In today’s world of astonishing and often surprising art, some of the most captivating and original pieces that challenge traditional boundaries have been born out of the simple waste. Anton Unai is a Berlin-based artist who has specialized in making abandoned refuse into artistic treasures. His oeuvre is a dynamic mixture of materials, methods, concepts, and subjects that defies easy definition.
A Poet of Chaos
Anton Unai personifies the creative philosophy represented by Joseph Beuys’ legacy: a profound belief in the sanctity of spontaneity, the poetry of chaos, and the rejection of traditional academia. A self-taught artist, Unai’s installations are often the result of a week-long process or action, improvised and created on-site using mostly found objects, or “golden garbage,” salvaged from the streets of Berlin.
Using materials that reflect the urban landscape, ordinary detritus like rusty sheet metal or yesterday’s newspaper, Unai’s work resurrects and reinvents the discarded relics of the modern masses. His art is at once rough and delicate, exposing sentimental and vulnerable humanity through violent gestures, provocative irony and messy compositions.
“If you love something – set it free, if it loves you – it will come back to you,
if it doesn’t – hunt it down and kill it.” – Anton Unai
Unai’s Visual Philosophy
Unai’s large-scale installations fuse painting, photography, collages and spontaneous performances, to surrealistic, fantastic, emotional, poetic and radical landscapes. Meta-narratives, pop and subculture artifacts, religious iconography and a wide breadth of literary references are all present in his multifaceted installations, as well as allusions to art historical antecedents ranging from Basquiat’s urban poetry to Sir Howard Hodgkin’s abstract paintings as sculptural objects to Jonathan Meese’s theatrical symbolism.
Describing himself as memoirist, poet, calypso dancer, civil-rights activist, novelist, journalist, friend of left-wing causes, master of magical realism and professor, the artist does not limit his artistic practice in one direction or philosophy. He is simply all along inspired by life experiences and the creative process.
Background and Exhibitions
Anton Unai was born in Barcelona, Spain in 1974. A trained political scientist with failed written journalistic ambition, Unai briefly worked as an art director before devoting himself to making art. After a summer living in a tent hidden in a pine forest at a Balearic beach, he made his way to Berlin where he still resides. His work has been exhibited in many reputed galleries in Berlin, Vienna, London, New York, and Basel, among others. The first collaboration in 2016 between the famous Spanish artist and OPEN WALLS Gallery was on display in the first month of the year. Entitled Thorns in Roses and consisted of two new canvases – The Phenomenology of Mind and The Phenomenology of Spirit – the project was an exciting continuation of the artist’s ongoing exploration of new themes and topics made of objects collected from the streets and other randomly found items.
- 2016 · Thorns in Roses · OPEN WALLS Gallery · Berlin (Germany)
- 2014 · PAPER WORKS · OPEN WALLS Gallery · Berlin (Germany)
- 2014 · Solo Show · OPEN WALLS Gallery · Berlin (Germany)
- 2013 · Assess the Damages · OPEN WALLS Gallery · Berlin (Germany)
- 2010 · Moniker · International Art Fair · London (UK)
- 2010 · Escape · International Exhibition of Urban Art · Vienna (Austria)
- 2010 · LIA · Leipzig International Art Programme · Leipzig (Germany)
- 2010 · Volta6 · Art Fair Basel · Circleculture Gallery · Basel (Switzerland)
- 2009 · Solo Show: Fighting Gravity · Circleculture Gallery · Berlin (Germany)
- 2009 · Urban Affairs Extended · Street Art Festival · Berlin (Germany)
- 2009 · Group Show: Self-Portraits · Circleculture Gallery · Berlin (Germany)
- 2009 · Todas las obras de arte deben empezar por el final · Rojo Art Space · Barcelona (Spain)
- 2008 · Berliner Straße · curated by Johann Haehling von Lanzenauer · CHB Berlin (Germany)
- 2008 · Urban Affairs · Street Art Festival · Berlin (Germany)
- 2008 · Solo show: Ultimatum · Off Space · Berlin (Germany)
- 2008 · The disenchantment of the Bourgeoisie · Circleculture Gallery · Berlin (Germany)
- 2008 · The Alternative Philosophy · The Leonard Street Gallery · London (UK)
- 2007 · Berliner Straße · Circleculture Gallery · Berlin (Germany)
- 2007 · Solo show: Me, Myself and Unai · Circleculture Gallery · Berlin (Germany)
- 2007 · Unai vs Monk · Boxing Action Paint · Guillotine · Berlin (Germany)
- 2006 · Homeless Housing · Street Aid · New York (USA)
- 2006 · Domaine Space · Installation · New York (USA)
- 2006 · Lies the Un told Truth · Catfood Gallery · Berlin (Germany)
- 2004 · Mural for Design Mai · Kunts Fabrik · Berlin (Germany)
- 2004 · Fabrik Paliko · Ibiza (Spain)
- 2003 · Carambolas Sónar · Festival · Barcelona (Spain)