Café des Artistes is packed with storied New Yorkers. Walt Frazier, Tina Fey, RZA, Jonathan Lethem, Diane Von Furstenberg, Woody Allen, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are just a few of the many familiar faces in artist Tom Sanford’s latest body of work, which opens to the public today at the Kravets/Wehby Gallery in Chelsea.

Sanford tells ANIMAL that he named the solo exhibit after Café des Artistes, the legendary NYC restaurant that was located in the lobby of Hotel des Artistes on the UWS before it closed in 2009. The oil on wood paintings took approximately eight months to create and feature caricaturistic portraits of the colorful characters who occupy Sanford’s New York, locations included.


Wait till you see art writer/author Carlo McCormick tending the Lit Lounge bar as a reflection of the late Dash Snow appears in the mirror, an adaptation of Manet’s famous A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.

In another painting, Mike D of the Beastie Boys mingles in a bodega with graffiti artist ESPO aka Steven Powers and director Spike Lee. Sanford tells us, “It’s my love letter to New York.”

Per the artist’s statement:

Tom Sanford’s “image fiction” paintings take the viewer by surprise by tapping into and mashing up the New York lexicon of culture. Spike Lee is miscast as a deli guy as a nod to “Mookie” in Do The Right Thing in Sanford’s painting “The Deli on Broadway.”

I asked the artist to explain what he meant by “miscast.”

“Because there has never been a black guy working the deli,” Sanford joked. “It doesn’t happen.”

“Café des Artistes,” Tom Sanford, Sep 7 – Oct 12, Kravets/Wehby Gallery, Chelsea

(Video: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)