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Artist Daniel Arsham: Bringing One’s Art into Collaborations

Jun 1, 2018.Stephanie WuTokyo, JP
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The New York based contemporary artist, Daniel Arshamthroughout his works plays with the perceptions with what we perceive as everyday objects in a different light. Concrete walls that drapes like cloth, an eerie figure cloaked within the surface of the wall, an apocalyptical overview of Winnie the Pooh casted in volcanic ash with crystals growing from within. Arsham seems to be looking for opportunities in confusing the audiences with the expectations we have of space and forms. His works have attracted attention from prevalent figures in the industry beginning with legendary choreographer, Merce Cunninghamto artists such as Pharrell Williams, Usherand with sports corporate giant,adidas. We chanced upon the opportunity to ask him about his works in Tokyo at his exhibition at the NAZUKAand PERROTINGalleries.

Do you have any expectations for this exhibition?

From the last exhibition I think there’s something in my work that resonates with Japanese audiences about reduction; the simplicity of ideas and materials used. There’s a Japanese philosophy where there’s beauty in imperfection and destruction,which is relevant in my works in thinking the care and ways of presenting materials. I try to bring that ethos into my lifestyle.

You often collaborate with people in different industries. For example with adidas,  how did you approach the collaboration and was there anything that you find difficult?

The reason for me to initially work with adidas was to think about the language of what they do and the materials of what they use. The same way I treat materials in artwork so I did 3 different pieces with them. A lot of my work plays with time so we made a sneaker from the past, which was a 1970s runner, the second shoe being the ‘present’, which uses the boost tech. and the third, a 4D runner, which is for me, the projection of the future. Adidas has been a great partner because they really let me do crazy things with them and it’s not usual that I can have that support.

Did they limit you in anyway?

"Whatever you want to do, that’s what we’re going to do" was what I was told. Even in the packaging of the sneakers, I wanted to make a sealed box that you had to actually open but can’t be resealable once opened. The box looks almost like a time capsule and I think as a big company, it was a bit difficult them to realize this but they did it.

Were there times you felt you didn’t have that flexibility?

Usually I can tell and for me it’s all about the people. For example, Adidas as a company didn’t approach me, but I got approached by the people that I knew there and also that I respect in what they do. Once I know them, I trust that they will bring the collaboration about in the right way.

As an artist, how do you seek out these opportunities?

I don’t really seek them out they just come to me.

Lastly, art and business (commercialization) is a bit subjective. As an artist yourself, what is your opinion on that?

The world for me is changing a lot and I see that these companies are looking to creative people to rethink their own products.

I make artwork that sometimes can be very expensive and not everyone feels comfortable. Like kids in high school won’t necessarily come to my galleries but I think it’s interesting for them to engage with art and sometimes when I do projects like this or with adidas, it becomes their first introduction to art in general. If it interests them, they might come to the exhibition and it really broadens the scope of whom I’m able to bring in to see my works. So I think it’s almost like they’re it’s doing a service to reach these younger audiences.

PERROTIN - Daniel Arsham

Piramide Building 1F, 6-6-9 Roppongi

Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032

Open May 23, from 11am to 7pm

Exhibition until June 30th

Closed on Sun, Mon and National holiday


NANZUKA - Daniel Arsham
Shibuya Ibis bldg. B2F, 2-17-3 Shibuya

Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0002

Open May 23, from 11am to 7pm

Exhibition until June 30th

Closed on Sun, Mon and National holiday

  • Stephanie Wu

    Writer and Editor at SEVENTIE TWO

    Co-creationing is easier for brands to create pieces that are hard to replicate. Associating someone familiar or unique brings together a connection between the audience; indicating the same sense of values people can relate to and opening new opportunities for different industries. The audience is a participant in these collaborations and they influence the flow of what’s next and the social change it creates.