Pete McKee was born in 1966. It was the year England won the World Cup, but also the year that his beloved Sheffield Wednesday lost the FA Cup. Perhaps it is this bittersweet beginning that has given rise to some of Pete’s most poignant work, images that can make you laugh out loud, or break your heart. Growing up through the 60’s and 70’s has become the inspiration of much of Pete’s work. His relationships, his childhood, his passion for music and his wonderful self-depreciating humour come together to create evocative images which are earning him a world-wide following.
After flirting with music during his twenties Pete began to depict the drama of the playing field as resident Sports Cartoonist at the Sheffield Telegraph. However, it was when he decided to paint a picture for a friend’s birthday, grabbed an off-cut of MDF and some left over emulsion that Pete realised he had found his true mojo. Within months he had found a following and began exhibiting around the City of Sheffield. Within Sheffield Pete is something of a local mascot. Capturing the City of old, the hot spots, the music scene and the architectural nuances, Pete has earned himself a loyal fanbase that champion his work. His memories of childhood though are something that many people can identify with, trips to the seaside, playing cricket with your Mum, enjoying a bag of cockles in the pub. Pete manages to affectionately capture life’s simple pleasures with almost a child’s eye. There isn’t an artist from any era who can convey so much character with so few marks. With as little as two lines (and no mouth) Pete can effectively capture the unmistakable essence of Shaun Ryder, or Richard Hawley, or Paul Weller, or that bloke down the Fish Market.
His iconic style has led to a growing international fanbase, taking in the great and the good. Himself a fan, Noel Gallagher chose Pete to design tour posters for Oasis’s last tour. He has also had work commissioned from the likes of the Arctic Monkeys, Disney and Richard Hawley.
Early 2010 Pete was invited to design a limited edition pair of Clarks Desert Boots, using the original style template and giving it a McKee makeover. In order to celebrate the heritage of the original boot Pete created a striking pair of images featuring a groups of Mods for the men’s boot, and Modettes for the womens. The boots were sold worldwide in selected Clarks Shops, specifically in Paris, New York and Japan.
Again in 2010 Pete was approached by Internationally Renowned Designer, Paul Smith, with a view to staging an exhibition of his work at the flagship Tokyo Paul Smith Store. This saw the development of Teenage Kicks – a beautifully produced limited edition book that celebrates the influence a musical awakening had on Pete. This McKee retrospective takes in several musical genres, Goth, Punk, Rock, Hippies and Rap are amongst the styles featured in this coffee table tome. And as it comes complete with a very special 12” etched piece of white vinyl Pete has finally realised a dream of having a successful, critically acclaimed record (of sorts). To commemorate this collaboration selected images were reproduced on Paul Smith clothing and bags specifically for the Japanese market.
We hosted Pete’s Great Moments in Popular Music exhibition at the gallery in 2011.