About the Artist

John Rivoli presenting ROCKY art to Sylvester Stallone, March 2012

John Rivoli is often referred to as one of Hollywood’s longest kept secrets; for the past 20 years at his New York design agency, Rivoli Design Group, John has remained behind the scenes while creating fine art exhibitions and digital art programs for the entertainment industry’s biggest blockbusters. A prolific artist for two decades, John’s massive body of work spans from films, TV shows, animated series and comic book characters, including Harry Potter, Wonder Woman, Batman, Spongebob and Scooby Doo, just to name a few. While his name is not publicly well known, his art can be seen all over the world on consumer products merchandise of every imaginable kind such as cereal boxes, toys, apparel, games, cosmetics packaging, outdoor advertising, and even in theme parks such as Warner Bros theme park in Abu Dhabi. 

Among one of John Rivoli’s many long time industry clients is MGM Studios. Over the years, he has created art programs for their films including Pink Panther and Robocop. Then in 2012, MGM offered John his lifelong dream project: to create art for ROCKY — his favorite film of all time. 

John at age 11 posing with ROCKY
John Rivoli at age 11 collaborating with ROCKY in his imagination

MGM Studios was releasing a promotion campaign for the 35th anniversary celebration of ROCKY and John’s paintings would be used for advertising and retail merchandise. Rivoli explained, “For years, I always made sure to let the execs at MGM know that I was an expert on ROCKY — that if they ever do an art program for it, they’ve gotta let me do it — and they did.”

As part of the art review and approval process, John was prepared to do what he would always do — get on a flight to LA and present the art to the studio execs in person. But this time someone else would be joining in: Sylvester Stallone himself.

“I will never forget the sound and vibration of Sylvester Stallone’s inimitable voice bellowing down the hall and getting louder and closer as he walked towards the room,” Rivoli recalls. “ I was at his office waiting for his arrival — meeting Sylvester Stallone for the first time —and in this context, to personally review and approve of my ROCKY paintings. I was so fortunate to meet my idol on a professional level rather than just a fan. Sylvester, being an accomplished artist himself, was intrigued by some of my painting techniques and was asking me questions abut how I achieved certain looks. “Seriously? ROCKY is asking ME about MY work?” 

The success of the art collection and new collaborative vibe between John Rivoli and Sylvester Stallone led to another MGM project in 2015 to commemorate the iconic film’s 40th Anniversary.

Sylvester Stallone and John Rivoli kept their conversations going after the success of their second ROCKY art collaboration, casually exchanging abstract ideas about how art plays a purposeful role in continuing the ROCKY narrative. These conversations and growing art relationship are what lead to the genesis of Icons in Art. 

In 2018, John inquired with MGM Studios about the possibility of becoming an official licensee to create original fine art paintings for ROCKY and selling limited edition prints.

In 2019, John Rivoli became an official licensee with MGM and Icons in Art was born. He continues to discuss painting concepts with Sylvester Stallone, developing reimagined interpretations of scenes, unseen angles and symbolic imagery.