it book covers, album artworks, or collaborative bodies of work. In 2010, famous American rapper Kanye West released his new album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, with an album cover so grotesque and disturbing that it was subsequently banned by iTunes. It depicted a morbid, frightful, and aggressive caricature of the artist with a female phoenix across his lap, which has now been blurred out on the cover.


When he made the move to New York, Condo worked at Andy Warhol’s factory, helping to add gold dust to Warhol’s Myths series, during which time he was engulfed in the vibrant scene of the city. Condo himself cites the Old Masters as his greatest influences, including Diego Velázquez, Neoclassicists such as Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and Pablo Picasso himself. The merging of the delirious abstract expressionism of his contemporaries, with this deep respect for classicists, forms one of the most recognisable aspects of Condo’s work. Friendships made throughout Condo’s career also shaped the direction of his art; the likes of Keith Haring and William S. Burroughs gave Condo room for further artistic experimentation.

Style & Technique

Throughout his career, Condo has continued to develop new styles that evoke extreme emotional and psychological reactions in the viewer. In addition to ‘Artificial Realism,’ Condo also coined the movement ‘Psychological Cubism,’ which is best exemplified by his humorous yet disturbing paintings from the 2000s, such as The Orgy (2004), Superman (2005), Batman And Bunny (2005), and God (2007).

Condo’s distinctive and challenging style has appealed to many creative minds, including Allen Ginsberg. Between 1988 and 1996, Condo collaborated with William S. Burroughs on a series of paintings, sculptures, and written pieces (Ghost of Chance, published by the Whitney Museum, 1991). In Paris, philosopher and writer Félix Guattari (co-author of A Thousand Plateaus and much more), was fascinated by Condo’s work and conducted a series of interviews with him, before putting together the introductory text for the exhibition catalogue at Galerie Daniel Templon in 1990. Condo also produced a series of illustrations for the posthumous publishing of Jack Kerouac’s Book of Sketches (2006), album artwork for The Story of the Ghost by Phish (1998), and artwork for Danny Elfman’s Serenada Schizophrana (2006).

Life & Times

Condo’s work has been exhibited around the globe in many renowned international museums and galleries, including George Condo: One Hundred Women at the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg and Kunsthalle Bielefeld in 2005, and George Condo: The Lost Civilization at the Musee Maillol in Paris. The latter also featured a reprint of Guattari’s text from Condo’s Galerie Daniel Templon exhibition in 1990. A retrospective, entitled Mental States, was held at the New Museum in New York, in 2011, and has since travelled to the Netherlands, Germany, and London. Many pieces are now housed in permanent collections at the Whitney Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum, MoMA, and many more. As a formidable and inspiring figure in the art world, Condo has been invited to lecture at major academic institutions, including Harvard, Columbia, and Yale.

On the Market

Condo is undoubtedly one of the dominant forces on the art market, and his name only gains further critical acclaim as his work progresses. His work is viewed by collectors as a secure investment. The current record for a sale of a work by Condo at auction is held by Force Field, which sold for over $6,800,000 at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2020.

He remains one of the most influential artistic figures, due in part to his ability to work across a range of mediums and disciplines to create work that inspires, provokes, and evolves. He is hopeful regarding the future of art:

'With all of the negativity in the world out there, art has this opportunity to be very truthful. Any artist will go out and do what they can to say “at least we tell the truth. What we say is what we mean, and what we show is what it is.’'