Meet the Street Artist Who Turns Sexy Magazine Covers Into High-Concept Art

From Kendall Jenner to Martha Hunt, Marco Santini makes supermodel mag covers look even more stunning.
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From Kendall Jenner to Martha Hunt, Marco Santini makes supermodel mag covers look even more stunning.
(Photo: Marco Santini)

(Photo: Marco Santini)

One of the breakout talents of 2017 Miami Art Basel, New York-based street artist Marco Santini is introducing the art world to the beauty and storytelling of "scratchiti."

It is not the spray-painted, graffiti-like work you might recognize from icons like Keith Haring and Banksy, but rather a play on the existing textures and colors of the city. Santini is known to tear up posters plastered around New York, revealing further layers of posters and creating what he calls a "happy surprise of the unknown."

"My street art began by looking at advertising posters that were put up on some of the scaffolding around the city," Santini tells Maxim. "It would get ripped away to show these beautiful layers of contrasts and textures, and so I started photographing these layered images that people were just walking by and not really appreciating."

Though he is not shy about utilizing a can of spray paint or two.

His technique has since extended to magazines, which he tears apart and pieces back together with the abandon of of a collage-crazed teenager. But his interest is not in whichever celebrity posing on the cover but more so in rearranging the images inside to introduce new impressions and perspectives, as he did with the Maxim December 2018 issue featuring Victoria's Secret model-turned-cover girl Martha Hunt.

"A magazine is so much more than a cover. And so how could I show the soul of a magazine?" Santini explained. "Let me cut the magazine up, show every single page and how it interacts to show a complete soul—as I've been calling it—of the work."

There is an unassailable boldness to the colors and contrasts of his work, but his exasperation with the incendiary politics of recent street art has inspired him to adopt a softer approach. At a gallery show in Austin, Texas at South by Southwest, he will paint, before spectators, two new editions of what he calls his "One Love" logo, hearts with the word "love" written in over 40 languages.

"I saw there was a lot of street art that was really negative about the current president and the current political state, and so I wanted to create something a little bit more positive," Santini said. 

"At the Austin show, I will be painting two of these really large 40 by 40-inch canvases with the heart logo—one with a red background and one with a black background. I'm still thinking about what I'm gonna do, but I think I'm gonna be inspired by the landscape and make it a locally-grown piece but still with positive messaging."

(Photo: Pasha Kalachev)

(Photo: Pasha Kalachev)

It his perhaps the most Santini has ever inserted his own voice into his work. But as one of the undeniable artists of the moment and the subject of an upcoming documentary about the New York art world, now is his time to make it heard.

Want to see Santini's art in person? Here, some information on his upcoming shows:

Wednesday, March 14th — SXSW

  • Live Painting at Lewis Carnegie Gallery (1312 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702)
  • 1pm-8pm

Thursday, March 22nd — Art Opening at SOHO Places 

  • 435 Broome Street NY NY 10013
  • 6-9pm

Thursday, May 3 — Opening Reception Real + Art at BOND New York 

  • 64 West 21st Street New York, NY 10010
  • 6-9pm