In the hipster world of Amit Shimoni, Queen Elizabeth II wears a sleeveless blouse and a flower crown in her hair, and Winston Churchill is imagined in a pork pie hat and V-neck sailor shirt.
Princess Diana is pictured in a choker necklace and shiny gold jacket, and Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher has gold chains and a leopard-print strapless top.
Shimoni, 30, is a wildly creative computer illustrator who is making a name for himself by turning the world’s greatest leaders and celebrities of modern history into hipsters.
His illustrations are his “attempt to create new and altered portraits of iconic figures of the 20th century, by placing them in a different time and culture”.
When Shimoni gets to style former US President Barack Obama, he has tattoos on both arms — and other contemporary leaders get radical makeovers, too.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a fan of dark plum lipstick; Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has a penchant for a studded leather jacket; Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama sports a hoodie instead of his monk’s robes; and the late Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi is a tie-dye aficionado.
“My mission is to bring these characters to life in a new way,” says Shimoni. The Tel Aviv-based artist began his art series, HIPSTORY (hipstoryart.com), in 2014, as a final art project for his bachelor’s degree at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem.
The early works depicted Israeli leaders. And everyone wanted more after they saw the first Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, in a pink pineapple-print shirt;
Theodor Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism, sporting an earring and hair wave; fourth Prime Minister, Golda Meir, donning a trendy haircut; and late Israeli statesman Shimon Peres in a yellow hoodie.
In just four years, Shimoni’s colourful tongue-in-cheek drawings have appeared in more than 200 media publications. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg even hired Shimoni for her 2017 re-election campaign, asking him to draw her as one of his young, full-of-life hipsters.
Theoretical physicist Albert Einstein and US President Donald Trump are his most popular characters of 2018, so far. And after the success of his Queen Elizabeth, he is considering depicting the entire royal family. While official royal portraits usually portray a stiff version of the subject, he wants the public to feel close to his art.
Shimoni produces a new character every other month, asking his growing social media fan base to vote on which cultural icon or historical figure should be next. American civil rights activist Rosa Parks is the newest character.
Teachers around the world often tell him that they use his illustrations in their history classes, and he says he is happy to know that his drawings are helping to open a dialogue about these historical people. In 2015, he launched SHEPSTORY, comprising an all-female series in honour of International Women’s Day.
Shimoni sells his hipster illustrations as coasters, wall prints, T-shirts, phone cases, greeting cards and colouring books. “The coasters are the most popular,” he says, adding that they are also an affordable way to own one his drawings.
While his works have been shown in museums and galleries around the world, he feels that the most important place for his art is in people’s homes. “I want people to be able to access my work,” he says.