Urban Vinyl is an art form which began in the late 1990's that falls somewhere between high art and action figure design. These vinyl figures carry a graffitii artist sensibility and are usually produced in small runs (between 500 and 2000). The urban vinyl toy craze started in Hong Kong, with artist Michael Lau credited with starting the trend. The design of the toys is mainly done by graffiti artists, musicians, djs, illustrators, and comic book artists from places like Hong Kong, Japan, New York and San Francisco. For example, Takashami Murakami, the Japanese artist and designer, has had his art in the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and now he has urban vinyl toys. Frank Kozik of San Francisco, a well known rock poster artist, has begun creating a series of toys in Japan and here in the states. Sometimes the toy is designed completely by an artist – body, clothes, accessories and paint. At other times the artist designs the shape and then another artist paints it. Some of the toys were created by as many as 12 different artists. Urban Vinyl figures have become collector's items sometimes selling for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Spawned by the incorporation of hip hop into Asian and American popular culture, Urban Vinyl also very often depicts figures from the genre (such as Michael Lau's depiction of the LMF rappers from Hong Kong) or other facets of youth oriented, urban pop culture.

First graffitii, now urban vinyl, what hip hop inspired kid's stuff will be considered art next?
by Vasili February 3, 2006
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