Cost has been making street art for more than 20 years in New York City. Credit: Blaise Cepis, ANIMAL New York
"Whatever direction the art world is going, I go the other way,” said graffiti legend Adam “Cost.” For years, he's evaded the New York City Police Department and assailed the streets with his partner Revs. The Queens native is now watching a scene that he helped to create flourish, and trying to figure out where he fits in.
“I am very proud that Revs and I hold this position which no one else holds,” Cost says. “Nobody. Not the Keith Harings, the Andy Warhols, the Shepard Faireys or the Banksys. We're the essence of NYC graffiti writers. We bridged the gap between street art and graffiti.”
New Yorkers of the early 1990s didn’t have to be versed in the graffiti subculture to recognize Cost and Revs. Their names were plastered on thousands of posters — “Cost of Living,” “God Saved Revs,” “Birth, Paint, Death… Cost,” “Taxi Driver Revs” — throughout the city. While their peers stuck to intricate lettering, Cost and Revs stayed legible and loud.
“It’s getting too polished,” Cost says of today’s street art landscape. He said that today’s street art is too colorful, “perfected” and overflowing with legal murals.
The street artist, who masks his face and real name, returned in 2010 after a 16-year absence and has been back on the city streets plastering his ubiquitous posters around the five boroughs with street artist and animal enthusiast ENX, his new partner.
The recent overnight whitewashing of 5Pointz, a mecca for aerosol artists in Long Island City, particularly offended him. The project is being turned into luxury high-rise residential development.
Cost took to Instagram, rallied his 43,000 followers, and plans to print out more than 600 of the comments for Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. “I can be proactive for the art community whether it be legal or illegal,” he said.
As much as he rails against conformity, the mainstream has always had a lucrative interest in his work. At Doyle New York’s record-breaking street art auction in April, a Cost-covered newspaper box sold for $11,875. Last year, a Cost and Revs piece fetched $31,250 at a Bonhams auction. It’s no wonder thieves are peeling his posters off the walls with sponges and putty knives, and peddling the loot online.
Although he’s staying true to his outlaw roots, Cost is also preparing for the next phase of his career. “Shamefully, on some levels, I can now call myself a working studio artist.”