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Franky Aguilar wants to be the Banksy of Las Vegas

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Franky Aguilar at his Downtown studio
Photo: Steve Marcus

Franky Aguilar subverts the stereotype of the starving artist lacking business acumen. A Bay Area native and product of the Silicon Valley tech industry, he's taking the marketing chops he's learned from his experience developing mobile apps to reevaluate the way he does his art.

The technical artist and web developer remembers being influenced by street artists like Bansky in his early creative years. Now he says he wants to be the Banksy of Las Vegas.

"I knew I wanted to get into the art world, but I knew it wasn't as simple as just painting something cool. You have to approach it from a certain way," he says. "When you think of Shepard Fairey or big artists like Rob Kaz or Tristan Eaton, you think of New York City and Los Angeles. But when you think of Las Vegas, who pops up? No one. I want to be that person."

When he sees Vegas, he doesn't see the cherry red Cadillacs and mobsters so ubiquitous in Old Vegas zeitgeist, images most familiar from an outsider's perspective. Instead, he sees a new Vegas he wants to share with the world through his art, which is loud, boisterous and even a bit abrasive at times. In his acrylic piece "Easy Money," a half-clothed woman in thick-framed glasses and a Guns N' Roses T-shirt sucks a lollipop to depict the city's hustle attitude. He uses bold, contrasting colors and other imagery from popular culture and '90s cartoons. Like Vegas, he's competing for your attention.

"Neon, colorful, dinosaurs, giant robots and fun stuff. It's a big playground for your eyes," he says.

Aguilar has built much of his user following from video-sharing platforms like TikTok, an app that perplexes those older than Gen Zers. But the 33-year-old sees it as a marketing gold mine for his work.

"I make semi-triggering but engaging content," he says. "I'm using it to grow my social following by posting informative [art] techniques, smart things people can take from home in 10-second formats. For me, the platform is working well for what I'm trying to do."

Aguilar opened his Downtown studio on the bottom floor of the recently opened Fremont9 apartments at 9th and Fremont a few months ago to showcase physical copies of his work. He was inspired to come to the city by Tony Hsieh's efforts to revitalize Downtown into a hub for local businesses and entrepreneurs. Aguilar foresees a lot of change happening Downtown in the next few years, which he says will keep him around. He plans to host his debut Las Vegas solo show next spring in his studio.

"I want to give people a look at remodeling and changes happening Downtown and on the Strip," he says. "I want people to see my art and experience Vegas."

9th Gallery Arts 901 Fremont St., 9thgalleryarts.com.

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