Steve Kaufman

(American, 1960-2010)

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Hunger feeds the need to succeed.”

- Steve Kaufman

            Steve Kaufman was born in the Bronx, New York into a family of artists. His mother painted oils on canvas, his uncles’ sculptures; he began his art career as early as 8 years old. It was this age that he held his first show, at a Bronx bank that was sponsored by a synagogue. The pieces were later donated to the Jewish Holocaust Memorial in Brooklyn, New York. At age 12 he painted pet rocks and sold them outside of Macy’s on 34th street in Manhattan. Two years later he and nine other New York students participated in a cultural art exchange in Japan. This later resulted in his ability to attain a scholarship to the Parsons School of Design.

            Kaufman studied at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts, and it was there he became acquainted with other contemporary artists, including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. At age 21 Kaufman met Andy Warhol, and also worked as his assistant in his studio, The Factory. Warhol highly impacted the artistic style of Kaufman.  He created designs and sold paintings for nightclubs, Saturday Night Live, and designers such as Calvin Klein.

            When Kaufman left Warhol’s factory, he established SAK, his own studio. There he hired homeless people as his assistants, and muses. He painted three homeless persons for Transportation Display, Inc. that were displayed in 46 cities on bus billboards. This generated $4.72 million that went to benefit the homeless. He also painted the 55 Racial Harmony murals that promoted racial tolerance and harmony and appeared on Fox TV, MTV, radio stations, and abandoned buildings.

            In the 2000s, Kaufman participated in many humanitarian efforts; he worked to support more than 175 charities, created a program that placed his pieces in public places for people to enjoy, painted to raise money to support victims of Hurricane Katrina, and hired 546 ex-gang members to work for him at his studio.  Unfortunately in 2003, Kaufman suffered a major stroke following an Art Expo in New York. His schedule slowed because of his health, however he continued to paint and donate proceeds, such as his Give Kids a Break charity. His health appeared to improve in 2006 and his schedule picked up once more. He exhibited in Vegas, Washington D.C., Denver, Santa Fe, Laguna Beach and more. Many of his subjects included celebrity, musician, actors, athletes, and artist portraits, to demonstrate their influence on modern day and pop culture. 

            After a series of strokes that began in 2004, Kaufman died of a heart attack in Colorado on February 12, 2010 while preparing for an art show. His efforts and contributions to the world will forever remain a huge impact. The people that assisted in his studio numbered nearly 2,000 and were able to have a second chance for a better life. He raised funding for numerous charity and spread positive messages for people worldwide to see.

American Fine Art, Inc. is proud to feature the original works and limited editions of Steve Kaufman. Visit our 12,000 sq. ft. showroom in Scottsdale, AZ or call today. Our website is offered only as a limited place to browse or refresh your memory and is not a reflection of our current inventory. To learn more about collecting, pricing, value or any other art information, please contact one of our International Art Consultants. We look forward to giving you the one on one attention you deserve when building your fine art collection.  We hope you find our website helpful and look forward to seeing you in Scottsdale soon.