We all define greatness in many different ways. However, two of the most recurring attributes involve, overcoming adversity and consistency. The more important of these two qualities would have to be consistency. Despite providing us with one of the greatest upsets in sports history against then champion, Mike Tyson, Buster Douglas will not go down as one of the all time greats.
The people who achieve the status of greatness are able to reach the top and get comfortable for a while. Ironically, the reason for this is because they never get comfortable. Boxing and cultural icon, Muhammad Ali, fits this category quite nicely and artist Ivben Taqiy is following suit.
On April 26th the artist looks to follow up his previous great acts with a new show dedicated to honoring the greatness of Muhammad Ali. But the task won’t be easy. Taqiy’s previous shows have all been amazing displays of art, music, and culture, treating each guest to a unique and memorable experience. The stakes are high yet Taqiy is a student of history and understands that his legacy is on the line with each show. He’s not motivated by the money or the fame. He’s motivated by the opportunity to be great.
In the interview below, we discuss what to expect from this upcoming art show, how Taqiy plans to stay sharp and continue to develop his craft and what’s next. Enjoy.
CC: What should we expect from this art show?
IT: You can expect some greatness. I got about 15 to 20 new paintings—I gave some sneak peaks on Instagram. We have some really cool, different types of paintings from me. I stepped it up a little bit and did some 3D paintings and a few different styles. I have some pieces that are interactive. I’m using different materials. I have a real life Ali impersonator coming and he’s actually going to be a piece of artwork because his shorts are made by me. I really just want people to be surprised. I want my events to be more than just an art show. It’s a whole event where you feel like you’re engulfed in what the show is about.
CC: You’ve featured Michael Jordan and Michael Jackson in the past. What made you decide to choose Muhammad Ali over anyone else for this art show?
IT: I was going to do three Mikes. I was going to do Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson and Mike Tyson. I told people that I wanted to use Mike Tyson and have it around May to coincide with Mayweather’s fight. I usually have my shows in November or December. But a friend of mine was like, “Mike Tyson’s cool and all but Muhammad Ali is the greatest.” If you’re going to do the top entertainer, which is Michael Jackson and the top basketball player, Michael Jordan, then I think the best in boxing is Muhammad Ali.
Although Floyd Mayweather has never lost a fight and Ali has, but his presence in the culture means more. What Ali stands for and how he uplifts people—I just don’t see Mayweather doing that. No disrespect to his boxing career but Ali made me feel, as a young man, that I couldn’t wait to be on his level of greatness. So I thought it was only right to choose Ali over Mike Tyson or Mayweather. Plus he’s getting older so I’d rather send him flowers while he can still smell them.
CC: Ali’s first defining moment came when he upset Sonny Liston to become the youngest Heavyweight Champion of all time (at that time). After that fight, Ali had finally “arrived” as a superstar. What was that defining moment for you as a professional artist?
IT: I can’t say there’s one particular moment but just knowing that the hard work pays off when I do my events. I get great turnouts and they leave feeling motivated and inspired. And that gives me the satisfying feeling of knowing that I did something positive and that I made an impact on our culture. And I do it without any big companies or commercial involvement. I do it from the muscle. And to say that I’ve pulled off events that were just as good or even better than what people with big budgets have done, gives me the feeling that I’ve “arrived.”
CC: At the peak of Ali’s career he was stripped of his title for standing up for his beliefs. When coming back to regain his title, he had to face the younger, stronger, and undefeated George Foreman. Ali was able to overcome that adversity and remain atop the boxing elite. You are now among the elite artists in Philadelphia. How do you keep yourself sharp and how do you continue to elevate the craft and your brand as an artist amidst all the rising local talent?
IT: I stay hungry. I appreciate the fact that I’m admired but I try to keep a level head and think about what’s next. I’m always thinking three shows ahead and I never allow myself to get too big to think that I can’t be touched. I’m happy that I’ve reached a certain level of success but I’m always looking at a bigger mountain because that keeps me motivated to work harder. And I always think about that other cat who’s at home doing artwork who doesn’t have kids, doesn’t have a wife, and doesn’t have a bunch of bills, who can use that time to create more or promote more. Having those responsibilities of being a father, a husband and a provider means that my family comes first, but to do that, my craft is just as important.
CC: What’s next for Ivben Taqiy?
IT: Woman In The Water is another show that I’m working on that’s going to be pretty cool. I kind of want to get away from just doing celebrity stuff because a lot of people are getting used to it. Woman In The Water is just going to be about how creative I can get with using water and women as my subjects. Everybody loves my celebrity stuff but hopefully in the fall, with Woman In The Water, they’ll get to appreciate something different.