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tina ziegler, straat museum, moniker, buz blurr, bill daniel, hobo graffiti, straat gallery

Interview: Tina Ziegler on Moniker

To celebrate the opening of the Moniker: An Origin Story exhibition in our STRAAT Gallery, we sat down with director Tina Ziegler, with whom we had the pleasure of curating this unique show. Check out Tina in her own words on buZ blurr, Bill Daniel, and her other projects. 

buZ blurr

Since 2017 I have had this feeling, an almost nagging thought in the back of my mind that I had to curate a show about buZ blurr. That it was something I needed to do in my career. That feeling continued when I had the honor of meeting buZ in person at the Moniker Identity Lost and Found exhibition in 2018 at the Massillon Museum in Ohio. Last year I was having dinner with Roger Gastman in London and in conversation about buZ and his legacy, I voiced that I had a feeling that this show needed to happen, so he nominated me to curate it. It was really then that I seriously started thinking this exhibition needs to happen before he passes. He was already 79 and I just knew I had to do this exhibition one way or another, and that it was now or never. 

In March 2023, I posted on Instagram that If I was going to do another show it would be the show of buZ blurr at a museum. Shortly after, I came to tour the STRAAT Museum and sure enough the conversations started to develop around our partnership. Fast forward to now, we have opened the first museum show of buZ’ work in Europe! It feels like my curatorial destiny. His story needs to be told and his life work needs to be celebrated. Especially now since we’ve lost him, it’s a perfect moment to honor his legacy.


buZ is a prolific artist, he has been a huge inspiration to me throughout my career. I have always been inspired by his raw talent, pure authenticity and endless creativity. No surface or material was safe in his presence, he would find a way to make art and be creative with any medium. He was a true artist, an obsessive artist - with an absolute need to create. Not with any commercial motivations, he left his mark on countless freight trains, on stamps, on photocopies. He found a way to make everyone he encountered into a work of art. If you had the privilege of meeting him, he would most likely snap a photo of you, turn that photo into a photocopy, into a drawing, into a stamp sheet and you might end up in one of his hand-made books. He was a poet: the way he spoke, he wrote, the little messages he left with his monikers, he thought differently. He challenged the English language, making up his own way to express and communicate. I have spent a lot of time digging into his letters and his writings and I can’t get enough of it. Reading his words is like being transported to a moment of time, a private memory, you learn so much about buZ through his writings.

straat, gallery, museum, moniker, buz blurr, hobo graffiti

With this exhibition we tried to honor the many layers of his creativity, but we’re really just scratching the surface. He has studios full of work, piles and piles of artwork, his family says it will take months to catalog everything, because there is just so much of it - he dedicated his whole life to creating art.


You will discover his mail art, stamp art, his work with his age progressions, where every year he would take a photo from the age of 36 to 80. His bookmaking and of course his monikers. He has had an undeniable impact on the moniker subculture, and artists across the world are inspired by his dedication to the craft. He was THE moniker artist to love and follow. But also on the Mail Art Network - he wrote thousands of letters to artists throughout his life. I was lucky to receive a few myself and I keep them safe, every envelope is a piece of art, every letter filled with honesty. 

His passing in January came at a challenging time, we had been working on this exhibition for a year and he had been involved in every step along the way. His wife Emmy, daughter Brooks and Son Blake have also been a huge part of making this exhibition come together - this has really been a family affair and I feel privileged they have trusted in me to tell this story. His passing made it all so much more important and necessary. It was a way for us all to take a moment to reflect on his art legacy. 

Bill Daniel

We can’t really celebrate moniker culture without talking about Bill Daniel. Bill is the storyteller of this subculture, and we would not know as much as we do if it was not for Bill and his incredible work as a documentary photographer and filmmaker. His work to discover Bozo Texino and the journey he went on to find the moniker artists was immense and deserves recognition. I have endless respect for him and his dedication. I have worked with Bill since 2017 when we did a show together at Moniker Art Fair in London. We built a trusted bond and he has helped immensely in guiding me on how to ensure I tell this story correctly.

straat, gallery, museum, moniker, bill daniel, hobo graffiti

Bill discovered buZ, he put a face to the Colossus of Roads moniker, well, let’s be honest - he put a face to many famous moniker artists, like Herby and Coletrain. His friendship with buZ is inspirational, they spent over 30 years writing letters to each other, visiting each other, going on tours together and living the trackside life. In the show you will discover film stills from his Who is Bozo Texino? film, along with video footage from the movie. You will also see how his friendship shows up in buZ’ work, from his mail art to his books - Bill is a constant figure throughout the show. 

A family affair

This show is part educational exhibition, part memorial to buZ blurr. Having his life-long sweetheart Emmy here to celebrate is an honor that words can’t express.

buZ is one of my favorite artists, he is everything I love about what it means to be a graffiti artist, this endless creative freedom, a fearlessness to be authentic and the risks taken to leave your mark in the public space. I think we can all learn from buZ and what he stood for: authentic, loving and a damn good friend. 

I don’t think we can really talk about street art and graffiti without honoring Moniker artists, they really paved the way early on for mark makers and their reasons for doing so are not so different to modern-day graffiti artists. They wanted to leave their mark, to say I was here, I existed in this moment. buZ did this to a whole nother level, he left his mark on thousands of freight cars, he left messages wherever he went, and he left a legacy of art that we are all still discovering after he has passed. 

I fell in love with moniker artists and graffiti artists around the same time. I was 13 or 14 when I first discovered this obsession to leave your mark on moving objects and I felt fascinated by it. I loved what it stood for. And since then I have worked to ensure these artists get the recognition they deserve, They remind us what it means to be human. A need to create paired with a desire to leave a legacy, to prove that you existed.

straat, gallery, museum, moniker, russell butler, hobo graffiti

Moniker Art

Moniker Art Fair was founded in 2010 in Shoreditch, East London, with a need to disrupt the art market. Street art at the time was not in museums, or in art fairs. It was not accepted by the art market so it was hard to be welcomed into the white wall art fair. This was the motivation to start Moniker, the founders wanted to make a space for the artists they loved. Something that has continued throughout our fair’s history is this need to create space for artists to be authentic and tell their story. A big part of Moniker was our installations and artist solo shows, transforming the white wall art fair into an immersive, theatrical set - where the viewer becomes immersed in the artist’s story. The name of the fair was directly inspired by the artists like buZ, and the origins of the graffiti and street art subculture. I started working with Moniker in 2011 and quickly became a consistent part of the fair and its growth.


In 2016 I took over as the fair director and owner, and I was on a mission to share our artists and subculture with the masses. Moniker tripled in size in one year and we went international with fairs in New York in May and London in October. It was such an amazing time for Moniker, we were on a roll - each year the fair was getting a bit bigger and better with more collectors welcoming the artists onto their walls. We stayed consistent with ensuring the fair was always installation-focused, and we partnered with other curators to ensure we could tell a wider story and connect our community. We did some fantastic installations with Urban Nation and Yasha Young, Thinkspace Gallery and Andrew and Shawn Hosner, and many others. We really brought our art community together and it was beautiful to see collectors, artists and fans come together twice a year to celebrate with us. 

Moniker did something special for the art scene - we created a space that was desperately needed. Now I am happy to see other art fairs like Urvanity in Madrid and Urban Art Fair in Paris pick up where we left off and keep it going.


I was excited by our progress and growth but to be honest it was killing me as well. We had a really small team, which meant a lot of late nights and long hard months sitting in front of my computer. An art fair is in itself a beast of a project, where here we are curating one exhibition. At Moniker I would normally be curating anywhere from 10 - 20 various projects and installations, plus planning a whole commercial fair. It was a thankless task and it was just not sustainable.


I look back at those years with pride but am thankful it’s over and we can focus on something new. The art fair hamster wheel was hard to get off of and it took me a while to figure out what we would do next. The pandemic of course was the real reason we had to stop the fairs and all our planned exhibitions. In 2019 we started to think outside the art fair and wanted to start to diversify and do more art installations and exhibitions, but this all had to stop when the world went into lock down. 

Moniker Foundation

During the Covid Pandemic, we formed the Moniker Foundation and transitioned from Moniker art fair to The foundation has been such a rewarding project to spearhead, it’s a dream project for any curator. To buy art from the artists you love and commission artists to think outside of their comfort zone - over the past three years we have built an incredible collection of artworks and we have partnered with institutions to showcase that work and spotlight our artists. We have also reflected more on what story we want to tell. Which is why curating this exhibition at STRAAT is so important to the foundation. It is exactly the manifestation of what we think is important for the art foundation to do. The foundation aims to document and tell the history of our artists and subculture, and this exhibition does just that.

straat, gallery, museum, moniker, foundation, tina ziegler

Most recently, we received the first copies of our Moniker book! This was a huge accomplishment. The book, Moniker Art - Contemporary Art Rooted in Urban Culture is 350+ pages of visual storytelling of the past 14 years of the Moniker brand. It takes you back to 2010, to the origin story of Moniker, from the humble beginnings of the fair all the way to what we are doing now with the foundation. It’s been another emotional project to produce, going back through the archives, remembering each fair and installation and reflecting on just how much we have done in the past decade. It’s something everyone that was a part of Moniker should be proud of, it’s a way for us to archive our work and celebrate how far we have come as a brand and as a subculture.


It was a big project to take on while also curating this exhibition, making our opening night extra special - as we celebrate not only a fantastic exhibition with my favorite artists, but also the release of our publication. A heavy 3 kilos of art history bound and presented in the most beautiful art book. 

Arts Unknown

I’m glad after all this time, there is still something new to discover. I wear many hats as I get bored easily and want to continue to be challenged. I also often think about my own legacy, my reason to be here and what I can contribute to our collective humanity. I know being a curator is not saving the world from its problems, but I do often think that my time is precious and I need to make the most of it.


One of my favorite things to do is to travel, so me and my best friend, Calum Hall - the founder of Creative Debuts, a fellow curator, a torchbearer for emerging artists and marginalized communities and my biggest partner in this art game - decided a while ago to start combining our travels with our love for art. Inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, we started Arts Unknown - a travel and art documentary series that goes to various parts of the world to discover the unknown artists of a community. Our adventures have taken us from London to Miami to Cape Town. Last year we released our pilot episode which is 28 min. It was a really proud moment and great to see something go from idea to big screen. The documentary is not scripted, nothing is really planned and we just jump on a flight with a filmer and go out to discover artists from different backgrounds. 

Our most recent adventure took us to Colombia, where we interviewed artists, gallery owners and curators from both Bogota and Medellín. It was such an inspirational trip and we really got to discover Colombia through the artists that make it special. We got to see the city through a non-tourist lens and it was honestly something magical. I highly recommend everyone to visit Colombia. 

We love shooting and interviewing artists so it’s a real passion project. It has to be, as it’s all self-funded and fuelled by our love and friendship. Please do check out the pilot below, it’s a great little watch. Feedback welcome of course. 

Curators Academy

Back when I had my gallery in West London in 2009, I would have students come to do internships. They were graduates from prestigious art schools but they didn’t know how to hang artwork, package a painting or write a press release. I thought that anyone working in a gallery or wanting to produce their own exhibition should know these basic practical skills so I put all my knowledge into a workshop and started teaching. This quickly developed into a full-blown course and I formed my own academy. I have now taught over 3000 students from all over the world, young curators from all across Africa to South America to Asia. It’s been the most rewarding part of my career to share my knowledge with others and just show people that you can really do anything if you have the will and dedication. In my course I teach how to put on your own exhibition from scratch, and in 12 hours you basically learn everything I have learned in the past 20 years. The best part has been seeing my previous students open up their own galleries or produce their own shows. I have even gone on to welcome some of them to Moniker Art Fair or hired them for curatorial support on projects. 

During the Covid Pandemic, I think we all sat around wondering what we could do more to help people or make use of our time. It was an opportunity for us to reflect. During that time, I started the Curators of Colour initiative, which was essentially my course taught through live digital lectures - for free. I opened it up to anyone that identified as a person of color. I was absolutely amazed to see people apply from Iran, India, Cambodia, Argentina, Senegal, Gambia to Canada. It was, I think, more inspiring for me than for them. I got to hear first hand from aspiring young curators about their own local issues, aspirations and cultural perspectives. It was such an amazing project that I kept it going after the pandemic. 

On reflection, I am due to do another one soon. It’s just been finding the time and energy to do so. As teaching is also energy giving but equally energy draining, you need to be in the right headspace to share and listen to your students.


My message though, from 2010 to now has stayed the same - that you can start with whatever you have, you don’t need to open an art gallery to be a curator, you can start in your own home. I curated some of my first exhibitions in my living room. You don’t need to have the best art materials or a studio to be an artist, from what buZ has taught us all, you can start with a crayon and a piece of paper. The lesson really is to just get started somewhere, with whatever means you have. To take a risk, to back yourself and just see what happens. 

Up next on the agenda? My main focus with Moniker is to continue the work of the foundation, so a lot of that is not really in the public eye. We work one to one with artists and other galleries to build a collection that we can be proud of. I love that work, I get to slow down, think carefully and work with the artists I love. I also have many other interests and I am constantly trying to stay relevant by educating myself on the future of art. I’ve been working a lot with digital art and new technologies, I am constantly finding new ways to make the physical space more immersive and impactful.

Moniker: An Origin Story @ STRAAT Gallery

Moniker: An Origin Story takes you on a captivating journey through the vibrant history of hobo and rail worker graffiti, an American folkloric practice that holds a special and distinct place in today’s global street art and graffiti movement. 

The exhibition spotlights iconic moniker artists, with a special focus on the enduring creative friendship between Russell Butler, also known as buZ blurr, and Bill Daniel, spanning over 30 years. In a heartfelt tribute, we also acknowledge the passing of the beloved Butler in January 2024, as this group show of like-minded makers now takes on an even more poignant role in honoring his lasting legacy.

In addition to the focus on buZ blurr and Bill Daniel, Moniker: An Origin Story also presents a group of 37 boxcar steel panels on loan from Massillon Museum. These panels feature unique moniker artworks from both living and departed artists within the tradition.

The exhibition is open to the public until Sunday, April 28th, 2024, and is included as part of a regular museum entry ticket

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