Peter Max: A pop art legend turns 80
NEW YORK – When considering the life’s work and impact of iconic, global artists, it becomes clear that Peter Max is in a league of his own. For the past six decades, Max has been part of the fabric of American pop culture, spreading peace, love and his universally recognized art across generations, cultures and eras. His art always has been, and still is, intended for all to enjoy. Today, October 19th, Max celebrates his milestone 80th birthday, making him one of the last living pop artists of his generation.
Acclaimed for his bold, cosmic art from the 1960s and ’70s as well as his colorful, expressionist paintings of more contemporary vintage, which have included portraits and celebrity commissions, Max has amassed an impressive list of career achievements. He has been the official artist for six GRAMMY Awards, five Super Bowls, the NHL All-Star Game, the US Winter Olympics, World Cup USA, the Indy 500, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and many other notable events. His portraits have honored US presidents, foreign dignitaries, rock stars and jazz musicians, movie stars (Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Taylor Swift) and sports icons. Yet, his impressive resume goes far beyond bold, colorful artwork for which he is recognized worldwide. He is also known for his global charity work as an active environmentalist and defender of animal and human rights.
Far too often with famous artists and musicians, recognition comes after they are no longer living. But we say, ‘Why wait?’ Peter has shared insights on his life and career – as well as some terrific pictures – to mark his 80th birthday.
Born in 1938 in Berlin, Max was still an infant when his parents fled to Shanghai, China, to escape the growing Nazi threat in Germany. The family would live in China for the next 10 years. In 1948, they moved to Haifa, Israel, and in 1953, to Brooklyn, New York. En route to their US destination, they spent several months in Paris, an experience that greatly influenced Peter’s appreciation for art.
“I’m grateful for so many things in my life,” Max said. “I dreamed of coming to America when I was a child growing up in China. I saw America as a beautiful land of freedom and creativity. And then my parents and I came here! I’m grateful for studying with wonderful art, yoga and astrology teachers throughout my life. They taught me so much.”
“I have loved creating art throughout my life and sharing it – in galleries, museums, with my poster art, on music stages, in presidential libraries and on the body of a Boeing super jet and a Norwegian cruise ship. So many places,” Max continued. He painted a giant Moscow Music Peace Festival stage, a 600-foot-long Woodstock ’99 Music Festival stage, and a 250-foot-long billboard flanking the US Pavilion at the World’s Fair in Seville, Spain. He also created the art for the first US environmental stamp and designed wearable-art collections for Wrangler and American Apparel.
“One of the most important things I’m grateful for is my relationship with my fans. I love meeting them at my gallery shows and seeing them enjoy my work. It’s so special to me.”
With all his talent and success, Peter Max can be a fan, too. In January 2017, he was honored to paint a commissioned portrait of the legendary musician/songwriter Tom Petty to benefit MusiCares, a nonprofit organization that helps musicians in need. Earlier this year, Petty — who died on October 2nd — was honored as the 2017 MusiCares® Person of the Year.
“It was amazing painting Tom Petty when he was honored by MusiCares this year. His music is the sound of our joys and sorrows and will always be with us,” Max said.
Max has created portraits of other MusiCares honorees and music legends as well, including Lionel Richie, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Don Henley and Bono.
Auction Central News wishes a happy 80th birthday to pop art legend Peter Max.