George Condo is a contemporary American artist whose work has been described as “a cross between old masters and Looney Tunes.” Born in Concord, New Hampshire in 1957, his mother was a nurse, his father a physics and calculus teacher. When he was five, the family moved to the small town of Chelmsford, Massachusetts where he and his four siblings were raised.
Condo began drawing at an early age, shutting himself in his bedroom with art supplies and creating realistic drawings when other children his age were still drawing stick figures.
At the age of eight, he would visit the office of his grandfather, a physician, and expertly draw dinosaurs, writing the name of the dinosaur and, underneath the name, a note stating: (not authentic color). Condo’s mother saved many of his early drawings.
His mother enrolled him in Saturday art classes at the local YWCA and, at the age of fourteen, his father encouraged him to study classical music and classical guitar, studies that his father said would serve him well if he wanted to play rock-and-roll.
He studied both art history and music theory at the University of Massachusetts Lowell for two years, dropped out and went to live with his brother in Boston.
Condo got a job in a silkscreen shop, joined the punk-rock band The Girls and took night classes in drawing at the Massachusetts College of Art.
In 1979, Condo met Jean-Michel Basquiat at a club in Manhattan, where Basquiat’s band was opening for The Girls. The two young artists became friends and Basquiat convinced Condo to move to Manhattan.
He painted and paid the rent on his Lower East Side apartment with money that he earned from temp jobs. One of those jobs was working in the archives of a gallery, where he was asked to write a press release about Andy Warhol. Warhol saw the press release, and liked it so much that he invited Condo to work at The Factory, where he became a “diamond duster” on Warhol’s production line for nearly a year.
In 1981, Condo began to have his work shown in East Village galleries. Some of his works were bought by Warhol, who didn’t realize that Condo was the same person who had worked in his factory.
It was around the same time that Condo became friends with Keith Haring, with whom he remained in close contact until Haring’s death in 1990.
In 1983, Condo had his first solo how in Los Angeles, where worked as a pen salesman, for almost a year. He then moved to Europe, where his career began to take off. Between 1985 and 1995 he traveled between New York and Paris, living in rented studios and hotels and successfully exhibiting in both cities. His friends, on both continents were artists, writers and philosophers.
In 2004, Condo worked as a Visiting Lecturer on Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University, and lectured at Columbia University in 2006.
His drawings for Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy cover in 2010, were so controversial that they were banned in some countries, banned at Wal-Mart and censored on iTunes. The final album cover is a blurred version of the original painting.
George Condo’s work can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Albright-Knox Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., and the Broad Foundation in Los Angeles, among other American and European museums and public collections.
Condo was married actress Anna Achdian from 1989 to 1915. The couple has two daughters. He lives and works in New York.
Marianna Cerini. Get To Know George Condo, The Artist Behind Kanye West’s Risque Album Art. The Hong Kong Tatler. March 14, 2018.
Christie’s. George Condo — the latest hero of American painting. October 20, 2019.
Dorian May. Portrait of an Artist: George Condo. Vanity Fair. July 5, 2018.
Stuart Jeffries. George Condo: ‘I was delirious. Nearly died.’ The Guardian. February 10, 2014.