Israeli artist depicts world leaders as you’ve never seen ’em before

Israeli artist Amit Shimoni has re-imagined everyone from Reagan to Gandhi as cheerful hipsters.

Artist Amit Shimnoi's drawing of David Ben Gurion. (photo credit: Courtesy)
Artist Amit Shimnoi's drawing of David Ben Gurion.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
You’ve probably seen Amit Shimoni’s artwork without even realizing it.
The Tel Aviv-based artist is the man behind the series of “hipster” world leaders, comedic sketches of figures from Margaret Thatcher to Menachem Begin and Donald Trump. Over the past few years, his “Hipstory” designs have reached around the globe and are available in stores in the US, the UK, Canada, South Africa and throughout Europe.
Shimoni, 29, a graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, began creating the images while still in school, completing a series of 12 Israeli leaders for his final project in 2014.
The first drawing he made, of a cuddly looking David Ben-Gurion in a bright pink patterned shirt and a wicked pair of shades, is still the most popular in Israel, he said.
“He really symbolizes the project, the colors, the vibe,” Shimoni told The Jerusalem Post. “I think he really reflects the whole vibe.”
After graduating, Shimoni saw how well the designs were received in Israel and by the Jewish community abroad, and so he decided to keep it going by adding international figures, from Abraham Lincoln to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Winston Churchill.
“The project is always ongoing, I’m always adding more figures,” said Shimoni, noting that Albert Einstein was the most recent release, and a Princess Diana print is next in line.
Shimoni’s designs are available as prints as well as coasters, key chains, magnets, mugs, clothing and more.
Former US president Barack Obama gets dreadlocks pulled into a bun and a sleeveless surfer T-shirt, while Russian President Vladimir Putin has a dog tattoo on his chest and a goatee, and the Dalai Lama has a hoodie sweatshirt and an earring.
Shimoni recognizes that people buy the prints and products for their own reasons, but he intended the project to have a deeper meaning for millennials.
“This project is supposed to speak to us, a generation that has kind of lost a sense of belonging, and cares less about ideologies and more about fashion trends,” he said. “I wanted to take these big leaders that we all know, and make them a little more like us, and to create a sort of mirror for our generation.”
Earlier this year, Shimoni’s works were turned into a book of 20 postcards, called Hipstory, published by UK publisher Laurence King. He has also done illustrative work for publications around the world, including The New York Times, the New York Observer, Time Out Tel Aviv and the French magazine Trois Couleurs.
Shimoni has many new figures coming up, and is moving away from the politicians that have been his standby to artists and athletes, including Muhammad Ali.
The artist said his artworks have garnered comments and feedback from around the globe, including from family members of those depicted.
“The grandson of Nelson Mandela reached out, the foundation for the Dalai Lama as well,” said Shimoni. He said many of the descendants of the Israeli politicians depicted have said they have his products and designs in their homes – “That totally outweighs any negative feedback.”