How Cool Shit blew up the internet

Art collective Cool Shit has found a very particular niche with its inflatable versions of famous faces. But how did it turn an ironic Kickstarter campaign to make a blow-up Lionel Ritchie into a thriving business that’s bringing joy to people around the world?

Crowdfunding platforms can be a strange corner of the internet. For all the support they give to worthy new products and businesses, they’ve also enabled some truly ridiculous ideas (anyone for a life-size statue of Robocop?) So it made sense that in 2013, art collective Cool Shit – formerly known as Hungry Castle – turned to Kickstarter to raise money to make a giant inflatable sculpture of Lionel Ritchie’s head.

With the support of Bestival co-founder Rob da Bank, Cool Shit were able to offer some tantalising top tier rewards, including the chance to have afternoon tea inside Lionel’s head once it landed at Bestival. In total, fans raised more than £8k to make the giant head a reality. It could have been a one-off, but the success lit a fire under the art collective, which has been making inflatable celebrity heads ever since. Its creations have travelled across the world, and even popped up at Art Basel – a particularly impressive achievement considering the fair’s serious art world credentials.

So why inflatables? According to Cool Shit co-founder Dave Glass, aka Danger Dave, it all started with a giant, interactive sculpture of Big Bird. The piece in question was one of Cool Shit’s earliest designs, and pumped 4,000 litres of gunge out of its rear end and onto festival-goers at Secret Garden Party.

DESIGNER

London