The Luxury of Michael Zavros

© Michael Zavros -  Bad Dad - Oil on canvas - 110cm x 150cm - Finalist in The Archibald Prize 2013

© Michael Zavros – Bad Dad
Oil on canvas – 110cm x 150cm / Finalist in The Archibald Prize 2013

Australian Artist Michael Zavros always seems to keep me at a loss for words.  I am fascinated with detail and luxury, from a view of the time it takes to design or create, and the beauty of the finished product.  His paintings are exquisite.  The realism quite spectacular, taking you to a world of the most beautiful of luxuries and the depths of the most lavish dreams.  When I see the images online I spend so long looking at every detail.  There is so much detail.  However, in person, when you see the artworks in front of you, the detail becomes even more apparent and it is then I am truly lost for words.  My mind is almost silenced and I feel hypnotised by the world he has created.  Michael Zavros is truly an amazing and talented artist.  I recently caught up with Michael so I could share with you more about his inspirations and why he is attracted to this luxury and style.

© Michael Zavros - The Lobster - Oil on canvas 120cm x 150cm

© Michael Zavros – The Lobster – Oil on canvas 120cm x 150cm


TMHS: Luxury and style are key elements in so many of your artworks. What attracts you to both of these things?

MZ: I think that I am probably just interested in what could be described as a European aesthetic. I probably respond more to beauty. I am drawn to luxury objects partly because most often they are borne of a kind of artisanship, they are usually very well made and often by hand. I think this is what differentiates expensive things with luxurious things. The term luxury is certainly misused and frequently. To paraphrase Andy Warhol’s observation on beauty, if everything is luxurious then nothing is. Luxury and its trappings becomes almost part of a performance between the subject matter in the work, its application and my life as an artist.

TMHS: You have achieved some amazing accomplishments in your career. What stands out to you as one that is particularly special?

MZ: Thank you. I never really allow myself to navel gaze but certainly the Moran Art Prize was a great professional moment for me, and I loved working with my daughter Phoebe to realise it. The Bulgari Art Award was another very major achievement for me and the residency that followed was so influential. Bulgari are an incredible company and I feel almost as though I have become part of their family.

© Michael Zavros - Phoebe is Dead/McQueen - Douglas Moran National Portrait Prize Winner

© Michael Zavros – Phoebe is Dead/McQueen – Douglas Moran National Portrait Prize Winner

(see the Bulgari Art Award image and details here – )

TMHS: Family plays a big part in your life. How have they become part of your art practice?

MZ: Having three children means I have less time than before and this has had a big impact on my work which is very time consuming, but actually since they came along I have made more work than ever before. I waste very little time now. They influence me too in all sorts of ways, some explicit and some implied, but I do find myself looking to my children more as the source of work. I work often with my eldest, Phoebe, in particular. We clash over homework but in the studio we are very simpatico. She is very intuitive about what I am trying to achieve and she really gets into the process.

TMHS: I particularly like the recent Charmer exhibition at Philip Bacon Galleries. Amazing luxury designer ties that look like cobras. Tell me more about this series.

MZ: The ties are really about seduction and the lure of beauty and of course luxury. I like ties and I have big collection of them. Many I inherited or bought, vintage. They’re such curious ribbons of silk decorated sometimes with elaborate patterning and they have always seemed to me snake-like in their design, like a cobra at the thicker end, its hood flaring as it is being charmed. But they are the charmers, charming me as I paint and they charm their audience, trading in a desire for the work itself.

© Michael Zavros - Charmer / Versace - Oil on canvas 77cm x 55cm

© Michael Zavros – Charmer / Versace – Oil on canvas 77cm x 55cm

© Michael Zavros - Charmer / Versace - Oil on canvas 77cm x 55cm (detail)

© Michael Zavros – Charmer / Versace – Oil on canvas 77cm x 55cm (detail)


TMHS: The Debaser series is one I always look back to. The men’s facial features are blocked out. What does this represent?

MZ: I sought to remove that which made those models relevant. Beauty and youth are paramount in contemporary culture, they have a currency all of their own, and I wanted to destabilise that and negate it somewhat. It’s sort of perverse to invest so much work in something such as this only to remove it. Of course the charcoal can never be completely erased, it stains the paper and so I’m left with a ghost mark of both the drawing and person.

© Michael Zavros - Debaser Burberry Prorsum - 122cm x 86cm

© Michael Zavros – Debaser Burberry Prorsum – Charcoal on paper – 122cm x 86cm

TMHS: I am a big fan of your personal style. You dress impeccably at your exhibition openings and in every photo I see you in. Who inspires you to dress so well and who are some of your favourite designers?

MZ: In recent years I can afford to buy Italian suits or have something tailor-made, which is a true luxury. Mostly I like classical simple tailoring, but with flair, I like a colour or pattern. I admire the men captured in Slim Aarons photographs from the 70s and 80s, European aristocrats or tycoons reclining on yachts or by their pools or with their horses and children. They’re real men, hirsute peacocks in little short swimming trunks or effortless in pink linen suits, cravats or dinner suits. I like Etro a lot, also Gucci and Ferragamo. And I like Versace for its audacious 1980s Euro style.

TMHS: Three things you can’t do without in your day?

MZ: Coffee. Eggs. ABC Radio National.


See more of Michael Zavros at

Be sure to follow Michael on Instagram:  – @michaelzavros


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