Steve Alan Kaufman "SAK" Biography
December 29, 1960 - February 12, 2010
Steve Alan Kaufman was born on December 29, 1960 in the Bronx, New York.
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.
Works for Macy’s, painting dog and cat faces on pet rocks.
Steve Kaufman participates in group graffiti show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
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. Sells his art to Calvin Klein and Steve Rubell.
Meets Keith Haring at School of Visual Arts (SVA) show. Participates in group shows at Club 57 with Haring.
Creates graphics for NBC’s "Saturday Night Live." Graduates from School of Visual Arts (SVA) with a BFA degree. Holds art shows at the Air Gallery in London, White Freud and Fiorucci store window in NYC.
SArrested with AIDS demonstrators for chain-locking New York City Mayor Ed Koch in his office. Exhibits Sex, Rock & Roll at the Off-Centre Gallery in London.
Forms SAK Studio. Begins campaign for AIDS awareness with art shows featuring paintings of Trojan condom wrappers measuring 5 x 5-feet. Condom art exhibit shown at Main Fine Art, Edinburgh College of Art, Zanzibar Club, and the Smith Gallery.
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. Completes unfinished portraits for Andy Warhol clients. 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). Paints first Racial Harmony Mural in Harlem to bring awareness to inner city problems. Holds show at The White Gallery, where all art was covered in black cloth in memory of those who died of AIDS. This show developed the concept for the “Day Without Art” tribute. Show held at Loft Gallery in Tokyo, Japan.
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. Drapes red fabric over the letter “D” on the Hollywood Sign in remembrance of everyone who died from AIDS. Art collected by Spike Lee, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Dee Williams, Eddie Murphy, and Larry Mullen of U2.
Steve Kaufman moves his Art Studio to Los Angeles, California. He starts a new style called “Comic Book Pop Art,” and uses original paintings of Superheroes -- Superman, Batman, Spider Man, to name a few -- as the icons.
Hires more than 100 Los Angeles ex-gang kids from prison to assist him in the studio.
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.
• Increases charity work to include 100 different charities.
Commissioned by Warner Brothers Stores to paint editions of Superman, The Wizard of Oz, Tazmanian Devil, Michigan J. Frog, Sylvester, Marvin the Martian, Bugs Bunny, and Tweety Bird. This commission also included paintings of Muhammad Ali, all of which were all hand signed by "The Greatest."
Steve Kaufman contacts the Sinatra Family about painting Frank Sinatra’s portrait. 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. 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.
Tina Sinatra features Kaufman’s portraits of Frank Sinatra on Larry King’s CNN show. Holds art shows in Japan and Amsterdam. Has boxing exhibition versus Don Diego, a European boxing champion. After some minor controversy, Kaufman is awarded a win. 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.
By now, Steve Kaufman has hired 546 ex-gang kids and homeless, and supported more than 175 charities.
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.
In 2000, Steve Kaufman Meets Art Enthusiast Diana Vachier. The Two Work Together On Promotions, Museum Placements, And Sales.
Steve Kaufman continues to support more than 170 charities each year, hiring 759 ex-gang kids to date to work in his studio.
He creates two new styles called “PORTRAIT COLLAGE” and “MUSEUM ART,” thus becoming his 14th and 15th distinct styles, comparable in number to Picasso’s many different styles. “PORTRAIT COLLAGE” style is emphasized in his Rat Pack, Hollywood Marilyn, Van Gogh, and Jackie Kennedy by adding a collage of images to the main portrait. Creates a 10 foot Fender guitar for The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
Steve Kaufman's grand-scale “MUSEUM ART" includes a 9/11 Memorial Painting, a tribute to the heroes of the World Trade Center attacks and signed by surviving first responders.
He also creates a 20 x 500-foot series of paintings to commemorate the 35-year history of Caesar’s Palace. Both of these art installations, after touring, were hung at Caesar’s for public display.
Donates Princess Diana portrait to Elton John AIDS Foundation. Starts new program placing paintings of his icon images in public places around the country for all to enjoy. Includes a Muhammad Ali in Brooklyn’s famous Gleason’s Boxing Gym, a Sinatra portrait to Hofstra University, a Marilyn to the Foundation Fighting Blindness and gifted a painting to David Letterman to inspire heart recovery. Holds exhibitions in New York, Las Vegas, and Maui.
Steve Kaufman suffers a major stroke following Art Expo New York. Barely recovers to do 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.
Creates and releases President Clinton’s portrait. Donates many suites and all proceeds from his sales to “Give Kids A Break.” Feeling ill again, Steve Kaufman curtails his painting and exhibition schedule.
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.
Introduces “UNIQUES,” which are multiple originals of his most famous Icons: Marilyn, The Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Einstein, and others. Holds exhibitions in New York, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and Maui. Donates 100% of his proceeds from a $100,000 gallery sale to “Give Kids A Break.”
Pope John Paul II accepts a painting of himself to hang in his private office at The Vatican. Paints portraits of Lance Armstrong that are displayed in galleries during Tour de France. Creates painting and limited edition to raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Creates paintings of Mercedes SLR McLaren to honor the 100th anniversary of Mercedes-Benz.
Feeling healthier, 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. Introduces “Mini-Heart Paintings” as gifts to all kids who attend his shows, and free framed plates for all those who purchase. Returns to creating one-of-a-kind originals to be sold exclusively at shows. 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.
Steve Kaufman continues his exhibition schedule with New York, Washington, DC; Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen, Denver, Rancho Mirage, Maui, Toronto, and Europe. He gives free Peace Sign paintings to all the kids who attend his shows, and free sculptures to those who purchase. Creates portraits for David Caruso of CSI: Miami fame, who autographs at the studio.
Steve Kaufman is interviewed on TV in Denver, Aspen and Vail to discuss not only his art, but more importantly, his philanthropy. He continues to sell out uniques of his most famous icons including: The Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra, Las Vegas, Marilyn, The Beatles, James Dean, Einstein, John Lennon, and $100 Bills, to name a few. Golden Boy Promotions commissions paintings to commemorate the De La Hoya/Mayweather Championship Fight.
He continues to hire more gang kids for the studio. This opportunity represents a second chance in life for each of these kids, who now exceed 1,950 in number.
Steve Kaufman's work is displayed at the Eighth Annual Exhibition at Centaur Art Galleries in Las Vegas, alongside Neiman’s, Rockwell’s, Picasso’s, Chagall’s, and Dali’s. He unveils and sells new stained glass uniques of The Las Vegas Sign, Homage To Lichtenstein, and Homage to Picasso. Other exhibitions include New York, Denver, Washington, DC; Vail, Beaver Creek, La Jolla, Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. NYC Art Expo.
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. Steve unveils his stained glass art at a July 4th show in Las Vegas. Steve creates a new painting art style with his Coca-Cola and Apple iPod campaigns.
Christmas gifts to Steve Wynn, Cher, Bette Midler, Elton John, Penn and Teller, Carrot Top, Blue Man Group, Rita Rudner, Wayne Brady, Xao Yang, Jamie Gold, Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, Mayor Oscar B. Goodman of Las Vegas, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, 37 world leaders, Frank Langella, Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke, Kate Winslet, Meryl Streep, and Anne Hathaway.
Steve Kaufman's series of Coca-Cola paintings are featured at The Pop Culture Gallery at The World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia.
Steve Kaufman is later profiled in Coca-Cola’s “Refreshing Pop Culture,” online gallery, and his Coke art featured in “The Coca-Cola Bottle Art Tour: Inspiring Pop Culture for 100 Years,” an international celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Coca-Cola’s iconic glass bottle.
Steve Kaufman participates in a six-day art exhibit at Stanfield Gallery After Hours at Sundance, where 100 kids help paint the gallery floor with a pop art theme. Four hundred kids receive 8 x 8-inch paintings as free gifts. The entire event is captured for an independent film for Sundance 2010.
Exhibit for art gallery in Tysons Corner, Virginia. Dylan candy painting edition. For the Academy Awards, Steve Kaufman creates paintings based on the films The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader, and Slumdog Millionaire.
He suffers his second major stroke: "I was seeing spots that day. I woke up in Las Vegas and, being paralyzed, I couldn’t get into a wheel chair."
Steve Kaufman is quoted, "As John Lennon said, 'I'm just watching the wheels turn'.”
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."
In 2014, Diana Vachier is named the sole heir to Steve Kaufman licensing rights. Please visit http://stevekaufmanartlicensing.com to learn more.
Steve Kaufman's Legacy
On September 18, 2014 STEVE KAUFMAN and DIANA VACHIER were honored for their outstanding support of STRONG YOUTH’S anti-violence and enrichment programs for Long Island teens. Steve Kaufman was posthumously honored and Diana Vachier received the Hagadorn Award at the STRONG Youth 14th Anniversary Gala on Thursday, September 18, 2014 at the Coral House in Baldwin, NY. Both were recognized for their commitment and dedication to furthering opportunities for youth in our local community.