Lucas Beaufort is an artist from the skateboarding world, taking Montreal by storm with a 17-day creative blitz, part of his artist-in-residence program at Yves Laroche Art Gallery. The Instagram phenom (with over 65,000 followers) is emblematic of a new generation of artists who have created their own careers and opportunities outside conventional mediums.
Lucas was born in Cannes, France, and grew up surrounded by art. His father is a collector, his mother, a painter. On the walls at home hung paintings in the Fauvist style, which was significant, considering that in the history of art, Fauvism marked the beginning of the liberation of colour. Through his father’s collection, Lucas learned that in art, anything goes—a good thing, since representing reality was never of any interest to Lucas.
His real passion is his board. “I am a big skateboarder,” he said several times during our interview. The board is not just an object, it is another medium through which he expresses himself. “Skateboarding is a work of art in motion,” says Beaufort. Inspired by the artwork decorating the undersides of his boards, his own paintings are a cross between French primitive artists and Keith Haring. He also names Robert Combas, who started the Free Figuration movement, among his influences.
While he may not be widely known, Lucas Beaufort is something of an icon in the skate world. It’s no surprise, given that he made his name with his Re-covers Project, in which he painted over skateboard magazine covers (which generally feature action photographs of boarders), inserting colourful creatures that fit the composition perfectly. He did more than 1,500 covers for the project.
For almost a decade, Lucas has collaborated with some 40 international brands, including Pernod, Vans, Converse, Asos and W Hotels. His aesthetic—part design, part illustration—is very hot in skate culture, and appeals to brands looking to reach a younger demographic, especially via social media. Lucas’ art and reputation are an integral part of that trend, which is why collectors outside skate culture like him, and why more traditional media cover his work.
Born impatient, Lucas has had an entrepreneurial vision from the very start. He creates his own opportunities and makes his own decisions about which artists he will work with. In 2014, he started The LB Project, a travelling exhibit featuring a few dozen artists from the skate world that raises money for NGOs such as Skateistan, a non-profit that helps kids from low-income backgrounds in several countries. The project was an instant hit, running (against all odds) for a full year in five European cities. A second edition followed in 2015, this time in six cities across the United States. Skateistan continues to evolve; the latest version took the form of a documentary film called Devoted, featuring a series of interviews with artists from American skate culture. The show took Lucas on a wild road trip, during which he met some of his idols. In fact, it was such a moving and memorable experience that all he can dream of is doing it again.
Lucas is a generous human being who loves discussion. “Art is just an excuse to meet people,” he says humbly. You can even see it in his paintings, where all the characters are more or less connected to each other. The creatures he painted at the start of his career have grown simpler recently. Using mainly black and white and a limited colour palette, he covers the surface of his medium with little characters, their outlines intersecting in a naïve, minimalist style. Like any good skateboarder, he is obsessed with balance.
Art is a way for Beaufort to connect with people, but looking at his work and considering all the places he has been, one can’t help but add “and to travel the world.” Through his art, this globe-trotting young man leaves his mark wherever he goes. He’ll be back in Montreal in September to inaugurate his new self-reflective project at Yves Laroche Art Gallery.
What’s coming up for Lucas Beaufort? Three countries in the next month, another documentary project and encounters with new people.
We wish him bon voyage!