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Born 1991
London, UK
Nationality British
Known for Post-Street, Various Artworks

Cartrain (born 1991[1]), often stylised cartяain, is a British artist associated with the graffiti urban art movement.

Artist Damien Hirst has threatened to take legal steps against Cartrain over his art and activities. Cartrain's art has been appropriated by artists Gilbert and George.[2]

Early life[edit]

Cartrain street art on Blackall Street, Shoreditch, London

Although little is known of his personal life, Caltrain's career supposedly began at the age of 12, beginning with a few small pen tags. In a later interview with a local journalist at the age of 15,[3] Cartrain stated that the choice of his pseudonym was chosen at random, early on as he developed his style, and that despite early difficulties, he quickly began taking his work more seriously.

The interview continues, quoting Caltrain:

"I only did small pen tags. I started off doing small stencils of text, but I got hold of a copy of [some] computer graphics software, Photoshop, and my stencils have improved. It's very hard cutting out large stencils, as it takes a lot of time, and hurts your wrist." [3]

From Leytonstone, East London, he initially worked only in his local area, but "because no one pays any attention", had decided to move on by the age of 15, to the back streets near Old Street and Brick Lane in Hackney, in addition to central London, even spraying on walls opposite the Houses of Parliament.[3][4]

His work often includes depictions of notable mainstream figures such as George Bush and Elizabeth II, Queen of the UK.[4]

In April 2008 Boris Johnson invited him to display his work at City Hall.[citation needed]

Gilbert and George[edit]

In 2012 Cartrain created a series of collage artworks featuring images of Gilbert & George. These images were later reproduced by Gilbert & George and displayed at their 2014 exhibition "Scapegoating" at the White Cube gallery in London.[5] In a 2012 interview George said to The Guardian "We are very proud of that".[6]

Gilbert and George "Double Doors" Featuring Cartrain's collage portraits


Cartrain started photographing abandoned buildings in 2007. He has explored over 150 abandoned buildings since 2009, including Millennium Mills, Lots Road Power Station, St Mary's tube station and Walthamstow Stadium.[citation needed]

Interaction with Damien Hirst[edit]

In December 2008, Damien Hirst contacted the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) demanding action be taken over works containing images of his skull sculpture For the Love of God made by then 16-year-old Cartrain, and sold on the internet gallery On the advice of his gallery, Cartrain handed over the artworks to DACS and forfeited the £200 he had made; he said, "I met Christian Zimmermann [from DACS] who told me Hirst personally ordered action on the matter."[7]

A spokeswoman for Hirst said: "Damien is not suing Cartrain. This is a straightforward issue of copyright. Damien owns the copyright to the diamond skull and its image and if it is reproduced without his permission DACS are instructed to deal with this on his behalf."[8]

Jimmy Cauty has supported Cartrain, claiming he has a right to use existing images to make a new artwork.

Copyright lawyer Paul Tackaberry compared the two images and said, "This is fairly non-contentious legally. Ask yourself, what portion of the original--and not just the quantity but also the quality--appears in the new work? If a 'substantial portion' of the 'original' appears in the new work, then that's all you need for copyright infringement... Quantitatively about 80% of the skull is in the second image."[9]

In July 2009, Cartrain walked into Tate Britain and removed a packet of Faber Castell 1990 Mongol 482 series pencils from Damien Hirst's installation, Pharmacy. Cartrain then made a fake police "Wanted" poster, which was distributed around London, stating that the pencils had been stolen and that if anyone had any information they should call the police on the phone number advertised.[4] Cartrain made this statement:

"For the safe return of Damien Hirsts pencils I would like my artworks back that Dacs and Hirst took off me in November. Its [sic] not a large demand he can have his pencils back when I get my artwork back. Dacs are now not taking any notice of my emails and I have asked nicely more than five times to try and resolve this matter. Hirst has until the end of this month to resolve this or on 31 July the pencils will be sharpened. He has been warned."[4]

Cartrain was subsequently arrested for £500,000 worth of theft[10][11] and faced charges for what might have possibly been the biggest art theft in British history.[citation needed]

In December 2009 the Metropolitan Police dropped all charges against Cartrain. The Independent wrote: "Cartrain told me that, happily, all police charges have since been dropped and that he's even had a meeting with the Tate to discuss the issue.What's more, he came face to face with Hirst himself at the latter's current show at London's White Cube gallery."[12]

Jonathan Jones, art critic of The Guardian, has spoken out on Cartrain's behalf.[13]


Solo exhibitions[edit]

  • 2010, Magic Trees, Maverik Showroom, London[14]
  • 2013, This Way Up, Graffik Gallery, London[15]
  • 2015, Not For Sale, Imitate Modern, London[16]

Group exhibitions[edit]

  • 2008, Urban Painting, Atrion Centro Socio Culturale, Carugate, Italy[17]
  • 2010, Remasters, The Rag Factory, London[18]
  • 2013, Christmas Wish List, Imitate Modern, London[19]
  • 2014, Christmas Wish List, Imitate Modern, London[citation needed]
  • 2015, The Spring Collection, Imitate Modern, London[20]
  • 2015, The Summer Edition, Imitate Modern, London[21]

Other activities[edit]

Cartrain has posted a video on YouTube, showing himself putting up a piece of cardboard box as a conceptual artwork in Tate Modern; he states, "I managed to put my cardboard box up in the Tate Modern for two hours without being spotted as a fake".[22] Another video shows him installing a collage incorporating Hirst's skull image, and titled "Damien Hirst", in the National Portrait Gallery.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cartrain. "Cartrain In The National Portrait Gallery", Cartrain on YouTube. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
  2. ^ Wroe, Nicolas. "gilbert-george-london-pictures-interview" The Guardian 2 March 2012
  3. ^ a b c Trendall, Sam. "Graffiti artist, 15, follows in Banksy's footsteps" Archived 22 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine., Newsquest, 21 May 2007. Retrieved 21 September 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d "Cartrain Steals Damien Hirst's Art (Update)", Clancco, 8 July 2009. Retrieved 25 July 2010. Archived 30 March 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Akbar, Arifa. (6 December 2008). "Hirst demands share of artist's £65 copies", The Independent, 6 December 2008. Retrieved 6 December 2008.
  8. ^ "Damien Hirst 'threatened to sue teenager over alleged copyright theft'12th December 2008", Daily Mail, 12 December 2008.
  9. ^ Preece, Robert. (June 2009). 'Reality check: When appropriation becomes copyright infringement'. Sculpture magazine/AD&P. Retrieved 19 June 2009.
  10. ^ "Teenage graffiti artist accused of stealing £500,000 box of pencils in feud with Damien Hirst", The Daily Mail, 5 September 2009. Retrieved 5 September 2009.
  11. ^ Dave Itzkoff. "Theft of Pencils From Hirst Exhibition Draws Arrests", The New York Times, 4 September 2009. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
  12. ^ "The Diary: Damien Hirst; The Pitmen Painters; Guy Ritchie; Gary Giddins", The Independent, 4 December 2009. Accessed 13 February 2018.
  13. ^ Jones, Jonathan. "Damien Hirst loses face over Cartrain's portrait", The Guardian, 15 September 2009. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
  14. ^[permanent dead link]
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  21. ^
  22. ^ Cartrain. "Cartrain Tate Museum ( Banksy style )", Cartrain on YouTube. Retrieved 20 September 2009.

External links[edit]

Images of Cartrain's work