Somebody is finally making art for people who love shipping just a little bit too much.

That person is “Hardo”, the managing director of the fictional investment bank Hardo & Co who this year unveiled his latest work on canvas, which celebrates the world of dry bulk shipping.

By day, Hardo works for a niche commodities firm and has a background within the financial sector.

Given his day job, Hardo wishes to remain anonymous for now, which of course draws parallels with the street artist Banksy.

The difference is that there is a considerable weight of intelligence behind Hardo’s art, which depicts the world of global finance and involves hours of painstaking work during the small hours of the morning. He jokes that Hardo & Co’s opening hours are 2am to 5am.

“I really prefer for Hardo to be ‘putting the Bank in Banksy’, if you like — let it be about the work, not about the person,” he said when TradeWinds met with him in London.

Hardo’s latest work on canvas is called Baltic Degens and celebrates all the self-confessed degenerates at work in dry freight markets today.

The centrepiece is a gigantic game of Battleships with a fleet of bulkers arranged against a backdrop of trading screens for freight derivatives — but there is a lot more to it than that (see factbox).

“I’ll be very blunt: I’ve never traded a single shipping product in my life,” Hardo said.

“I have a couple of friends who became freight traders, either for some years or focused a career on panamax trading — and I was always curious how their markets worked.”

Most of Hardo’s works until now have focused on the financial sector, such as the James Bond-themed NYSE Royale. What brings him to the dry market?

“Since 2007 or 2008, the Baltic Dry Index has been a financial indicator — and that really interests me in the shipping space because I was fascinated by the complete sheer size of it, and how it just impacts everything we see or touch,” he said.

The name “Hardo” is a play on “try-hard” and is meant to sound a bit like Waldo, from Where’s Waldo?, which is an obvious influence on the intricately detailed works where the more you look, the more you see.

Like Waldo, the character of Hardo appears in all the artist’s works, wearing the typical finance-guy gilet. He is “someone who tries way too hard — the person in the back office with a big Gucci belt and who really wants to show that he’s in investment banking”, the artist explained.

Mental facade

“At the same time, Hardo is also a complete overachiever, who could tell a staffer in the bank, ‘If the deal is not at least like $5bn with eight times leverage, I don’t want it, don’t call me’ — which of course doesn’t even happen and exist, but it’s more the dichotomy between the winner and the loser that can both be called the same thing that I absolutely love.”

The artist describes Hardo & Co as being his “mental facade” and imagines it as being up there with Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.

“It brings forward that Hardo ‘is one of all of us’ in these industries,” he said.

More of Hardo’s work is available to view or buy via Instagram,

You can also follow the artist on Twitter @where_is_hardo or email


The more you look at Baltic Degens, the more you see — especially if you are in shipping.

Hardo told TradeWinds the in-jokes are simply down to some hardcore research, some unhealthy fascination, a little encouragement from people in the market and a brief brush with the maritime world early in his career during a mergers and acquisitions internship.

Eagle-eyed viewers will spot ships with names like Ariana Evergrande, Too Coal For School and the artist’s own vessel, the Hardomax in Baltic Degens. Then there are famous vessels from history such as the Mayflower, the Bismarck and even Noah’s Ark.

The Greek Fund, which deals in freight derivatives, is depicted as a boat made of paper (get it?)

Even global shipping cities get a shout-out. Geneva sits atop a floating padlock because it is — you guessed it — landlocked.

Look closely and there is even a TradeWinds easter egg to be found.

Hardo thinks probably the “nerdiest” joke hidden in the work is the maritime signal flags across the top. A few minutes on Google will reveal the hidden message — “God must have been a shipbroker” — except there is a deliberate mistake within the flags that will separate the hardened mariners from the day skippers.

But there is plenty here for finance geeks too. FTX is portrayed as a sinking ship.

Many of Hardo’s works have an octopus hidden in them, which is meant to represent Goldman Sachs. This is not intended as a criticism as such, just a joke about how the investment bank’s “tentacles are everywhere”, Hardo told TradeWinds.

Hardo has already released one book — which is bound in gold-embossed leather to appeal to one's inner investment banker — and is now at work on his next one, which will be published next year and will be called Haute Finance 101. The book will feature artworks about specific niches within big global money flows, like high-frequency trading and private equity capital, as well as shipping.

He is also blowing up his artworks and making them available to buy on 170cm-wide canvases in very limited numbers.

Only eight large canvases of Baltic Degens have been produced and two have already been sold. The price goes up by 11% every time a work is sold.

“I increase the price every time that someone buys it because I believe that the first buyer in a way de-risks the next buyer,” said Hardo — a finance guy through and through.