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Foreword: Alessio Ascari PHOTOGRAPHS: Courtesy of the H.R. Giger Estate and Marco Witzig

What is influence? Forget influencer culture. I’m talking about the way art shapes society and how aesthetics enter the collective unconscious. While the gatekeepers of the art world like to pretend that culture happens in a vacuum, they often fail to acknowledge the impact of underlying subcultures and the potency of an artist’s community. 

The epitome of an artist’s artist, the late H.R. Giger achieved cult status over the years for his hauntingly dystopian and sci-fi imagery, culminating in his concept design for Ridley Scott’s groundbreaking 1979 horror film, Alien. Today, his influence stretches far and wide, palpable as much in Chris Cunningham’s grotesquely surrealist music videos as in the hallucinatory collages of renowned artist Sterling Ruby. As someone who’s been obsessed with Giger since I was a kid, it was surreal to find myself working closely with his estate on a series of projects celebrating his legacy, while attempting to bridge the gap between his often misunderstood body of work and the fine art world’s perception of him.  

In 2019, an exhibition-meets-wunderkammern at Milan’s Spazio Maiocchi displayed an expansive array of mediums utilized by Giger across his practice, including furniture, prints, paintings and sculptures. In 2020, a two-artist exhibition in Tokyo and Osaka, co-curated by Shinji Nanzuka, brought together the work of Giger and Japanese artist Hajime Sorayama over their shared fascination with the post-human. In 2021, KooKoo 1981 captured the alchemy between Giger and Debbie Harry, the frontwoman and lead vocalist of legendary New Wave band Blondie. And earlier this year, HRGNYC at LOMEX Gallery explored the artist’s relationship with the gothic urban landscape of New York City and the countercultural fabric of Downtown.

This string of projects I’ve curated further revealed how Giger’s daunting vision of death and futurism, exemplified by a world of brutal industrialism and occult majesty, has connected emotionally with a new generation, opening itself up to another era of interpretation and meaning. Selected from the artist’s personal archives, the Polaroids printed in these pages—which the artist often customized by scratching, painting and drawing over—provide a rare and intimate access to Giger’s charismatic presence and creative process, combining design, horror, fetish, pop and an inscrutable, iconoclastic sense of humor.