I’ve always wanted to speak to André about cities and travel. Actually, I believe that we are quite alike: we can’t seem to be able to stay in the same place for long, and are both romantic and unable to resist a pretty girl’s look.
For more than three decades André has been spreading his graffities all over the world. He doesn’t just paint than walls, his art filtered down to daily life. It’s a way of living. André can be seen customizing a clothing line for Louis Vuitton or opening nightclubs or hotels in different cities. The opening of the Baron bar in 2000 made an impact in the City of Lights nightlife. Terry Richardson photographed André semi-naked for the cover of Purple. Hedonism was celebrated, showing the bourgeoisie it was possible to be bohemian, creative and disruptive. Between Paris and New York he painted walls with the names of the girls he fell in love with. The “Love Graffiti’s” turned into a cult, even decking the walls of Colette in Paris. Before that, his paintings were also well recognized through the smiley and lengthy legs stickman named Monsieur A. It’s his signature.
In Lisbon, where the main street market takes place, André Saraiva made a different ceramic wall once every fortnight. The graffitis were slowly replaced by a gigantic wall of tiles. André seats on a tree. The big square near Lisbon’s Pantheon is quiet, and all we hear are the tuk tuks passing by every now and then. They tell the tourists about André: “It is a French artist with Portuguese roots”. I asked him if was because of that that André chose Portugal as the place to show his biggest work, “All roads lead to Lisbon”, – he confessed in secret. “I was born in Paris, but I have a big bond with these streets. My parents are Portuguese and my passport always reminds me of my roots when I cross a border. Lisbon is a very special city, we can still find real authenticity here. I travel all around the world and here in Lisbon there’s this human density, there are districts with local markets that didn’t surrender to the big corporations and their chain stores. Lisbonners are still unique and that is translated on the streets. The authenticity of Lisbon is without any doubt the human density!”.
The giant ceramic wall in Feira da Ladra was a dream that he never thought would become real. “When in 2013 I opened an exhibition at MUDE, I told Bárbara Correia that I would love to do something in ceramic. And she took care of everything, introduced me to the factory Viúva Lamego, and suddenly I fnd myself working with this traditional technique. One thing is certain, this tile wall will last much longer than any of my graffitis. People generally end up painting over them”
Are you looking for eternity? – I ask.
“When you’re an artist there is an idea of creating something timeless, something that will last. Maybe unconsciously I was looking for that but in my mind I was just really happy to paint over ceramic.” It took almost two years to finish the panel. The wall is constantly changing with the life of the city.
During this days, André was exploring the other side of Lisbon, where he bought a beach house and built up an atelier near the fishing village of Fonte da Telha. There he hosts guests from all over the world: André Balazs, the man behind New Yorks The Mercer and London’s Chiltern’s Firehouse, took a dive in those waters. In the beginning of the decade, André and his friends seemed to resist the tedious world by plotting parties without end… what changed meanwhile? “Life has different periods. Maybe now I’m going through a isolated in a fishing village phase.” André’s smile betrays a hint of irony. Now, he tends to travel without bags, hopping from hotel to hotel. In Paris he sleeps at Hotel Amour, in Los Angeles at the Château Marmont, with a constant ritual: he opens a case with his belongings which the hotels keeps for him. “During my travels, I have discovered something: it’s really good to come back to the same places. Sometimes it’s just not worth it trying to find a better place”.
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