Richard Hambleton at the MUCA Collection Munich

Who is Richard Hambleton?

Richard Hambleton is considered one of the first street artists on the American continent. As "The Godfather of Street Art", he continues to inspire renowned artists such as Banksy, Blek le Rat and JR. He was born in Vancouver in 1952 and grew up in the Canadian metropolis. Hambleton studied at the Emily Carr University of Art & Design and later founded the Pumps Center for Alternative Art. 

As early as the 1970s, New York was his creative home. Here he frequented the legendary Club 57, among others, with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. At that time, the two presented him with Andy Warhol who asked him several times to paint a portrait of him. Hambleton always refused. He saw himself as a conceptual artist and wanted his art, not him, to be in the foreground.

In the art scene, the 1980s are considered the beginning of his career, when Hambleton made a name for himself with his worldwide "Shadowman" interventions.

But with fame came drugs. His heroin addiction in particular accompanied him throughout his life. He lost touch with reality and fell more and more into oblivion. About ten years ago, his works were rediscovered and he was able to continue his old successes. Richard Hambleton died at the height of his renaissance at the age of 65. 

Hambleton in the "25 YEARS" exhibition at MUCA Munich

In the anniversary exhibition (06.10.2022 - 10.09.2023) at MUCA Munich, a street sign adorned by a "shadow head" was on display: The work "Stop Sign" from 2010.

Until autumn 2022, the MUCA showed the special exhibition "Richard Hambleton - the forgotten shadow man".

What is the "Shadowman"?

Hambleton's works showed an early tendency towards the morbid. In his artistic beginnings at the end of the 1970s, he drew chalk outlines of murder victims on pavements, usually used for securing evidence at a crime scene. He shocked the public with this staging of murder scenes, the so-called "Mass Murder" series. His most famous works, however, were created in the 80s in the backyards and dark alleys of New York. There he painted distorted shadows of human bodies in black paint to frighten the viewer. A name was quickly found for these interventions: The "Shadowman" was born. 

Hambleton grew to become a fixture on the street art scene. Hundreds of his lurking "shadow men" could be seen on public walls all over Manhattan. In 1984 and 1985 he exhibited at MoMa and even made it to Europe. In 1984 and 1988, he painted the city with his shadow men during the Venice Biennale. A subsequent tour across the continent brought his figures to the streets of Paris, Rome and London. He also travelled to Berlin to install 17 life-size "shadow men" on the east side of the Berlin Wall, and returned a year later to follow up on the west side.