The Graffiti Artist Who Paints Over Fashion Ads

Michael De Feo’s Untitled (Rihanna by Steven Klein for Dior), 2016. Photo: Michael De Feo

Known as “the Flower Guy,” graffiti artist Michael De Feo has defaced fashion ads worldwide for more than two decades, painting whimsical flowers over celebrities like Rihanna, BeyoncéKendall Jenner, and Justin Bieber. The graffiti is illegal, and the fashion industry loves it.

Last year, a guerrilla art collective gave De Feo a key to New York City bus-shelter ads, inviting the artist to challenge corporate messaging. He stealthily painted over ads by the likes of Dior and David Yurman and has since gained serious recognition among fashion designers. The graffiti inspired a line of scarves and bags by Echo, prompted two commissions by Neiman Marcus, and appeared in a Christian Louboutin social-media campaign. “It’s not real life,” he told the New York Times about his artwork last spring. “And these are not real flowers.”

Now De Feo’s reinterpretations are on display in a more purely artistic context, in an exhibit at the Danziger Gallery on the Lower East Side that closes August 12. Click ahead to see his art covering some of fashion’s most elite ad campaigns: Rihanna for Dior, Cara Delevingne for Tom Ford, and Lili Summer for Saint Laurent.