Pop cul­ture artist, art direc­tor, designer and Mickey Mouse su­per-fan, Christo­pher Lee Sauvé is the new voice of con­tem­po­rary cul­ture.

Schon! - - Master Maus - Words / Lara Tut­ton Art­work / The Schön! ArtMaus by Christo­pher Lee Sauvé

In New York, one name is buzzing on ev­ery­one’s lips. Five years on since his now iconic Save Anna graphic be­came a global sen­sa­tion, and af­ter tak­ing a break from the art scene to work as Artis­tic Direc­tor at MAC Cos­met­ics, Sauvé is back with his lat­est col­lec­tion, the al­ready fa­mous MadMaus se­ries. More than just icon­o­clas­tic, his pieces are as cel­e­bra­tory as they are satir­i­cal. Like wa­ter lilies to Monet, pop cul­ture is the mo­tif that de­fines Sauvé’s work. Just as Renoir re­joiced in the fe­male body, so Sauvé rev­els in the celebrity, pick­ing up where Warhol left off in an an­a­lyt­i­cal yet ex­u­ber­ant ex­plo­ration of the world of pop.

“Pop is just such an in­ter­est­ing sub­ject,” en­thuses Sauvé. He’s just fin­ished a long shoot for Michael Kors, but the Canadian-born, New York-based artist’s pas­sion­ate en­ergy is con­ta­gious. “My grand­mother was ob­sessed with pop cul­ture,” he re­calls. “I have a box full of mag­a­zine cov­ers that she cut out.” It is this per­sonal re­la­tion­ship be­tween pop cul­ture and so­ci­ety that has in­spired his new MadMaus col­lec­tion. A se­ries of printed t-shirts de­pict­ing pop idols and sar­to­rial aris­toc­racy from Justin Bieber and Madonna, to Anna Win­tour and Karl Lager­feld, it ri­vals the Hol­ly­wood Walk of Fame as a who’s-who of con­tem­po­rary cul­tural icons.

“Peo­ple pack­age them­selves and that fas­ci­nates me,” ex­plains Sauvé. “You can take a lot of celebri­ties and sim­plify them into th­ese bare iconic marks, al­most like a logo.” Re­duc­ing fa­mous faces to their sim­plest form, MadMaus recre­ates celebri­ties as a graphic car­i­ca­ture of their strong­est fea­tures, al­ways ac­ces­sorised with the trade­mark over­sized ears of the ul­ti­mate Amer­i­cana icon, Mickey Mouse. It is pure pop cul­ture porn, and re­sis­tance is fu­tile.

Just as the Save Anna graphic started life as a hasty pen drawing, so Sauvé’s MadMaus de­signs begin as a sketch be­fore be­ing trans­planted to his can­vas of choice, the t-shirt. A self-con­fessed per­fec­tion­ist, Sauvé pays close at­ten­tion to all as­pects of the gar­ment, but has re­fused to com­pro­mise sub­stance in his pur­suit of style. With a unique abil­ity to rapidly re­spond to the zeit­geist, his work is proudly re­ac­tionary and the strong­est ex­am­ples are of­ten cre­ated in less than half an hour. Be­gin­ning his ca­reer with po­lit­i­cal art mag­a­zine Ad­busters, Sauvé ac­knowl­edges that he can­not re­sist “go­ing against the grain of cul­ture,” and this coun­ter­cul­ture stance re­mains pal­pa­ble in the an­ar­chic tones of his work. How­ever, in an un­ex­pected twist of re­bel­lion gone rogue, his work has been ac­claimed by the very in­dus­try lead­ers that he satirises, his t-shirts gain­ing cult sta­tus amongst the fash­ion cognoscenti. In a meta­tex­tual mo­ment of life em­body­ing art, even the sub­jects of Sauvé’s por­traits are em­brac­ing MadMaus, with nu­mer­ous celebri­ties ea­ger to be en­shrined in his work and Mi­ley Cyrus her­self order­ing a se­lec­tion of Mi­leyMaus shirts.

Did the artist an­tic­i­pate this re­ac­tion? Ab­so­lutely not, but nei­ther does his about-turn from satir­i­cal com­men­ta­tor to taste-maker sur­prise him as the post-re­ces­sion con­sumer rebels against the es­tab­lished gate­keep­ers of style. In­deed, Sauvé pre­dicts mon­u­men­tal changes in the Amer­i­can fash­ion in­dus­try, with emerg­ing tal­ent es­tab­lish­ing a new hi­er­ar­chy: but he won’t be aban­don­ing art in pur­suit of fash­ion. Em­brac­ing his dual role as both artist and designer, Sauvé re­fuses to pi­geon-hole him­self. “It’s a night­mare fill­ing out oc­cu­pa­tion forms!” he laughs.

This year has seen Sauvé com­ple­ment his MadMaus project with a re­turn to his roots as an artist, col­lab­o­rat­ing with Scooter LaForge and, most re­cently, Fabergé. Ce­ment­ing his sta­tus as a mod­ern day mas­ter, Sauvé rein­vented a five-foot fi­bre­glass Fabergé egg with a col­lage of MadMaus images, fear­lessly fus­ing the brand’s clas­si­cal roots with his un­apolo­get­i­cally con­tem­po­rary style. But he is quick to re­as­sure us that this flurry of ac­tiv­ity does not spell out the demise of MadMaus. On the con­trary, he prom­ises that the next col­lec­tion will be even more proac­tive as he pushes bound­aries and ex­plores a new pop-punk realm. Sauvé in­vites us to ex­pect the un­ex­pected, and with a new project with Kimora Lee Sim­mons al­ready in progress and an art show in the works, one thing is for cer­tain: 2014 is the ‘Year of the Maus’.

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