After over 30 years in the graffiti industry, Toronto-based street artist Duro the Third seems to have finally found his true calling — custom BMX artwork.
Painting, modifying and selling retro BMX bikes via his social media channels and website, Duro has amassed an impressive list of clients in the sporting world with pieces for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Boasting over 170,000 followers on TikTok, Duro’s artwork has amassed over 1.6 million likes and is approaching 40 million views.
“I just love doing stuff for any client,” Duro said in an interview with Daily Hive. “But it seems sports people are very fanatical and very engaged in merchandise, especially.”
Duro’s artwork was featured in the Leafs’ season opener video this past January.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) January 13, 2021
Outside of the sports industry, it’s often entertainment artwork that comes calling.
@durothethirdWhat do you think of THANOS GT? @samsbmx #gtbmxfreestyle #gtbikes #durothethird #thanoscosplay #rad #bmx #custombike #purple #vintagebmx #satisfying♬ original sound – Durothethird / 80s BMX / Art
Duro recently partnered with Warner Brothers to create a custom bike for the movie Space Jam: A New Legacy. The bike is currently being raffled off to Canadian and American residents.
Duro said that some of his artwork can sell for upwards of $5,000 to collectors.
“These prices are really jumping,” Duro said. “These old-school BMX bikes? That’s what the future is all about.”
Duro said he refuses to work with any bike models created in the year 2000 or later, as the older models offer more flexibility when it comes to customization.
Despite working in the entertainment industry, Duro said he’s “kind of boring.”
“I don’t even really watch sports,” he admitted. “I don’t drink or do drugs or anything. I don’t even partake in a lot of things that other people do.”
Though it’s what he’s best known for, BMX bikes aren’t the whole of his work.
Duro recently partnered with Ukrainian-Canadian brand Zirkova Vodka in Toronto to design a truck for a pop-up “adult playground” location that has been handing out samples around Toronto this summer in many different locations.
Duro is acutely aware of the negative stigma around the graffiti industry, but doesn’t shy away from it, either.
“It is vandalism,” he said. “I never did anything legal for [my first] four years [as a graffiti artist].”
Duro began his street art career as a teenager in Toronto, painting on the walls of Scarborough.
“I was 13 years old in 1989,” Duro added. “I saw my cousin’s sketchbook, and I was like, ‘This is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen.’ I was already doing art my whole life, but graffiti kind of spoke to me.”
As for the inspiration for the pivot to BMX work, he said he was simply inspired by having financial stability.
“I was in debt for 17 years,” Duro said. “I got out of debt. First thing a man wants to do… he wants to relive his childhood.”
Duro decided to finally get the bike he’d wanted as a youngster.
“A lot of people that buy video games will do all this ’80s shit. I was like, ‘No, no, no, I want a 1987 Dyno Pro Compe,'” Duro added. “That was the god bike as a kid. That was like a fucking Lambo.”
Having carried the “struggling artist” label for years, Duro said he’s grateful for the personal growth he’s seen from his brand, particularly on TikTok, throughout the pandemic.
“I got worldwide attention on TikTok and it’s changed my life immensely,” Duro said. “People tell me they’re inspired to build and paint bikes with their son or daughter because of me. I get messages from all over the world, every single country, so I’m very fortunate at this age to finally be celebrated for something that I’m really, really good at.”