BY ALEC MONOPOLY
Street artist Alec Monopoly is known for his variations of the top hat-wearing, mustache-sporting man from the eponymous board game. He started dropping those across New York at the dawn of the economic crisis before moving to L.A., where he brought the character to life on the streets of Hollywood. Monopoly, the artist, wears a bandana as a mask and dons a top hat to stay anonymous for public appearances. However, he has also worked on high-profile projects across the globe, including, on Wednesday, creating a piece of art live on the "red" carpet (technically, the carpet was purple) for the premiere of Justin Bieber's movie Believe. In this exclusive, Monopoly describes the ensuing madness.
My name is Alec Monopoly and I'm a graffiti artist from New York City. I basically do street art, but, for the past five years, I've been doing art shows, gallery shows and collaborations with brands and stuff like that. Wednesday night, I kind of adventure-painted a piece inspired by Justin Bieber's journals, the singles to his new album and artwork from the movie for the world premiere of Believe.
Scooter, Bieber's manager, and my management had been going back and forth for a long time about doing a collaboration together. At the last minute, my manager called me and asked, "Do you want to do this?" I said, of course. We were going back and forth.
"You're going to be painting on the red carpet."
"Justin might be painting with you, but we don't know."
I've been painting my whole life. My mom is an artist, so I've been drawing and painting forever. I started doing graffiti tags and stuff like that when I was 12. In 2008, when the economy crashed, I started doing Monopoly Guy, which inspired me to bring more of my studio artwork into the streets. Before that, I was just writing and tagging. When I started doing Monopoly Guy, there was an immediate response. Within a couple weeks, art dealers and collectors were hitting me up to do shows. It was crazy how fast the response was. It was such an organic thing, to tag the streets. Now I'm doing Justin Bieber red carpets.
We rolled up at 5 p.m. and all the girls were screaming. I guess they thought I was Justin Bieber or someone else. They were just screaming at anyone who was coming out of cars, which was really intense. I was nervous from the start with that many girls screaming and crying. I'm not used to that many people and bright lights and cameras. I'm used to painting in the dark by myself or working here in the studio.
The most interesting thing was interacting with the photographers. They're always trying to mess with you or say things to draw emotions out of you. When the celebrities come, they scream, "Look over here!" They're like "Move out of the way!" screaming at each other. Some of Justin's friends were with him. One of the photographers was like, "Hey! Losers! Move out of the way!" They're nuts. They all have really loud voices. They are yelling at people like they're pieces of meat. I feel like that's half of the talent with those photographers, them being able to yell and coerce the celebrity into having a good photo.
Every celebrity had to walk past me. It was kind of weird. Do I keep painting or do I say hi? I'm not hungry for celebrity, so I don't really care. I was just trying to be polite. The guy from Everybody Loves Raymond-- Brad Garrett -- that guy was really cool. He was like, "Is this graffiti?" I'm like, "Yeah, it is."
I always leave things for the last minute. I had a week to prep for this. The night before, I was sketching things out. I was trying to think of what to do. I kept watching the trailer for Believe just to get the feel of the artwork and the colors. I had to get a feel for the energy of the movie, the color scheme and the visuals. The visuals that stood out to me were his silhouette, when he's standing on stage and looking back, and then he had these wings and flew away. I used that as the centerpiece.
I made the piece in three hours. I started with just Bieber's silhouette. It started with him and then I painted around him. I did a purple fade. Purple is his favorite color. I started with purple and then I was doing different shades of pink. I wrote "Believe" in Wild Style graffiti style, which is a kind of old-school lettering I used to do. I gave him these abstract wings that I painted and then I would go over and keep bringing them back. The wings would disappear and then come back.
Justin Bieber's a cool kid. I think I met him briefly before. This was the first time we were actually chilling. He rolls really deep. There must have been 20 or 30 people in his crew, just homies. The security was insane. It was like the Secret Service or something. There were maybe 10 of them with walkie talkies coming around. I'm trying to paint and they're like, "Are you painting here? Is Justin going to paint?" I'm like, "Yeah, I'm allowed to be here. Yeah, Justin is going to paint."
As Bieber comes up, I'm getting more nervous because everyone is taking pictures. I don't want to be looking at him. I was playing it cool, just working on the piece and not really looking over. Out of the corner of my eye, they kept coming closer and closer. He was in a dope, red outfit, so he was sticking out like a sore thumb. He came over and he was like, "Do you have a glove to paint." I was like, "No, look at my hands. I'm filthy." My hands were completely black. I couldn't even shake anyone's hand because my hands were completely filthy.
He picked up a can and he started tagging. He did a heart. There was black paint all over the can. He got black paint on him, so he dropped the can. He was like "Oh, great." He got black paint all over him. It was tough to try to stay clean when you're so immersed in your work.
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I never really get my hopes up for anything, so I didn't even expect him to paint on it or stop to take a picture in front of it, let alone for him to stop and chill and say what up. There were a million people taking pictures when he came by. Everyone was screaming.
We were the last people to walk into the theater. All these girls were crying, "Please, please, do you have extra tickets?" I felt so bad for the girls. They were freaking out for tickets. I think most of the people that were in the movie theater were celebrities or people who had something to do with the movie. Then, when you stepped outside, it was madness all over again. Those kids waited out there for hours.
I can only imagine that this is every day of Bieber's life. That's crazy to me that this is his life. Everywhere he goes is screaming fans everywhere. That's why I like to remain anonymous. I don't want to be famous like that. It's too much pressure.
As told to Liz Ohanesian.