From Rafal Olbinski’s humble beginnings, his imagery matures throughout the covers of magazines and opera posters to find its strongest reflection and voice in his paintings. His paintings take us on a poetic journey depicting emotions absent from the work of his contemporaries. This is why thirty years after leaving his native country, Poland, he has remained one of the pillars of émigré artists while simultaneously being claimed by America as one of its greatest Surrealists, earning him the title of “Prince of Surrealism”.
Olbinski was born in 1943 during the post-war era in Poland. During this period of political repression, Polish Poster Art had major appeal allowing artists and illustrators to enjoy broad popular recognition as well as sharing hidden political views. It was here that Olbinski began developing his signature style. He found his own means of expression by developing a unique blend of symbolism incorporating complex elements of surprise by utilizing metaphors and surrealistic elements.
Although a trained architect, Olbinski followed his passion as a fine artist and became the art director at Jazz Forum. During this time he developed as an artist and drew the acclaim of prominent art directors, critics and connoisseurs worldwide.
Olbinski arrived in New York in 1981 for an exhibition of his posters at the Polish Institute of Arts & Sciences of America. During this trip, martial law was declared in Poland and he found himself a political refugee in the United States. This presented a unique opportunity for the artist. He started to explore the American art market, working with prominent publications such as Time, Newsweek, Business Week, The New Yorker, New York Times, Playboy, Psychology Today and many others. His distinctive covers stood out in the market and in a remarkably short time Olbinski established himself as a highly sought after illustrator creating hundreds of covers in the U.S., Germany, Japan, Switzerland, and France. He also taught illustration at the School for Visual Arts in New York and lectured at various schools worldwide. Olbinski's influence is prevalent on a new generation of illustrators in the media.
In the early 90’s Olbinski expanded his influence and began working with the New York City Opera where he created a famous series of posters. These posters brought him such great popularity that he continues to create posters and set designs for international opera companies. He recently created a grandiose opera curtain for The Bialystok Opera House in Poland.
Rafal Olbinski debuted as a painter in 1990 in New York where his first gallery show sold out and drew favorable attention of art critics. The increasing demand for his work has led to him exhibit in numerous galleries, museums and cultural institutions around the world.
Gallery 444 is proud to have been showing Rafal Olbinski's art work since 1995.
Museum of Modern Art, NY
Smithsonian, Washington DC
The Israel Museum
National Art Museum, Poland
The Modern Art Museum, Japan
Carnegie Foundation, New York
Library of Congress, Washington DC
Deutsche Bank, Germany
Searle Collection, Chicago
The National Arts Club, New York
Grand Central Station, New York, USA
Bialystok Opera House, Bialystok Poland
Murals - Alfa Shopping Centre, Bialystok, Poland
Focus Park, Bydgoszcz, Poland
Selected Major Exhibitions
Tel Aviv Opera -2009
Palazzo Ducale, Italy – 2011
European Parliament, France -2004
Goethe Institute, Germany -2002
Willie Brandt House Germany -2001
Select Cover Illustrations
Time, Newsweek, The New Yorker, Business Week, Playboy, Psychology Today, Smithsonian, New York Times, Art in America, US News
Selected Awards (Olbinski has received more than 150 awards for his artistic achievements)
Gold Medal, the Art Directors Club of New York -1991
Gold Medal, the Society of Illustrators of New York – 1991 & 1998
The International Oscar, for “The World’s Most Memorable Poster”, Prix Savignac, Paris- 1994
Best of British Illustration, Creative Review Award, London -1994
Winner of the official “New York City Capital of the World” poster invitational competition, NY-1995
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