EXPIRED: 12/26/11  – James Rizzi, 61, was one of the most fun pop artists of all time. You couldn’t help but smile at his playful paintings and childlike 3D sculptures.

Born in Brooklyn, Rizzi studied at the University of Florida. But in 1974 he returned to NYC and took a studio in SoHo – back before it became a shopping mall and could actually house struggling artists. And struggling he was. At age 24 Rizzi was a renegade street artist.

Known for his bright, cartoon-like drawings he gained fans quickly. In 1981 he was commissioned by Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth to create the album cover for their first release as Tom Tom Club. It was so popular, they also asked him to create the video for their first single Genius of Love.

In 1996 Lufthansa commissioned him to decorate a jet with pastel stars, birds and travelers. In 2011, he created the BamBoo, an electric-powered concept car with an inflatable roof for automaker Rinspeed. Needless to say, Rizzi was loved around the world, especially in Germany, where a school in Duisburg was named for him.

He died in his sleep in the same studio he has been living and working in for decades.




EXPIRED: 12/31/09 – Fritz Lohman, 87, collected art and thought it was interesting that a lot of the art he collected was produced by his gay and lesbian friends. So he and his partner of 48 years, Charles Leslie, started to support primarily gay and lesbian artists.

Forty years ago, the two waged a legal battle with the city to rezone 12 SoHo square blocks from commercial to residential. When all was said and done,  48 square blocks were rezoned into the crowded outdoor shopping mall that is the SoHo district.

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