We love Lucas Beaufort. The buzzy French artist has created murals for dozens of our properties worldwide, and his latest is a supersize new work at W Abu Dhabi — Yas Island. The piece represents freedom (which feels especially resonant after a long period of immobility) and it honors the United Arab Emirates’ 50th anniversary.
Lucas Beaufort is a Cannes, France-born artist who paints as a defense against nightmares. True story. As a result, his recurrent motifs, which he describes as “kind but mischievous monsters,” reflect a sort of upbeat happiness through imagination. Beaufort has been practicing art since 2009—when he started painting at the age of 27—and has since collaborated with a number of major brands, including Vans, Billabong, and yours truly, W Hotels globally.
Below, Beaufort sounds off on his newest installation, which was just completed at W Abu Dhabi — Yas Island, the thrill of breaking a 600-day hiatus from air travel (for a man who would normally travel about 7 months a year), and flipping those above-mentioned nightmares into… Well, daydreams.
W Hotels: Overall, how would you describe your aesthetic and work, especially as it has evolved over the past two years?
Lucas Beaufort: My work is constantly evolving. It took me 10 years to really define my main character, called ‘Gus Gus.’ Gus Gus is a mix of a bird and a human [whose inspiration came after a visit to Egypt and seeing the hieroglyphics]. He has no eyes, so he can’t judge people. Gus Gus reflects people no matter who you are or what you look like. If I have to define the aesthetic of my work, I would say that bringing people together is my motto and all the lines and connections you see through my art represent this idea.
We love the phrase “kind but mischievous monsters.” Where do these figures come from?
Before I started painting at the age of 27, I had a lot of nightmares. It was always the same thing, small creatures and monsters that were trying to eat me. Once I put my first layer of paint on a canvas, all of my monsters were gone. They terrified me, but in reality, they just wanted to see me paint.
What has been your favorite piece to create for us? What was the most challenging? Please elaborate!
My partnership with W Hotels started in 2018, and I feel like I’m part of the family now. Everything started at W Bangkok. I was invited to paint pillars on the terrace and I ended up painting on a number of W Hotels in China—Xi’an, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and more. I also worked on a few in the United States, including Los Angeles and Atlanta. I always say that my most recent commission is always the best, so W Abu Dhabi — Yas Island is my favorite piece. The most challenging piece I’ve done for W has to be at W Goa, because of the property’s stairs. It was super tricky to create a scaffolding on the staircase, but we did it.
Tell us more about this new piece at W Abu Dhabi — Yas Island. What inspired it, and what’s different about it?
The mural I did in Abu Dhabi is very special because I didn’t fly for 600 days because of the pandemic. Beforehand, I was traveling about 7 out of 12 months, with over 100 flights per year. The idea alone of flying again to a new destination was already worth the trip. I think you see this idea of freedom in the mural, but there’s also a nod to the United Arab Emirates’ 50th anniversary and Yas Island, the hotel’s home, itself. I painted 50 Gus Gus characters on a 50 square meter wall in 50 hours to celebrate the federation’s 50th birthday.
“I would say that bringing people together is my motto and all the lines and connections you see through my art represent this idea.”
How does your creative approach sync with W’s? What are your shared values?
There’s this common idea of bringing people together, spreading love and celebrating happiness. These are our shared attributes, for sure.
What places or people inspire you? What do you draw from IRL to create your fantasy worlds?
The more I grow up, the more I appreciate nature. From the deserts to the mountains, the inspiration is always intense. Last time this struck, I was in Utah at Bryce Canyon. I felt like I was on another planet. Traveling helps me to create new fantasy worlds.
What have you been doing in Abu Dhabi outside of work? Any recommendations?
The mural I had to paint was so big that I only had one small window to enjoy Abu Dhabi. I had the chance to visit the Louvre Museum, which has the most amazing rooftop. Then we visited the desert during sunset, which was phenomenal!