I had family in town this weekend, and my favorite part of hosting guests in the big city is always the opportunity to see this amazing place with a fresh set of eyes. When I'm with someone who's new to New York the cabs seem faster, the lights look brighter, and the buildings feel taller. One of the tall buildings my Uncle passed prompted a question that I couldn't answer: "Do they really hand paint those huge advertisements on the sides of those big buildings?" I had to admit I wasn't quite sure, and I promised to investigate.
Turns out they do. And by they, I mean the Sky High muralists at old-school outdoor ad company Colossal Media. Yes, they hand paint those multi-story high billboards. Remember when this mammoth Madonna for H&M ad stared down into Soho?
They did that. The process takes about a week of non-stop painting from atop self-constructed scaffolding. The talented painters don safety harnesses and have earned the nickname "wall dogs" for being roped to walls for hours like Lassies on leashes. The company has very successfully revived what was a dying art, and have become the premiere poster painters in America. Many fashion houses have utilized the young, Brooklyn-based company's services to create one of a kind, work of art advertisements. Besides H&M, Diane von Furstenberg and Kenneth Cole have also maximized their exposure with Colossal's help.
Watching these guys work is fascinating, whether it be little by little, witnessing their patience inspiring progress on a daily walk to work, or seeing things sped up in one of the time lapse videos the company posts to their website.
Check out the Sky High team in action:
Impressive, no? Turns out the company also does their part for street art. They were behind the execution of the cheeky New York City Rat murals designed by preeminent street artist Banksy.
Love the tromp l'oeil wall painter in the piece above.
Some hardcore graffiti purists think the co-opting of the art form for commercial purposes is disrespectful to the movement, but I have to say if you're going to shill for the man, why not do it with real talent and incredible craft? The sheer scale of these projects makes them awe-inspiring. The level of detail makes them masterpieces.