When street art duo Bane & Pest (real names Fabian Florin and Yiannis Hadjipanayis, respectively) were commissioned to produce the artwork for the relaunch of the King’s Club in St. Moritz in the winter of 2018, they sought inspiration in the sweeping Alpine mountains and stunning vistas surrounding the chic Swiss town. The jagged snow-capped peaks that have been the backdrop for visitors to the resort for more than 120 years appear in all their dramatic splendour on the murals at the renowned night spot along with women, rabbits and wolves, which are seen dashing, dancing and diving across the walls.
“We didn’t want the paintings to dominate,” explains Bane, the Swiss half of the artistic pair. “The pieces were designed to work seamlessly with the whole project, which is why we didn’t work with too much colour. It was important that the murals blended in with their surroundings and did not stand out.”
The legendary King’s Club at Badrutt’s Palace
Lauded as the oldest (and many would say the most distinguished) nightclub in Switzerland, King’s Club at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel has been the cool place to be for generations of jet-setters, from Alfred Hitchcock and Audrey Hepburn to Gunther Sachs and Brigitte Bardot.
With such a weighty heritage, it was important that the creative team involved in the redesign of the legendary venue, which was led by Dale Atkinson of Rosendale Design, created something new and contemporary while retaining its unique sparkle. “Much like the surrounding hotel, the aim was to create a spirited and interactive atmosphere and provide a sense of occasion and yet lack of pretention,” says Richard Leuenberger, Managing Director of Badrutt’s Palace Hotel.
In late 2018, the new-look bar-cum-restaurant-cum-nightclub reopened with a new name – King’s Social House – and a new British restaurateur and chef – Michelin-starred Jason Atherton – at its helm. Bane believes the street art element, which was spray-painted directly onto the walls, has helped to take the celebrated St. Moritz establishment in a new direction.
“Street art is the art of the time,” he explains. “Mural art is getting more famous – take Banksy and Obey. It represents the younger generation. The main goal was to bring it up to date by giving the space a new look and new feeling.” His German phrase, which translates as “it hits the nerve of the time”, perfectly encapsulates the transformed venue, where guests can sample sharing plates in the restaurant, chill out with a glass of champagne or cocktail in the bar, and dance the night away to the sounds of an international DJ.
Bane & Pest’s wall art
Bane & Pest first rose to prominence with their striking 40-metre-high (131 feet) wall art on the old mill tower in the Swiss town of Chur, where Bane lives and has a studio. The largest of its kind in the country, the work involved two years of preparation and then two months of drawing and painting using large rollers. The wall art features a pair of hands peeling back material to reveal a collection of dazzling white crystals, which represent the oldest local gemstone found in the Graubünden region of Switzerland.
“Our art is quite accessible,” reflects Bane. “Applying art on the streets comes with a kind of responsibility. If someone would like to see crazy art in a gallery it is their decision to go into the gallery and look at it, but on the streets the viewer usually doesn’t have a say in whether they see it or not. For us it is important that mothers with their children walk by and say ‘wow’ – it should be for everyone.”
Street art worldwide
Bane & Pest have travelled to street art festivals and created graffiti on walls across the world, including in Asia and north Africa. “The most important thing about painting in different places is connecting with local people,” explains Bane. “I am not a tourist. I arrive there and I immediately jump into the local scene with the locals. Each place has its own character and it doesn’t matter where you go you will always find something inspiring.”
The community approach to art making is how the duo first met, at the Street Art Festival in Ayia Napa, Cyprus, in 2014. Although from very different backgrounds – Pest grew up in Cyprus and trained at the School of Fine Art in Athens and Bane learned his trade “on the streets” – they clicked immediately. After the festival, Pest invited Bane to paint a mural on the wall of an abandoned factory in Limassol. The result showed an artwork that showed person breathing life into a bird and featured all the hallmarks of the duo’s subsequent pieces – colour, nature and the clever integration of light, which transforms the artwork when they photograph it at night using flash lights and a long exposure.
“One of the most important moments of my life was my decision to work with Bane,” admits Pest in Recover – Streetart in Chernobyl, a documentary by Pixel Love following the duo’s 2017 travels to Chernobyl, the Ukrainian city destroyed by a nuclear accident, where they were part of an exciting street art project. “We are two different people and we have different thoughts and ideas and sometimes we disagree, but usually we end up at an agreement and that is good because it makes our concept even stronger.”
Although recently separated by the travel restrictions imposed by Covid-19, the artists are still hoping to participate in Switzerland’s first Street Art Festival in Chur, originally scheduled for summer 2020.
And while they haven’t had the freedom to travel and express their creativity outdoors in recent times, it seems confinement indoors is not limiting their imaginations. “I am quite happy,” admits Bane from his studio. “The restrictions have forced me to stay by myself and use this time to work on developing a photographic idea I have. I was so busy before and now everything has slowed down. It is quite good for my creative process.”