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Daniel Samakow - Bio

Explore the artist

Daniel Samakow’s art includes painting and many non-traditional endeavors including products, restaurants, events, environments and social activism. He began creating events while at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, as a leader of YIPPIE, a group dedicated staging creative and artistic events to protest injustice. While there he organized and staged several large scale events involving 1000’s of students to protest the wars in Cambodia and Viet Nam.

Wishing to evolve the art of his endeavors, Daniel applied to California Institute of the Arts; where he studied Happenings, Environments and painting; earning his BFA in 1973. At Cal Arts Daniel created art that connected directly with viewers. He co-created incognito art installations in vacant stores along Van Nuys Blvd including “A Mother’s Love” and “Used Cars” The installations beckoned viewers to enter and experience the “store” without the filter of being presented as “art” in a gallery.

At Cal Arts, Daniel balanced his large scale events and installations with intimate paintings which focused on what was most important to him, with subjects including scenes of everyday life at home, travel, lovers and even his dog. He had his first solo show at Cal Arts.

After “Cal Arts” Daniel explored other non-traditional artistic expressions. His belief that commercial products could be accessible art objects led him in 1981 to found Gruene, a pioneering men’s skincare and fragrance company. His colorful Mondrian inspired packaging won several design awards. Gruene was ultimately distributed in 350 department stores and he took the company public in 1987. Daniel continued to create objects of art via commercial endeavors with fragrance, make-up and skincare products for company’s including Caesar’s Palace, Golds Gym, Nordstoms and Bodyography (another company he started).

After working on ventures that were experienced throughout the country, Daniel wanted to focus closer to his home in Venice, Ca. In 1996 Daniel partnered with James Evans and artist Billy Al Bengston and opened the iconic James’ Beach restaurant with a goal to celebrate the spirit of this famous historic arts community and connect that spirit to the locals and visitors. Samakow and Evans later opened Canal Club in 1998, followed by Danny’s and James’ Beach LAX.

Daniel Samakow - Artist

Daniel Samakow

Continuing his social activism, Daniel created a number of community-oriented events and organizations, including being instrumental in erecting the now famous Venice sign. He co-founded the Venice Art Crawl and co-founded Venice Pride. For these, he received a score of certificates of commendation from the City of Los Angeles, including the 2019 LGBTQ Pride Certificate of Recognition for his work founding Venice Pride. He was awarded the Spirit of Venice award twice.

All the while, Daniel continued his intimate painting. Daniel’s paintings garnered attention at the 1981 Newcomers show at the LA County Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdale Park, where The LA Times praised his work as reminiscent of a “Modern California Hopper,” drawing a parallel to the renowned painter Edward Hopper.

In 2013, the Disney Company took notice of Daniel’s work and commissioned original paintings to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Enchanted Tiki Room and the films Dumbo ad Lady and the Tramp. Daniel’s paintings were exhibited at their Wonderground Gallery, and prints were created to be sold throughout their parks.

Daniel has exhibited extensively in Venice over the years. He has had one man shows at 72 Market Street, Hama, as part of the Venice Art Crawl and at the Deanna Miller gallery. He has been featured by the Venice Art Walk in their auctions and studio tours.

His work is part of the Smithsonian California Artist collection and is in numerous private collections including those of Orson Bean and Alley Mills, Tony Bill and Helen Bartlett, Roy and Carol Doumani and many others.

Daniel has illustrated books including “Good Enough to Eat”, by Carol Doumani. Sales of Daniel’s work have benefitted charitable causes including the AIDS/Lifecycle. He created a series of annual Holiday cards for the Venice Art Walk to benefit the Venice Family Clinic, the largest free clinic in the United States.

Daniel is represented on line by the Asher Grey Gallery. He resides with James Evans between Venice and Palm Springs.