Mark Kostabi

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Mark Kostabi
Kostabi in 2016.
BornKalev Mark Kostabi
November 27, 1960 (1960-11-27)
Los Angeles, California
EducationStudied at California State University, Fullerton
Known forPainting, sculptor, composer

Kalev Mark Kostabi (born November 27, 1960) is an American artist and composer.

Early life[edit]

Mark Kostabi was born in Los Angeles on November 27, 1960, to Estonian immigrants Kaljo and Rita Kostabi.[1][2] He was raised in Whittier, California and studied drawing and painting at California State University, Fullerton.[3] In 1982 he moved to New York and by 1984 he became a prominent figure of the East Village art scene,[4] winning the "Proliferation Prize" from the East Village Eye for being in more art exhibitions than any other New York artist.


Kostabi is most known for his paintings of faceless figures which often comment on contemporary political, social and psychological issues, and which have visual stylistic roots in the work of Giorgio de Chirico and Fernand Léger. Beyond traditional art world exposure, Kostabi has designed album covers for Guns 'N' Roses (Use Your Illusion) and The Ramones (¡Adios Amigos!), Seether (Holding Onto Strings Better Left to Fray),[5] Jimmy Scott (Holding Back The Years), Glint (Sound in Silence), RK: Roman Klun (Kingsway), Psychotica (Espina) and numerous products including a Swatch watch,[2] Alessi vases, Rosenthal espresso cups, Ritzenhoff milk glasses, and a Giro d'Italia pink jersey.

Kostabi is also known for his many collaborations with other artists including Enzo Cucchi, Arman, Howard Finster, Tadanori Yokoo, Enrico Baj and Paul Kostabi.

Retrospective exhibitions of Kostabi's paintings have been held at the Mitsukoshi Museum in Tokyo (1992) and the Art Museum of Estonia in Tallinn (1998). Kostabi's work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the National Gallery in Washington D.C., the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome and the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands.

His work was published on the cover of the book East Village '85 published by Pelham Press and his paintings were included prominently in numerous East Village shows in museums and galleries internationally. Matteo Editore published a book on Kostabi titled Mark Kostabi and the East Village scene 1983–1987 written by Baird Jones.[6] During the mid-1980s he developed a media persona by publishing self-interviews which commented on the commodification of contemporary art, which led to theories on Kostabi's cultural relevance in various sociology books including "Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality" by Neal Gabler and "Culture or Trash?: A Provocative View of Contemporary Painting, Sculpture, and Other Costly Commodities" by James Gardner.

In 1986 Kostabi designed the Bloomingdales shopping bag. By 1987 his works were widely exhibited in New York galleries and throughout the United States, in Japan, Germany and Australia.

In 1988, inspiring extensive international press coverage, he founded Kostabi World, his large New York studio known for openly employing numerous painting assistants and idea people.[7]


Kostabi has performed his musical compositions as a soloist and with other musicians including Ornette Coleman, Jerry Marotta, Tony Levin, Tony Esposito, Stefano di Battista, Greesi Desiree Langovits, Gene Pritsker, Mark Egan, Lukas Ligeti, Dave Taylor (trombonist), Chris Parker, Tommy Campbell, John Clark, Olen Cesari, Aaron Comess, Richard Hammond, Amedeo Ariano, Marco Siniscalco, Stefano Nunzi, Puccio Panettieri, Pat Daugherty, Paul Nowinski, John Lee, Roman Klun and Paul Kostabi.[8] His compositions have also been performed independently by Kathleen Supové, Rein Rannap, Kristjan Järvi, Maano Männi, Marko Martin, Delilah Gutman, Peter Jarvis, Kai Schumacher and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra.

His debut album, I Did It Steinway was released on Artists Only Records in October 1998. Produced by Dale Ashley & Charles Coleman, the album features original compositions by Kostabi, and was recorded at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City.

Kostabi's other releases include: Songs For Sumera, New Alliance, The Spectre Of Modernism, Kostabeat, Grace Notes "Closer To First" and "In Between and Beyond."


Kostabi has been profiled on 60 Minutes, Eye to Eye with Connie Chung, A Current Affair, Nightwatch (with Charlie Rose), The Oprah Winfrey Show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Nonsolomoda, West 57th, Between the Keys, CNN, MTV and numerous television programs throughout Europe and Japan. In print he has been featured in The New York Times, People, Vogue, Architectural Digest, The Face, Playboy, Forbes, New York Magazine, The Sunday Telegraph, Domus, Corriera Della Sera, Panorama, Artforum, Art in America, ARTnews, Flash Art, Arte, Arte In and Tema Celeste.

In 1989, Kostabi's paintings were featured prominently in an episode of Miami Vice "The Lost Madonna", as the subject of the plot.

In 1991, Kostabi was mentioned in the controversial and widely discussed novel, American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis. In the 2016 Broadway musical version of American Psycho, Kostabi is mentioned twice, in the context of a commentary of America's brand obsession.

From the year 2000 to 2010 Kostabi wrote an advice column for artists, "Ask Mark Kostabi" for Artnet Magazine.

Kostabi is the subject of numerous documentary films, most notably Bottom Line: The Kostabi Phenomenon directed by Peter Bach,[9] Con Artist directed by Michael Sladek,[10] and Jedermann directed by Paul Tschinkel.[11] Kostabi has a prominent role in the Emmy award winning documentary The Art of Failure: Chuck Connelly Not for Sale directed by Jeff Stimmel. "Full Circle: The Kostabi Story", directed by Sabrina Digregorio. Kostabi is one of the main protagonists in the award winning docucomedy, "My Italy" directed by Bruno Colella. The plot of "My Italy" concerns the adventures of 4 non-Italian artists who chose to live in Italy: Kostabi, H.H. Lim, Krzysztof Bednarski and Thorsten Kirchhoff. The famous art critic Achille Bonito Oliva has a prominent role as narrator/commentator in the film.

Kostabi produces a cable TV show, The Kostabi Show, where noted art critics and celebrities compete to title his paintings for cash awards.[12] The Kostabi Show was previously known as both Name That Painting and Title This. Contestants on The Kostabi Show have included: Michel Gondry, Ornette Coleman, Suzanne Vega, Bela Fleck, Amos Poe, Glenn O'Brien, Glen Matlock, Tommy Ramone, Nicole Eisenman, Lee Klein, Carlo McCormick, Walter Robinson, Gary Indiana, Victor Bockris, Dennis Oppenheim, Sylvia Miles, Taylor Mead, Robin Cembalest, Jaclyn Santos, Randy Jones, Charles Coleman, Molly Barnes and David Coggins.


  • Mark Kostabi (self published), "Kostabi", 1980.
  • Kostabi, Mark (1985). Upheaval. Pelham Press., First edition 2,000 copies.
  • Kostabi, Mark (1986). Office suite. New York: Strother/Elwood Arts. ISBN 9780940515000., First edition 2,000 copies.
  • Kostabi, Mark (1988). Sadness because the video rental store was closed & other stories. New York: Abbeville Press. ISBN 9780896598003.
  • Chattington, Basil; Mark Kostabi (1990). Kalev Mark Kostabi: the early years. New York: Vanity Press. ISBN 9780962836602.
  • Kostabi, Mark (1992). Kostabi: one hundred +. Los Angeles, Calif., USA: Martin Lawrence Limited Editions. ISBN 9780929460116.
  • Kostabi, Mark (1996). Conversations with Kostabi (1st ed.). Boston: Journey Editions. ISBN 188520325X.
  • Kostabi, Mark; Sam Hunter (1998). Kostabi, the poetry of silence. Philadelphia, Pa.: Jenkintown Press. ISBN 9780929460123.

Others include: The Rhythm of Inspiration, Mark Kostabi and the East Village Scene 1983–1987 and Mark Kostabi in the 21st Century.


  1. ^ Kossar, Kristel (2004-08-14). "Kolmemõõtmeline Kalev Mark Kostabi" (in Estonian). Postimees. Archived from the original on 13 February 2013. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
  2. ^ a b The International Who's Who: 2004. Europa Publications. 2003. p. 920. ISBN 978-1-85743-217-6. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  3. ^ Stonard, John-Paul (2011). "Kostabi, Mark". In Joan M. Marter (ed.). The Grove Encyclopedia of American Art. Oxford University Press. pp. 69–70. ISBN 9780195335798.
  4. ^ Pike, Laurie (April 1989). "Kostabi: Million-Dollar Bore". SPIN. 5 (1). pp. 82–83. ISSN 0886-3032.
  5. ^ Innsbruck Records (2011-03-08). "Mark Kostabi's Art Graces Cover of Seether Album". Retrieved 2013-05-10.
  6. ^ Jones, Baird (2002). Mark Kostabi and the East Village scene, 1983-1987. Dosson di Casier [Treviso]: Matteo Editore. ISBN 8888726012.
  7. ^ Interview with Mark Kostabi (2014),
  8. ^ Weschler, Pat; Roger D. Friedman (1995-05-01). "Intelligencer". New York Magazine. 28 (18). p. 10. ISSN 0028-7369.
  9. ^ Mark Kostabi on IMDb
  10. ^ Holden, Stephen (12 November 2010). "MOVIE REVIEW: 'CON ARTIST'; The (Un)Making of an Art World Satirist". The New York Times. p. 8.
  11. ^ Mark Kostabi on IMDb
  12. ^ Lange, Candy (2007). Public Relations for the Arts: What are the benefits?. München: GRIN Verlag GmbH. ISBN 9783638767293. Retrieved 2013-05-10.

Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, Publisher Penguin Random House

Culture or Trash?: A Provocative View of Contemporary Painting, Sculpture, and Other Costly Commodities, Publisher: Birch Lane Pr (December 1993)

External links[edit]