Meet Beau Dunn, Kris and Kylie Jenner's Favorite Artist

Very few people can say they’ve stepped into Kris Jenner’s Birkin closet. Beau Dunn, on the other hand, can say she’s the inspiration behind the momager’s boss space. Or rather, I should say, Beau Dunn’s art is the inspo. The neon-pink “NEED MONEY FOR BIRKIN” sign glowing among all that fine Hermès leather? Kris loved the piece so much, she built her entire handbag collection around it.

You may not know Beau Dunn by name, but you’ve definitely seen her work. Her ultra-feminine Barbies and cheeky neon signs decorate the homes of some of Hollywood’s most famous residents, and they’re plastered all over your Insta feed. The Los Angeles-based artist sells her pieces both online and IRL, and they usually go for a pretty penny—like, we’re talking $2,500 and more. No wonder the Kardashians have taken a liking to her stuff.

Welcome to #Birkin Heaven aka @Krisjenner’s new closet !! #NeedMoneyForBirkin #BeauDunnArt

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Kylie Jenner also has several Beau Dunn pieces scattered around her home—including the giant Trojan condoms that caused quite a stir, and two of Beau’s famous Barbie portraits. (BTW, we were so charmed by Kylie’s décor that we copped two Barbie portraits for our office—cute, right?)

But to be clear, there’s a lot more going on in Beau’s work than plastic dolls and designer names. Here are some highlights from my conversation with the artist.

How did growing up in L.A. influence your art?

I’ve only ever lived in L.A., and while traveling, I realized that L.A. is unlike any other city in the world. Growing up, we’d have paparazzi outside our school gates waiting for celebrity parents to drop their kids off. Through my art, I try to examine the effects of affluence and zoom in on our fascination with beauty, materialism, celebrity culture, and social status. My artwork spotlights how there’s been a shift from keeping up with the Joneses to keeping up with the Kardashians.

Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind your Plastic and your Need Money For series?

I’m not criticizing people for having plastic surgery, I’m starting conversation about “what are the pressures you feel by looking at social media or flipping through a magazine? How do you feel pressured? How do I feel pressure to keep up and have a perfect body, have a perfect wardrobe, have the perfect handbag?” It’s about materialism and the pressures of materialism.

I’m also playing with the concept of childhood innocence, and what happens to innocence in the face of societal pressures. Take the Barbie portraits, for example. There’s been serious backlash in society with people saying, “Well, Barbies can have a ‘perfect’ body shape—does that pressure young girls to have the Barbie shape?” And now they’re designing Barbie dolls with all different body types—that’s where society is going.

@Beaudunn kicking off the grand opening of #contextartmiami with a print signing! … Please join @Beaudunn and @Art_angels this weekend at @artmiamifairs #Context booth C212 💕 #ArtBasel

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What was it like working with Kris and Kylie Jenner?

Absolutely tongue-in-cheek. My pieces were actually created beforehand—I never really made pieces for the Kardashians. Kris was the first; she had seen my artwork at a gallery that represented me. She wanted to riff on my “Need Money for Birkin” by creating a Birkin closet. I worked with her to build the closet around my art piece and really had fun with it.

Kylie having my condoms and getting pregnant, that was all just fun, too. The Kardashians obviously realize the social commentary [aspect of my work]. I’m making fun of myself for growing up in Beverly Hills and growing up in Los Angeles. It was really fun to work with them and have my pieces among their collection.

Did you know @BeauDunn is the artist behind the infamous #NEEDMONEYFORBIRKIN neon that now resides in @Krisjenner’s #Birkin closet? #BeauDunnArt

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Speaking of Kylie’s condoms, they definitely blew up on social media when the Architectural Digest feature came out.

I know, I think we broke the internet.

Can you talk more about the inspiration behind that collection?

It was part of my Plastic art show in Los Angeles. I had a lot of art in that show that spoke to women specifically—it was a very feminine show—so I wanted to also talk about societal pressures on men. I brainstormed A to Z, thinking about where men feel the most pressure, and whether it’s monetary or penis size, I got the idea of “Size Does Matter.”

#SizeDoesMatter | @Beaudunn | 2016 | Edition of 8 + 2 AP | 26″ x 26″

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The piece is based on Trojan condoms, obviously. I had to blow them up, change the sayings and the warnings, and also figure out how to manufacture them to create the oversized look. It was a really fun series to make. It took me many years. The first series [Kylie] collected was my Barbies, and then she saw my condoms and absolutely loved them.

Besides the Jenners, do you have any other dream clients?

A dream client is anyone who really loves art, anyone who has a passion for art. I love collectors that have an understanding of different mediums and collect multiple pieces, just like Kylie. That’s really my ideal client.

@Beaudunn is honored to share part in @Kyliejenner’s @Archdigest cover story featuring #Beaudunnart’s #SizeDoesMatter Condom series, #PlasticbyBeaudunn Neon and her #Barbies series 💕

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Can you walk me through the process of how you create your pieces, from ideation to completion?

I’ll come up with a concept of something I want to talk about. It’s usually in the middle of the night or when I’m driving—the most random moments in time. There are so many different steps, from sitting on the concept for years to figuring out how it will fit in the show, what I’m actually trying to say with the piece, and how to manufacture or produce the concept—that’s always the hardest part.

What is it like working with so many different mediums and materials?

I love a good puzzle. I feel like I was born to be an artist or an entrepreneur because I love to figure out all the little pieces, like, “I have the concept for this. How do we make this? How do I go from [having] it on paper to testing it out in 10 different materials?” I was making a Barbie table for a show years ago—it’s literally a table made out of a thousand Barbie legs—and I rolled a piece of metal and hand-gunned it myself and figured out what kind of Barbie legs I needed. For me, it’s all about playing with different materials and getting a team behind me.

How has Instagram and social media influenced your art, the way you present it, and your business strategy?

Social media been such a positive shift for art and artists all over the world. It gives artists and galleries and everyone in the art world their own platform. I love seeing how collectors hang pieces and where they put them in their homes. And I’m able to see all that through social—they post it, they tag me; it’s been a great way to connect with people.

Closet goals via @sydney_d_holland @traciebutlerdesign 📸 @annieshak

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Like you said, social media has been a great equalizer for artists. But as I’m sure you know, the art world has been dominated by men for a loooong time. What are the challenges you face as a woman in the space?

I read recently that women art dealers were 28% more likely to show artists who were women. Women have different stories to tell visually, vocally, and so with more women coming into the art industry, the better for all women, whether they’re artists, art gallerists, or publicists. It has been interesting, to be completely honest, that my name can be a boy’s name, as well. My art is so feminine, but a lot of people assume I’m a boy because I have a boy’s name. I don’t know if that helps me or hurts me.

Any advice for women who are trying to find success in the art world?

Just do it. There’s no roadmap at all. I had to figure out from ground zero what I wanted my career to be. For me, it was: make a game plan, get a team in place that really supported and believed in my visions, use social media as a platform, and just put it out there. A lot of people say, “Well, I’m scared to put it out there. I’m scared to be judged.” If it scares you, that means that you’re putting a wall up in front of you, and you have to break that down to break through and continue. Especially for women or young artists out there, I just tell them, “Just get it done. Get your ideas on paper into actuality, and take that time to really create.” A lot of people are scared to start, so I think that first step is just getting it done.

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