Cyber space artist goes beyond disability

Phil Herold has gained international fame as an artist. His works are exhibited in galleries all over the world. Born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), Phil Herold can only use his thumb to create his colourful 3D-imageries.

Phil Herold describes himself as a cyber space expressionist. The colourful images of the Bavarian artist take the viewer into a world beyond the rainbow where blue flowers swim on orange lakes. “The world I create is the world I want to live in,” says Herold.


Especially in the US, numerous VIPs such as Bill Clinton, Snoop Dogg or Sting themselves are proud of having a “Phil Herold” in their art collection. Herold’s work is exhibited in art galleries in New York, Los Angeles and Berlin. To promote his work, the artist needs to often travel around the globe which requires a huge logistic effort.

Phil Herold is in a wheelchair in front of a colourful painting (Photo: Phil Herold)
The artist and one of his paintings (Photo: Phil Herold)

Live your dream

Phil Herold is born with SMA which causes muscular atrophy and paralysis. Today Herold can only move this thumb. “Phil is almost completely paralysed and needs artificial respiration,” says his father Gerhard. These restrictions did not prevent Phil Herold from pursuing his career as an artist. “In this world, I do not want to dream my dream but to live it,” says Herold. “Maybe I will not live long but to worry about the future destroys the possibility of living in the present.”

Like many artists, Phil Herold had to fight hard for recognition. The major breakthrough came when Herold decided to visit the renowned gallery owner and artist Michael Perez in New York. Perez was deeply impressed by Herold’s art work and decided to support him. The first exhibition in Chelsea, one of New York’s hippest districts, immediately propelled Phil Herold into the international art scene. Today, the artist lives and works in his German home-town Tann. “Until now, we have been able to offer Phil a home and family”, says Gerhard Herold. But that was not always easy to manage.

A blue mountain with a cloudy sky is surrounded by spectacular and surreal shapes (Photo: Phil Herold)
“The world I’m creating is he world I want to live in.” (Photo: Phil Herold)

An employer health care model

The 24 hour care of Phil brought his parents to their physical and psychological limits. External care was not really capable of relieving Gerald and his wife Monika from their burden. “We always had to deal with new people and had to fill in the gaps. Sometimes health care was simply cancelled and we had to muddle through alone.”

For the last ten years, Phil Herold’s health care has been financed over the so-called employer model. “I can just hire the people myself which allows me to be more independent.” says Phil Herold. The services are paid by the respective health care provider. Together with his “assistants”, Phil can structure his daily or often nightly routine all by himself. “Freedom and individuality are very important to me. I want to be able to travel the world whenever I want” says the artist.

Phil recently celebrated his 30th birthday and has reached the same age as the rock band “Bad Religion”. The musicians invited Phil to attend their concert in Germany. But the greatest birthday present for Phil was an original bottle of 1880 Tequila. “Maybe I am going to keep this rare drink for my 40th birthday,” says Phil.

Text&Translation: Michel Benedettti