Iconic Artist is on Board for Malibu’s 25th Anniversary

This story has been updated. Please see editor’s note below.

Driving around town, you may have noticed the colorful light pole banners advertising the upcoming “Art of the Board” artistic surfboard exhibit, or maybe you saw the official colorful poster here in The Malibu Times.

Those original works of art were created by legendary graphic arts and fine artist John Van Hamersveld — a former Malibu resident and surfer — to help celebrate the City of Malibu’s 25th anniversary on March 28. 

“What is the ultimate symbol of Malibu if not a surfboard?” Eric Myer, head of the city’s Cultural Arts Commission (CAC), said in a phone interview. He knew of Van Hamersveld by reputation as an artist, and also knew him to be a surfer who had lived in Malibu. “He occupies a unique little niche in the graphics arts with the surf angle,” and seemed to be the perfect artist for the job.

Van Hamersveld signed on for the project several months ago after being contacted by Myer. He made a big splash early in his career with the iconic “Endless Summer” poster, as well as designing the album covers for The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” and The Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street.” He’s also known for his designs for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, including a mural that wrapped around the Los Angeles Coliseum.

The Smithsonian has a collection of Van Hamersveld’s prints, and LACMA has also exhibited his works. More recently, he designed the LED light canopy known as the Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas with over two million lights, and completed the 75-foot Great Wave mural on 14th Street in Hermosa Beach last summer. 

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After growing up in Palos Verdes where he learned to surf, Van Hamersveld eventually ended up in Malibu, where he lived from 1980 to 1992.

“I bought the lot next to Barbra Streisand, and the one across the street from it on Ramirez Canyon,” he said in a phone interview with The Malibu Times. After trying for years to design and build homes for those lots, he finally had to “walk away.” 

It was Malibu’s cityhood that did him in.

“When Malibu became a city, it turned over all its files on building permits, etc. to the county, where [because of confusion and disorganization] no one had access to them, and the city had to declare a moratorium on building,” Van Hamersveld explained.

When asked why his poster design for Malibu showed one foot on a surfboard, Van Hamersveld said, “I’m a surfer and I surfed Malibu for 10 years, so one of the beauties of surfing is to put one foot toward the nose. Every surfer has the memory of seeing their foot on the nose, and so we turn that image into an icon on the poster.”

On March 28, following a City Council meeting, a public reception and grand opening of “Art of the Board” surfboard art exhibit will take place at 7 p.m. in the upstairs lobby of City Hall. Over 20 artistic boards that have been submitted by the community will be on display, suspended from the ceiling. This is all part of the city’s 25th anniversary celebration, which will include live music, appetizers and commemorative gifts. 

Van Hamersveld will attend the reception as the guest of honor. The CAC is also hosting a silent auction at the event, with proceeds going to the Malibu Arts Fund — a fund created to help fund public art and arts in education. Items to be auctioned include a surfboard created by Van Hamersveld, a surfboard by local world-class artist Lita Albuquerque and a gouache (opaque watercolor) painting by local artist Chuck Arnoldi.

The event will mark the first time that Malibu City Hall has put on an official public display of art. The boards, which were reviewed and selected by a special CAC committee, will remain on display through September 2016.

“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to make the debut of art at City Hall coincide with the 25th anniversary,” Myer said. “There’s no better way for the city to show its support, and I hope it’s just the beginning of many more art events at City Hall.” 

For more information about the upcoming anniversary, visit malibuartsandculture.org/surfboard-art.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Van Hamersveld will attend the City of Malibu anniversary celebration as the guest of honor. 

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