December 29, 1960 - February 12, 2010
On February 12, 2010, the world lost Steve Alan Kaufman (SAK), one of the greatest American pop artists and former assistant to Andy Warhol. Steve Kaufman's heart, activism, popularity, and humanitarianism were legendary. His art found its way into the homes and hearts of so many, capturing the true American pop art experience. After serving as a young assistant to Andy Warhol, Steve Kaufman left The Factory at the end of the 1980's to continue his path of reinterpreting and refining the typical techniques of pop art. Steve Kaufman created his own style through the process of hand embellishment, giving life to his famous "icons" that appealed to audiences worldwide. Steve Kaufman painted such timeless pieces as Coca-Cola, Marilyn Monroe, Mozart, Beethoven, The Wizard of Oz, Muhammad Ali, his money series, and his paintings of famous singers, actors and icons.
Steve Alan Kaufman aka SAK 1960-2010
1960 - Steve Alan Kaufman was born on December 29, 1960 in the Bronx, New York.
1968 - Sponsored by a Jewish temple in the Bronx, Steve Kaufman creates Holocaust paintings which were later donated to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Brooklyn.
1972 - Works for Macy’s, painting dog and cat faces on pet rocks.
1975 - Steve Kaufman participates in group graffiti show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
1978-1981 - Enrolls in the School of Visual Arts. Meets Andy Warhol and becomes his assistant at The Factory. Designs theme parties at Studio 54, The Mud Club, Underground, and Magique.
Meets Keith Haring at School of Visual Arts (SVA) show. Participates in group show at Club 57 with Haring.
1982 - Creates graphics for NBC’s "Saturday Night Live." Graduates from School of Visual Arts (SVA) with a BFA. Holds art shows at the Air Gallery in London, White Freud and Fiorucci store window in NYC.
1989-1990 - Steve Kaufman opens Art Studio and hires New York City homeless. Paints portraits of three homeless people for Transportation Display, Inc. Portraits are shown in 46 cities on bus billboards, helping raise $4.72 million to benefit the homeless. Trojan Condoms/Carter Wallace sponsors 5,000 AIDS awareness buttons to be given away in Greenwich Village and at an art auction for The American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR).
1991-1992 - Completes 55 Racial Harmony Murals in the New York City area with Malcolm X images. Appears on Fox TV, MTV and various radio stations to speak out on racial harmony. Accepts award as Underground Artist of the Year. Paints Mickey Mantle’s portrait for Mantle’s Restaurant. Paints Joe Frazier’s portrait to raise money for Police Athletic League. Creates AIDS Memorial in New York City.
1993-1994 - Steve Kaufman moves his Art Studio to Los Angeles, California. Hires more than 100 Los Angeles ex-gang kids from prison to assist him in the studio.
1995 - Published works for Martin Lawrence Limited Editions. Hand paints limited editions, giving new meaning to hand-embellishment. Creates limited editions of Beethoven, which sold out, and Marilyn Monroe, breaking all sales records for a new artist.
Creates portraits of Muhammad Ali and John Travolta, who autographed their editions. First artist to form a bridge between Marvel Comics (Spider Man) and DC Comics (Superman). Works with Stan Lee, who autographed the editions.
Starts the following programs:
- Works with Los Angeles “South Central” parole officers.
- Hires more than 200 kids from prison to work in the studio.
- Receives award from Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.
1996 - Campbell’s asks Steve to paint a limited edition to mark Campbell’s Soup’s 100th Anniversary. Paints Muhammad Ali’s face on 500 boxing gloves, demonstrating that art doesn't have to be on canvas. By now, 325 kids have worked for the Art Studio and 85 percent have gone on to a better way of life.
Paints two Harley-Davidson motorcycles: one a Campbell’s Soup theme and the other a Cohiba Cigar theme. Later, the gas tank of the latter was hand-signed by Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Paints a Harley- Davidson motorcycle for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. The bike is driven around Dodger Stadium before each game and televised to millions of homes.
Creates Ali portrait for the 1996 Olympics. Ali signs the edition for the first time with both his Muslim name, Muhammad Ali, and his birth name, Cassius Clay.
1997-1998 - Tina Sinatra features Kaufman’s portraits of Frank Sinatra on Larry King’s CNN show. Holds art shows in Japan and Amsterdam.
1999-2000 - Steve Kaufman suffers a cardiac episode and a motorcycle accident. Quoted afterwards:
“I’m truly blessed to be doing what I’ve always wanted — TO CREATE. I have found a freedom that is hard to put into words. I always wondered about my projects -- which artists are working on what and which directions should I take? I don’t even think of those things now. I passionately go into my studio and ask myself, 'What would I like to create today?'” Releases Sinatra’s Rat Pack and Mug Shot, Al Pacino as The Godfather and Scarface, New York City’s radio "shock jock" icon Howard Stern, Barbie, and two new Marilyn Monroe editions. Releases Van Gogh and Picasso in a new style, 100 percent hand- painted edition, which gives new meaning to the hand-embellishment process.
Steve Kaufman meets art enthusiast Diana Vachier. The two work together on promotions, museum placements and sales.
2001-2002 - He creates “Museum Art” which includes a September 11th Memorial Painting, which was a tribute to the heroes of the World Trade Center attacks. Creates a 20 foot by 500 foot series of paintings to commemorate the 35-year history of Caesar’s Palace. Both hung at Caesar’s for all to enjoy.
Creates a 10 foot Fender guitar for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
2003 -2004 - Steve Kaufman does an exhibition in Las Vegas, hosted by Robin Leach. Honored by Mayor Oscar Goodman, officially declaring May 21, 2003, Steve Kaufman Day in Las Vegas. Also honored by Nevada Senator John Ensign and Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn for his philanthropic donations over the years.
In December, meets President Bill Clinton at his office in Harlem for a holiday party for artists whose art is displayed in Clinton's private office collection. Donates art to and participates in Love Ride with Jay Leno and Peter Fonda for the 10th straight year.
2005 - Steve Kaufman and Diana Vachier establish and incorporate American Pop Art Inc., a subdivision of Steve Kaufman Art Studio that continues today to be run by Diana Vachier.
2006 - Feeling healthier after a series of small strokes, Steve Kaufman drastically increases his exhibition schedule with New York, Las Vegas, Washington, DC; Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen, Denver, Santa Fe, Rancho Mirage, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Key West and Maui.
Visits Ellis Island as guest of Lee Iacocca for New York Society Event. Meets Ernie Anastos, creates his portrait and presents them on the set of Fox News, NY.
2007 - Steve Kaufman continues his exhibitions and his charity program “Give Kids a Break” continues to hire more gang kids for the studio. This opportunity represents a second chance in life for each of these kids. Golden Boy Promotions commissions paintings to commemorate the De La Hoya/Mayweather Championship Fight.
Steve Kaufman’s Mozart painting was placed in the Zeughaus (now The Reiss-Engelhorn Museum), one of the greatest museums in the Mannheim-area.
2008 - The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority sets up a display of Kaufman art, seen by two million people a year. Caesars Palace asks Steve to paint portraits of Cher, Bette Midler and Elton John.
2009 - Steve Kaufman's series of Coca-Cola paintings are featured at The Pop Culture Gallery at The World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia.
January 2009 - Steve Kaufman participates in a six-day art exhibit at Sundance where 100 kids help paint the gallery floor with a pop art theme. The entire event is captured for an independent film for Sundance 2010.
February 2009 - He suffers his second major stroke.
March 2009 - Steve Kaufman is quoted, "As John Lennon said, 'I'm just watching the wheels turn'.”
February 2010 - Steve Kaufman suffers a fatal heart attack in Vail, Colorado on February 12, 2010, as he prepared for an art show.
He is remembered through his words:
"This is what I live for... I had a great life, so please don't cry for me. I've had the life of 100 men."
* April 2014 Diana Vachier receives her inheritance left to her by Steve. 100% of Steve’s Intellectual Properties, (IP) licensing rights. She then forms STEVE KAUFMAN ART LICENSING, LLC. She continues to exhibit his art, museum placements, art licensing, exhibitions, and art sales.
Learn more about Steve Kaufman by visiting the American Pop Art, Inc. website. You may also visit Steve Kaufman's legacy website.