Artist and Composer Mark Kostabi was born in Los Angeles in 1960 to Estonian immigrants. Raised in Whittier, California, he studied drawing and painting at California State University, Fullerton. Kostabi moved to New York in 1982, and by 1984, emerged as a leading figure in the East Village art scene where he cultivated a provocative media persona by publishing self-interviews reflecting on the commodification of contemporary art. By 1987, his work was widely exhibited in New York galleries as well as prominently throughout the United States, Japan, Germany and Australia. He inspired extensive international press coverage in 1988 when he founded Kostabi World, his Manhattan art studio, which employs numerous painting assistants and idea people. Beginning in the early 1990s Kostabi's work has been widely exhibited throughout Italy. Kostabi established a second home in Rome in 1996. Dividing his time between Rome and New York enabled him to dramatically enhance his presence in the Italian art scene.
From 2000 to 2010 he wrote an advice column for artists, Ask Mark Kostabi, for Artnet.com.
Kostabi has designed album covers for Guns 'N' Roses (Use Your Illusion) and The Ramones (Adios Amigos), Jimmy Scott (Holding Back The Years), Seether (Holding Onto strings Better Left to Fray) and numerous products including a Swatch watch, a Bloomingdales bag, Alessi vases, Rosenthal espresso cups, and a Giro d'Italia pink jersey.
Kostabi is also known for his many collaborations with other artists including Enzo Cucchi, Arman, Howard Finster, Tadanori Yokoo, Enrico Baj and Paul Kostabi. Kostabi performs concerts internationally both as a soloist and with other musicians including Ornette Coleman, Jerry Marotta, Tony Levin, Tony Esposito, and Paul Kostabi. His compostions have also been performed independently by Rein Rannap, Kristjan Jarvi, Maano Manni, Delilah Gutman and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra. His CDs include I Did It Steinway, Songs For Sumera and New Alliance.
Kostabi is the subject of numerous documentary films, most notably Bottom Line: The Kostabi Phenomenon directed by Peter Bach, Con Artist directed by Michael Sladek, and Jedermann directed by Paul Tschinkel. Kostabi has a prominent role in the Emmy award winning documentary The Art of Failure: Chuck Connelly Not for Sale directed by Jeff Stimmel. "Full Circle: The Kostabi Story", directed by Sabrina Digregorio for Atena Films, has premiered at Anthology Films Archives in New York and and at Domus Talenti in Rome. "My Italy" directed by Bruno Colella, currently in production in Italy, is a docu-comedy starring Kostabi, H.H. Lim, Krzysztof Bednarski and Thorsten Kirchhoff: 4 non-Italian artists who chose to live in Italy. The famous art critic Achille Bonito Oliva has a prominent role as narrator/commentator in the film.
Retrospective exhibitions of Kostabi's paintings have been held at the Mitsukoshi Museum in Tokyo (1992) and the Art Museum of Estonia in Tallinn (1998). The famous Italian art historian and curator, Vittorio Sgarbi, curated a vast exhibition of 150 Kostabi paintings at the Chiostro del Bramante in Rome in 2006. Kostabi's work is in over 50 permanent museum collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the National Gallery in Washington D.C., the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome and the Groninger Museum in Holland.
His permanent public works include a mural in Palazzo dei Priori in Arezzo, Italy, a large bronze sculpture in the central square of San Benedetto del Tronto, Italy, and a bronze portrait of Pope John Paul II in Velletri, Italy.
Kostabi has been profiled on 60 Minutes, Eye to Eye with Connie Chung, A Current Affair, Nightwatch (with Charlie Rose), The Oprah Winfrey Show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Nonsolomoda, West 57th, CNN, MTV and numerous television programs throughout Europe and Japan. In print he has been featured in The New York Times, People, Vogue, Architectural Digest, The Face, Playboy, Forbes, New York Magazine, The Sunday Telegraph, Domus, Corriera Della Sera, Panorama, Artforum, Art in America, ARTnews, Flash Art, Arte, Arte In and Tema Celeste. The many books published about Kostabi include Sadness Because the Video Rental Store Was Closed, Kostabi: The Early Years, Conversations with Kostabi, The Rhythm of Inspiration, Mark Kostabi and the East Village Scene 1983-1987 and Mark Kostabi in the 21st Century.