James Goldcrown is West Londoner, proud new dad and also the artist behind the #lovewall and bleeding hearts mural. His work is all over social media and can be found on walls from Los Angeles to London. His documentary work, photography, and murals all showcase his ability to create work that gets right to the heart of the matter.
When James returned stateside Jay-Z and Alicia Key’s song empire state of mind was a monster hit. It seems apropos that the same grit, hustle, and persistence extolled in the song were the same life skills that got James Goldcrown back in the US after a brief albeit unintended hiatus. That empire state of mind is what catapulted him from a scrappy young kid on the fashion scene to one of the worlds premiere muralists. James Goldcrown’s partnerships with Elizabeth Arden, Toms, and many others point to a unique ability to create art that can be socially conscious and commercially successful.
His latest #lovewall was unveiled at Wynwood Walls during Art Basel Miami 2018. We sat down at the Soho House in Miami to discuss art, social media obsessions, and dope beats. And so the conversation begins!
Crystal Cooper: IreadsomewherethatwhenyoumovedtoNewYork, youlistenedto Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3 a ton.
James Goldcrown: Youforgetthelyricsoversome time. ButIwouldknowhiswholealbumbyheart. AndIwouldrepeatcertainsongs, Iwouldlisten. SoIlivedintheEastVillage. I’dwalkfrom12thand 34thstreetwhereIwasworkingas astudiophotographer. I’djustlistentothealbum. SometimesI would listentoonetracklikethewholewaythere. Ijustlike master alltheselyrics. Butyeah, IwaslikeJayZwaslikeabigpartofmyNewYorkLife. IwasinNewYorkforawhile.Iwasbackandforthactually, onthe tourist travel visa. It eventually caughtupwithme. Theydetained me, it was like probably the worst day of my life. I was actually handcuffed and it was really ridiculous. They confiscated my passport and gave it to the airline people. I didn’t actually have a passport and I wasn’t allowed to have it back. So I got back to London and it was just a nightmare. They didn’t say that I was banned from the country because I didn’t do anything illegal. But I wasn’t allowed back on a tourist visa, like for at least five years. So then I had to find another way of coming back. I had to get a visa, so I basically became my own lawyer for three months. I would call up all these different immigration lawyers and have a consultation with them, so it was free. I met about 30 lawyers but asked them all different questions. It took me three months to get all this information. No one thought I was ever going to go back to America. And I was like, all right, I literally made it my mission for three months. I looked like a lawyer, had stacks and papers and I got all these people to recommend me. Then the day I got back, that’s when Jay Z released that track. So New York, you know, and I just remember I, I landed in New York, and I was in my cab going to where I was going, and the cab driver played. And I saw the Empire State Building, his empire state of mind. And it was just like, it was just this moment is just like, yeah,
JG: SoIthinkthere’salotofgood onInstagramandthere’salsoalotofbad.Well, evenifyouhaveanidea, andyouputanideaoutthere, andsomeonewho’smorerecognizedcanjusttakeyourideathat they justsawitasaninspiration. And you’re completelywashedunderthetide. We werehavingthisdiscussionlastnightdinner, actually. AndIthinkit’sarealkindof, like, it’sarealheadscratchbecausethere’salotofbadandthere’salotofgood, likeIjustsaid, butit’s, itkindofbalancesoutand, and, butthereisit’sjustaverydifferentwaynow, likeyousaid, ofhowthingscanbetransmitted. AndtranscripttocrossisjustverydifferentnowhowwejustgetinformationandIthinkincertainwaysit’skindofnicebecausewegettoseemoreoftheworldandaspectslikeIthinkpeopletravelprobablyalotmorenoworhavethedesiretobecausethey’reabletoseewherepeoplearegoingevenpeoplethatinspirethembutthenIthinkit’sreallysadbecauseallthesepeoplepostthingsandtheywanttheirlivestolookperfectbutnoone’sactuallyperfectNorman’sashappyasyoucanmakeout. AndwhatreallyupsetsmeispeopleliketheKardashians, who don’treallyeverpostanythingaboutlikeguncontrol, orthingsthatreallymatter. It’salwaysaboutthemselves, oraboutcosmeticsorsomething, whichisIgetit, they’repaidtodoit. ButIthinkweshouldbeusingthetoolalittlebitmoreresponsibly. AndI’mactuallyworkingwithTom’srightnowbecauseBlake’sdonethis whole thing. He’s the founder. And he’s having this anti-gun thing. And I know it’s an extremely hard campaign because of this country and its belief in guns. And it’s just ridiculous. But I do believe that in five years, we can at least start making some changes into who can be authorized to have guns. And it’s just again, it’s just a complete head screwed because it’s like, this country is so dated with the thought about who gets to have guns.
CC: My momisonInstagram andshedoesittokeepupwithme. It’shilarious but she is alwayssendingme randompicturesordogvideos. AndI’malwayscurious about how hergeneration processeshavingaccesstoallthesethings. Andifitmakesherlifebetter, right? IknowIlikeI’m31, sotosomedegree, I’mkindofremovedfromsocialmediabeingmywholelife. Yes. Butforthe post-millennialgeneration, it is their whole life.
JG: Iknow, Ihavenothingincommonwiththem. It’ssofunny. Becauselike, youknow, 20yearsago, whenIwaslike21, Iwouldbefriendswithpeoplewhowerelike, 32. Andtherewaslike, therewasn’tasocialdividebecauseofmedia, socialmediaoranything. Wewerejustalllike, we’dhavetotalk. That’swhatyoudo. Youtalk, you just like, meetpeople. Andnowit’sjustlikethis, thiswholenewgenerationofpeoplewhojustlikethis, andIdoitaswell. SoI’monmyphone. ButI’mnotlike im completely gone. Iknow, IlikeIhavethelogic. ButImean, it’salmostlikeBladeRunner. It’s like, they’relikerobots. Andit’sreallyscary. It’s like, they’realllike, justmotionless. And it’s like iftheysmile they’renotcool. And, andit’sreallyweirdthewaythattheworldisgoing
CC: Ifeellike Art Basel islikethething to do sociallyandeveryone’s just hereforthe parties. Iknowalotofgalleryowners/serious art collectorsandthey’relike Art Basel isashadowofitsformer self.Sotheyfeellikeit’smoreit’ssocommercialandit’ssopartyoriented. What are your thoughts?
JG: Nowitisridiculousright? Its lost itsauthenticitywithoutadoubt.
CC: Howdoyou dealwith with the craziness that is Art Basel? Howdoyou maintain theauthenticity of your work?
JG: Yeah, Ijustdidn’tenjoyit. Iwasjustsoitwassostressful. Ireckonit’dbereallyfunifyou’veneverbeenherebeforeandyou’re just here toparty. Youknowit’sjust crazy IcamehereIthinkIhadmyfirstevershowingherelikethree orfouryearsagoandthatwasagreatyearbecauseitwaslikevery little socialmedia.
CC: You sold out in like 2 hours, right?
JG: Idid. IwasveryluckyIhadnoexpectationsbecauseIwasbrokersandImeanIwasjusthappytobe here. Wearewegotropedintodrivingdownhereby a curator. SowedrovefromNewYork to Miami. Ittookus29hours. IpretendedIcoulddrivejusttogetthejobdone. LikeIliedandsaidIhadalicense. AndIdroveforlike, sevenhours. AndthenItoldeveryoneafterasIbythewaythatIwaslike, whatever, Icouldn’tgiveashit. I was like, Ineedtojustgetthistrip. Thisistheworsttripofmylife. Butitwasalotoffun. Lookingbackatitwaskindoflikeagoodstoryfromragstoriches. Maybe Iwoulddoitagain. ButIdefinitelywouldn’tplanit. Youknow, itwasamiserabletrip. We had a u-haulvanwiththreepeopleinthefront. It was miserable. [Laughing]
CC: My parents said youcanbecreative, buthaveadayjob, right? Like, theywerelike, youdon’twanttobeastarvingartist. Sohowdidyouhowdid you manage? Youweresayingacoupleyearsago it just got reallygotgoodforyou.