Barry McGee

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Barry McGee
Barry McGee Mural on Houston and Bowery.jpg
McGee Mural on Houston and Bowery
Born1966 (age 56–57)
San Francisco, California, U.S.
Alma materSan Francisco Art Institute
OccupationVisual artist
Known forPainting
MovementMission School, street art
Spouse(s)Margaret Kilgallen (1999–2001; death); Clare Rojas (m.2005)

Barry McGee (born 1966) is an American artist. He is known for graffiti art, and a pioneer of the Mission School art movement.[1] McGee is known by his monikers: Twist,[2] Ray Fong,[3] Bernon Vernon,[4] and P.Kin.

Life and education[edit]

Barry McGee was born in 1966 in San Francisco, California.[2] He is of Chinese and Irish descent.[5] His father worked at an auto body repair shop.[5] McGee graduated from El Camino High School in South San Francisco, California.

He attended the San Francisco Art Institute, where he graduated in 1991 with a concentration in painting and printmaking.

McGee was married to the artist Margaret Kilgallen in 1999, who later died of breast cancer in 2001.[6] They have a daughter named Asha.[6][5] After Kilgallen's death, McGee married artist Clare Rojas in 2005.[5]


"Acclaimed for his work in the street as a graffiti artist and for his painted installations in galleries, museums and art festivals around the world, Barry McGee crafts a visual language that makes itself understood. It is public, addressing social concerns of urban life, and very private, elaborating a unique personal style that focuses on humanity, one painstakingly detailed, fine brush-painted image at a time.[7]"


Commissioned murals typical of Barry McGee's earlier work and graffiti in the LACMA parking garage (now torn down)

Barry McGee has exhibited, both solo and group, in galleries internationally.

McGee was a central figure in the graffiti art scene in San Francisco from the late 1980s and into the 1990s. As Twist, he became well known nationally by his stylized black and white pictographic flathead screw graffiti 'throw ups'. Later he was part of the Mission School art movement based in the aesthetics of the Mission District of San Francisco. His work is founded on a pessimistic view of the urban experience, which he describes as, "urban ills, over-stimulations, frustrations, addictions & trying to maintain a level head under the constant bombardment of advertising". He was also an artist in residence at inner-city McClymonds High School in Oakland, California, in the early '90s. Although his artistic origins lie in New York subway graffiti he has been included as a member of the street art movement[citation needed].

Installation, Xe Biennale de Lyon

McGee's installations consist of simple bold paintings which are influenced by Islamic patterns on tiles, vernacular sign painting, or use caricatures of the destitute. These paintings are clustered together in combination with photographs of other graffiti writers. Older work included layering of shapes, and buff marks, backgrounds of drips painted directly on the gallery wall. He has painted stylized portraits on empty bottles of liquor, flattened spray cans, and wrecked vehicles for art shows. He has collaborated frequently with Amaze, allowing him to paint the exterior and interior of the galleries exhibiting McGee's work. They have also utilized realistic moving mechanical human figures that appear to be tagging gallery walls.

The market value of his work rose considerably after 2001 as a result of his being included in the Venice Biennale and other major exhibitions. As a result, much of his San Francisco street art has been scavenged or stolen.[8][9]


In September 1999, a 64-foot-long, 8-foot-high mural made up of 300 pieces, made by Barry McGee and financially sponsored by the Luggage Store Gallery and the Creative Work Fund, was stolen off a vacant commercial building in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco.[10] It was never recovered.[11]

In 2004, as part of an exhibit at San Francisco's City Hall, McGee spray-painted "Smash the State" on the walls of Supervisor Matt Gonzalez's office. SFGate wrote: "The timing and placement of the artwork are interesting, seeing how City Hall is a registered historical landmark, and you need approval just to hang a bulletin board". Gonzalez told the press that he knew his office would be repainted for the next occupant.[12]

McGee was involved in a controversy regarding the Adidas Y1 HUF, a shoe for which he provided the artwork. This gave rise to a protest campaign by some Asian-Americans who claimed that the picture on the shoe's tongue depicts a racist stereotype.[3] McGee responded to the controversy in a March 2006 press release.[13] He stated that the drawing was a portrait of himself as an 8-year-old child.

Selected exhibitions[edit]

Woman photographing a Barry McGee installation, Xe Biennale de Lyon

See also[edit]


  • McGee, Barry, Ellen Robinson, and Katya Tylevich. Barry McGee. Bologna: Damiani, (2018). ISBN 978-8862086165
  • Boas, Natasha. Energy that is all around: Mission School: Chris Johanson, Margaret Kilgallen, Alicia McCarthy, Barry McGee, Ruby Neri. San Francisco: San Francisco Art Institute Chronicle Books, (2014). ISBN 978-1452142180
  • Rinder, Lawrence, and Barry McGee. Barry McGee. Berkeley & New York: University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc, (2012). ISBN 978-1935202851
  • Rose, Aaron (editor), Barry McGee . Tokyo: Damiani, (2010). ISBN 978-8862080965
  • Kilgallen, Margaret, et al. Margaret kilgallen : in the sweet bye & bye. Los Angeles: California Institute of the Arts/REDCAT, (2006). ISBN 978-0974983165
  • Bertelli, Patrizio, Barry McGee. Fondazione Prada, (2002). ISBN 978-8887029215
  • Kawachi, Taka, Street Market: Barry McGee, Stephen Powers, Todd James. Little More, (2000). ISBN 978-4898150399


  1. ^ Gonzalez, Matt (December 17, 2015). "Review: Barry McGee "China Boo"". Juxtapoz Magazine. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Barry McGee". Art21. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  3. ^ a b Tunison, Michael (April 14, 2006). "Asians Decry Adidas Shoe as a Misstep". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  4. ^ Valentine, Ben (October 11, 2012). "Does Barry McGee Have Something to Prove?". Hyperallergic. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  5. ^ a b c d "Three Artists, One Love Story". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. August 3, 2015. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  6. ^ a b Smith, Roberta (July 4, 2001). "Margaret Kilgallen, a San Francisco Artist, 33". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  7. ^ "Barry McGee, Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco". January 5, 2007. Archived from the original on January 5, 2007. Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  8. ^ "The Mission school" Archived January 4, 2007, at the Wayback Machine by Glen Helfand, San Francisco Bay Guardian, October 28, 2002.
  9. ^ "Twist Thief" by Trippe, Fecal Face (website), December 13, 2007. (scroll down)
  10. ^ Brazil, Eric (November 15, 1999). "Art theft is fairly common – but a mural?". Citizens' Voice. San Francisco Examiner. p. 44. ISSN 1070-8626. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  11. ^ "Missing mural: Blue period for S.F. art lovers". Record Searchlight. San Francisco Examiner. November 16, 1999. p. 9. Retrieved November 23, 2022.
  12. ^ Lelchuk, I. Lelchuk, Ilene (December 10, 2004). "Last word on government: Graffiti installation in Gonzalez's office gets mixed reviews". The San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 10, 2006. San Francisco Chronicle on the web, December 10, 2004.
  13. ^ [1][dead link]
  14. ^ "Deitch". September 20, 2007. Archived from the original on September 20, 2007. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  15. ^ "Installations". Rice Gallery. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  16. ^ Levin, Kim (June 25, 2001). "Panic Attack". Village Voice. Archived from the original on January 1, 2007. Retrieved December 6, 2006.
  17. ^ "Barry McGee, Gallery Paule Anglim, San Francisco". January 5, 2007. Archived from the original on January 5, 2007. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  18. ^ "BrandeisNOW". Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  19. ^ "Circle Culture Gallery". November 30, 2013. Archived from the original on November 30, 2013. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  20. ^ "Roberts Projects". Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  21. ^ "watari-um – exhibition – バリー・マッギー展". Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  22. ^ "BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art". March 31, 2008. Archived from the original on March 31, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  23. ^ "Riverside Art Museum – Exhibitions – The Big Sad: Barry McGee & Clare Rojas". October 19, 2008. Archived from the original on October 19, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  24. ^ "Barry McGee – Signals". April 29, 2008. Archived from the original on April 29, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  25. ^ "A Moment for Reflection: New Work by Lydia Fong". Ratio 3. 2008. Archived from the original on March 31, 2016. Retrieved February 17, 2010.
  26. ^ "ANNEX – Kevin Earl Taylor – Exhibitions – Circle Culture Gallery". Archived from the original on January 19, 2013.
  27. ^ "Biennale de Lyon 2009 – Pictures gallery". October 30, 2009. Archived from the original on October 30, 2009. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  28. ^ "The Last Night". Alice Gallery Brussels. 2010. Archived from the original on July 20, 2010. Retrieved November 5, 2010.
  29. ^ "BAM/PFA – Art Exhibitions – Barry McGee". November 15, 2012. Archived from the original on November 15, 2012. Retrieved January 20, 2019.
  30. ^ "Barry MCGEE – Contemporary Art Exhibition". Retrieved November 3, 2019.
  31. ^ Barry Mcgee Légende vivante du graffiti, Beaux Arts Magazine, No. 448, Octobre 2021, pp. 68-75


  • Barry McGee. 2002. Barry McGee: The Buddy System. ISBN 0-9648530-3-5
  • Barry McGee, Germano Celant, Prada. 2003. Barry McGee. ISBN 88-87029-21-0
  • Aaron Rose and Christian Strike (editors). 2004. Beautiful Losers: Contemporary Art and Street Culture. ISBN 1-891024-74-4

External links[edit]