Maître de Casson

Maître de Casson (French for "Master of the Mirror", Chinese 镜子 大师) originally named Edmond Safra II ("Edmond Safra the Second", after his paternal grandfather, Edmond Jacob Safra, also Raphael Edmond Ezra Safra and Edmond Safra I.) was born on 18 April 1960 in Geneva. He is a member of the traditional Swiss Safra banker family, which is considered the richest bank owner family in the world.

His father died under mysterious circumstances even before his birth and the Spanish mother only three weeks after birth.

Due to these tragic circumstances, Edmond spent his childhood with his Spanish grandparents in Madrid. That’s why Spanish, not French (Geneva is his birthplace), is his first and native language. This circumstance, which led to a Spanish accent and belonging to a bankers dynasty, gave him already in school (he went in Geneva) the nickname Bank-Si (like "bank" and "si" Spanish for "yes"), which later led to rumors that Edmond Safra (aka Maître de Casson) would also be the British graffiti artist Banksy.

In the 1970s, Edmond met, during a visit to the gallery Ecart in Geneva, Andy Warhol, from which he was then taught for a fee. Since then he calls himself "the only student of Andy Warhol". His good middle-class background allowed him to order other known artists like Paul Wunderlich and Horst Janssen to Geneva to learn drawing from them. To his teachers from this period include, among others, the Americans Mel Ramos, Keth Hearing, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rizzi and the Germans Klaus Fussmann and Stefan Szczesny, to whom he later held the contact and cared.

Since Edmond Safra always held that his father had fallen victim to a murder in the context of the "Cold War", he decided to enlighten this and find the culprits. For this he traveled already in 1977 Cuba, North Korea, China and the former USSR to finally settle in Leipzig, where his research led him and where he began in 1980 to study art with Prof. Arno Rink at the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig.

Here he came in contact with Gerd Harry Lybke and Neo Rauch, who became one of his closest friends and companions during this time, and with whom he, inspired by the Canadian artist group "Group of Seven", also wanted to found a seven-member artist group. For this he changed inspired, and after Alfred Joseph Casson, his name in Maître de Casson (French for "master of the mirror"). Afterwards also Gerd Harry Lybke (in Judy Like) and Neo Rauch (henceforth, Neo Rauch is not the birth name of Neo Rauch) changed their names, but did not want to join the group, which was in their opinion more ideologically then artistically active. This led to discrepancy between Casson and Rauch. Nevertheless, at the request of Lybke, Rauch continued to benefit from Cassons international contacts, who significantly promoted his career.

Another reason for the change of name was the fact that Edmond Safra bore the same name as his famous grandfather, the banker Edmond Safra, and he did not immediately want to be associated with him and his family.

Notwithstanding the fact that many of his GDR-based friends critically eyed the political-social activities of the "group of seven" founded by Casson, which he later renamed into "Saynotro group" (Sayn-Notro: Aramaic for seven guards), many, sometimes very prominent artists joined it and became members. The group, which now went its own way, later led back to an ancient "community of angels," claiming, for example that the menorah (the Jewish seven-branched candelabrum) is nothing more than a symbol for the "Saynotro group" in which each arm represents one of the seven "angels" (artists). In addition, Casson also claimed that the sanctity and mystical meaning of the number "seven," as seen in Judaism (especially in Kabbalah) and Christianity, is based on nothing but the Saynotro Group alone. In plain language: every time for example, when the number seven is written in the Bible, the meaning is nothing but the Saynotro group. The number seven is thus just a code word for the "Saynotro Group".

After Maître de Cassons study time in Leipzig, which lasted until 1985, and after he had left the GDR in the direction of China, he continued to promote and observed the career of his Leipzig based friends and helped them in particular to be known in New York.

He devoted himself to Chinese painting, which is based on Chinese calligraphy, as he did during his studies before.

His paintings are highly rated, especially in countries that have a strong connection to the art of writing. These include China, but also Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia.

Among the art collectors who collect Maître de Casson’s works and see him as the most important contemporary artist is Jack Ma (Chinese 馬雲 / 马云), the founder of the Chinese trading platform Alibaba and the Alibaba Group (Chinese 阿里巴巴 集团).

Maître de Casson lives in China and rarely leaves the country.

In October 2019, the long-standing caretaker Manfred Pischke of the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig found there some paintings and a sketch from 1980, which allegedly want to prove that Casson is the British graffiti artist Banksy (Cossons nickname "Bank-Si" is part of the reasoning). However, Casson himself contradicts and decays. He says that his art has always been and still is the poetry of the brushstroke and that he has never been interested in neither humorous nor striking art like the one of Banksy.