He brought to life his first piece of art at the age of 13 after cutting up and re-gluing together his mother’s old haute-couture clothes – an impulse he would soon discover to become a lifelong dream.
19-year-old Mo Kiddo from Antwerp, Belgium, has since then been offered a position as Vogue columnist , featuring on countless national and international magazines and setting up his own exhibition galleries.
All this without knowing a thing about art
“My passion was discovered more instantaneously than gradually as I had absolutely no interest or exposure to art as a child and I never demonstrated any talent or desire to do anything like what I do today – it all happened that one morning when I decided to rip up my mother’s clothes for charity and see what I could create,” said Kiddo.
“I grabbed hold of a canvas and before I knew it I was an artist.”
I grabbed hold of a canvas and before I knew it I was an artist.
With no art degree and not a single art history book stacked at the back of a shelf at home, Kiddo was pushed into a world of glamorous parties and maniac photographers in the blink of an eye.
His work was soon to be seen at numerous prestigious galleries around Belgium including Trendy Networkz and the Donald Barry Woodrow Gallery in Antwerp, founded by the one of Time Magazine’s greatest photo journalists and celebrity fashion photographers of all time.
Only a few years later Kiddo launched his very own Mo Kiddo Contemporary Art Gallery, displaying his best pieces of work from throughout the years.
His art, which he describes as “collage work that does not express concrete situations”, is an eclectic mixture of abstract painting and collage, a midway between Picasso and Jonathan Talbot.
So where does he get the inspiration to create art?
Fashion, fashion, fashion
Fashion is the focus of all his work and every piece is adorned with garments, vintage material, high street fabrics and accessories – a passion passed on from his mother.
“She is definitely my biggest influence and I have admired and observed her so much up until today,” he said.
“At a young age I was already able to identify Missoni by the fabric of a garment, Yves Saint Laurent by the wooden handle of a purse, a pair of black Prada varnished shoes by their smell and my mother’s Christian Dior lemon-green silk cocktail dress by its touch.”
With a spacious room dedicated entirely to his many wardrobes and closets, Kiddo believes the world could not exist without fashion.
He said: “There wouldn’t be any shops, TV shows, runaways, fashion catwalks, photography, or literature….the whole world revolves around new looks and trendsetters.”
Kiddo soon realized the impact his upbringing was having on his art and the way his experiences enabled him to see the world in a different light.
He added: “These precise fractions of my childhood are what make me the artist and creator I am today.
Kiddo was first spotted at the age of 14 by the production team on Christie’s magazine, a UK fine arts and painting publication, after attending a photo-shoot at their studios one afternoon.
Before he knew it, they had organised the launch party for his website and sponsored his first art exhibition.
He said: “It all happened so fast without ever intending to make a career out of it - art was just therapy for me, a world of my own where I was just creating to create, so my art journey has been pretty intense."
“At 17 I had already created countless pieces and appeared in major events, and just like that I was standing in a hall in front of 300 people, photographers and my artwork… surreal.”
Kiddo now has his own art gallery in Antwerp, which sees hundreds of visitors stop by every month.
His work, which is also exposed in countless galleries around Belgium, is held together by some great driving forces which he believes are the direct product of his environment.
He noted: “I am a very visual person, so I tend to visualize everything I intend to put down on canvas before I even do so – when I am feeling happy and artistic, for example, I draw everything I hear or at times even turn it into a fairly vivid and detailed picture.”
Even so, picking up a newly discovered talent and turning it into a successful career is not always a children’s game – you need basic knowledge of the job or first-hand experience.
Neither of which he had at the time
“Ever since I was young, I loved creating things by doodling around, breaking things up and then putting them back together – I always had an artistic eye for everything but I just couldn’t find my niche,” Kiddo said.
“In fact, everything I do is still very raw; for instance, I go into an art supply store and I have no idea what it is I am buying, so I am constantly experimenting and discovering new ways of channeling what is inside of me onto a canvas and it is a journey for which I need to keep my eyes open at all times.”
Kiddo further admitted he does not believe an art degree or certificate is necessary to become an artist.
He stated: “Being a good artist has nothing to do with schooling or if you work professionally or as a hobby, you just need to find out what your strength is and be able to channel your talent in that direction.”
Kiddo believes in art as the greatest form of freedom of expression, and this in itself allows him to experiment with the unknown and make his work as unique and fresh as possible.
“I enjoy when people tell me how different and rare my work is, which happens quite often, because being an artist is first and foremost about being able to convey your emotions, expressing something that others have not expressed before or have expressed in a very different way,” he added.
Nevertheless, Kiddo admitted to often feeling overwhelmed by the intensity with which he kick-started his career as an artist, pointing out that his biggest achievement was how he grew into his artwork in his own way without letting anyone influence him.
“Often artists compete with each other to be the best, yet I have never cared much about being known as number one, per say, in my category of artwork,” he said.
“When you are the best it means you are indeed number one, but when you are different from the others, then you’re known as the only one.“
As a rising artist, Kiddo is starting to develop some strong ideas on the significance of his work and the importance of art in today’s society – both as a gift and a blessing.
He shared: “Art is not frivolous, and you always need to be bold and blunt; art separates humans from every other form of life on this planet and our ability to create art, understand art and appreciate art is a great and precious gift we’ve been given from within."
“We shouldn’t squander that gift by just trying to make it match the sofa – it should match our soul.”
Keen on using his fame to help those in need, Kiddo also took part in a charity art auction event hosted by Pannekoek Antwerp in January of last year, auctioning some of his best work alongside a group of well established artists including Jan Scheirs and Dave Shweitzer.
The silent auction party was a big success and Kiddo hopes to take part in a similar event in the near future.
He further added he has grown immensely as a person as well as an artist over the past few years and is determined to keep up his hard work and evoke the same energy and passion for art he feels inside.
“My goal is to create art which is charged with much more energy, so people will really feel it and know what Mo kiddo is all about –after all, the best thing about my career is how the simple act of using my hands to create art made me who I am today and gave me the confidence I needed to feel blessed.”
Without any art history background or knowledge of art as a subject, Kiddo works on building his passion through every day life and his great interest in people.
He explained how he is inspired by all kinds of people; the rich, the poor, the cultured, the not so cultured, the older generation, the new generation.
He added: “To me art and fashion are in the eyes of the one who leads, in other words the trend-setter, the person I want to become.”
Keen to reach for the stars (or more specifically, his wardrobe), Kiddo is determined to make a name for himself as a young artist and is already paving his way to success.
Just a word of advice: be sure to keep your Gucci garments and Prada purses well away from this rising artist, who is transforming the world of contemporary art into one fashionable business.