Kenny Scharf Paints 13th Street

The famous pop artist has been hanging out atop Sampan - literally


Kenny Scharf has been a figure on the American art scene since the 1980s when he rubbed elbows with friends like Keith Haring.

Known for using images of cartoons from his childhood, as well as inventing sometimes wild designs inspired by graffiti and club culture (he designed a room at New York’s famous Tunnel nightclub), the artist is featured in both The Universe of Keith Haring and in The Nomi Song, a film about New Wave star Klaus Nomi, as well as many exhibitions around the world.

More recently, Scharf has been painting a mural on 13th Street, hanging on a crane above Sampan to create one of his signature designs on an enormous wall visible from the Gayborhood.

“The inspiration comes from within,” Scharf tells us via email. “I have been doing these ‘chunk pack’ murals for almost 30 years. Each one is different. This one is inspired by all the colorful characters in Philadelphia – there seems to be a lot of them here – and also by the wall itself and how it is viewed from the street.”

The project has been created by both the Mural Arts Program and Goldman Properties as a way to bring attention to the mural program and engage people in the work with the help of world-renowned artists. Scharf – the first visiting artist in this new initiative – has been teaching students about the art of working with acrylic spray paint.

Scharf will meet fans along with Mayor Michael Nutter and Jane Golden, the director of the of the Mural Arts Program, and Gary Steuer, Philadelphia’s chief cultural officer, today at 1 p.m. on the site of the mural with food provided by Sampan.

Next up: AVAF (Assume Vivid Astro Focus) will be coming to town in August to work on another wall at 1315 Sansom St. AVAF’s Christophe Haimade-Pierson has been featured in Art Forum, Vogue and W Magazine for his work in design.