James McQueen’s provocative Special Edition collection will make you think twice

Cutting-edge artist James McQueen brings us his new Special Edition collection which takes on key elements of life with his usual biting wit and homage to vintage paperbacks.

Shit Happens

James McQueen

Oh Bollocks

James McQueen

Four new pieces from enigmatic artist James McQueen see him take on life and love in his usual striking and provocative manner, with his trademark style based on his love of well-worn vintage paperback books. His sensitive respect for these books has a stark and comical contrast to the bold and provocative titles that feature on these new limited edition artworks.

‘Shit Happens’ and ‘Oh Bollocks’ suggest that sometimes life can be ill-fated and fickle, but c'est la vie! McQueen’s piece ‘Protect Me From What I Want’ was appropriated from a popular piece by American conceptual artist Jenny Holzer that was installed in New York’s Times Square in 1985. It can be perceived as a message about consumerism; people wanting protection from the endless stimulus to purchase, or others may have a deeper view of a self-sabotage and the allure of vices and the consequences that come with them. ‘It Started With a Kiss’ presents a touchingly romantic element to the oeuvre and the concept of love at first sight and highlights the power of a simple kiss. McQueen’s work is hugely popular with collectors so be sure to secure your piece fast.

In The Studio

James McQueen is a British artist who works between London and New York, and his technique involves layering the canvas with an abundant application of paint in many colours and shades. Once dry, he sands the work down so that a multitude of layers are visible in the finished piece. Finally, the surface is covered with lacquer to add extra richness and vibrancy.

Consequently, these paintings are as much about paint and colour as they are about the covers of the books. The visible layering of paint creates a sense of depth and dynamism which, combined with the complex interaction between colours, shares affinities with the Abstract Expressionists, particularly Mark Rothko. McQueen’s artistic methods include the use of spray paint which gives the pieces a contemporary, graffiti-influenced feel and urban edge.

McQueen’s love of vintage books which have been much-read and showing signs of wear has translated into his mixed media pieces influenced by classic paperbacks. “Everyone who owns it has put their little stamp on it, like a tea mark, pencil scribbles, or folded page corners,” he says. “I want to reimagine the dust jacket of a classic book, retro aesthetics with a provocative modern twist."

Featured Art (L-R): Shit Happens and Protect Me From What I Want. The Silkscreens are hand-signed by James McQueen.

History of paperback books

Because of innovations in the early 19th century, including better printing technology and the ability to distribute books via the new railway system, UK publishers like Routledge & Sons and Ward & Lock began to produce paperback editions of existing books, and sell them through places like railway station bookshops.

In 1935, British publisher Allen Lane began the paperback revolution in the English-language book market by releasing ten reprint titles to launch the Penguin Books imprint. Penguin adopted many of the innovations of Germany’s Albatross Press who had begun these before World War II, including a conspicuous logo, using only type on the cover, and colour-coded covers for different genres. The first book on Penguin's 1935 list was Ariel, a fictionalised biography of the poet Shelley, by French author Andre Maurois.

Featured Art: Protect Me From What I Want. The Silkscreen is hand-signed by James McQueen.

Featured Artist

From the blog

If You Ever Leave Me I'm Coming with You - Original Artwork by James McQueen


James McQueen presents his latest collection of stunning artworks, following a successful exhibition at London's Halcyon Gallery.

James McQueen - Anthology


James McQueen returns with a new take on his literary-themed collection, which is sure to sell fast, so make sure you secure your piece.

Non-Fiction: James McQueen's sell-out book-themed collection


The mixed media artworks of James McQueen incorporate Pop Art and graffiti elements. Following the sell-out release of his debut collection in February 2022, this limited edition release is sure to warm the hearts and homes of his collectors.

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