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American Artist Daniel Arsham Believes In The Power Of Collaboration In Fields Outside Of Contemporary Art

Multifaceted artist Daniel Arsham is unafraid to branch out into various fields, working across disciplines without distinguishing among them. Ever since he cofounded Miami artist-run space, The House, in 2003, collaboration has always been fundamental to him, earning him a following far beyond the reaches of museum-going audiences. While many are skeptical and don't accept the commercial aspect of an artist's work, Arsham refused to limit his creativity and understood the power of integrating people outside of the art world, arguing that the concept of artist as brand is not new. Therefore, he has designed the costumes, lighting and sets for legendary American dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, collaborated with experimental theater impresario Robert Wilson, crafted the scenography for the dance performance Rules of the Game choreographed by Jonah Bokaer with an original score by Pharrell Williams, taken care of the artistic direction of clips and album covers for Usher, tapped actors like James Franco and Juliette Lewis to star in a science-fiction short film series, and conceived Adidas sneakers, a Moynat capsule collection, a Louis Vuitton travel book and Rimowa luggage. For Dior, he imagined the men's fashion show set in Paris last summer with his interpretation of Christian Dior's office, created various items of clothing and accessories, and his objects featured in the brand's 2020 ad campaign.

Daniel Arsham imagined the Dior Summer 2020 men's fashion show set in Paris with his interpretation ... [+] of Christian Dior's office

Photo Adrien Dirand

"There's no way that I can be an expert in all of these fields, but I can place myself in proximity to people who know how to do that, and I just find it amazing to learn from them," the New York City-based American artist, 39, states. "Sometimes it's a collaboration with an individual, but sometimes it's a collaboration with an artist who has been dead for 500 years. I think it's about stepping outside of my own abilities and trying to engage with someone else's. When I first started to do these kinds of collaborations, there was a real question about should you be allowing your artwork to be placed in this very commercial context and is it interesting for you as an artist? Does it denigrate your work and are you going to let these brands use your work to position themselves? My thinking was the opposite: I'm using the brands for their reach and their ability to find an audience, which is not necessarily an art audience. The art world and museums in general can be a place that is amazing, but not accessible to everyone. The collaborations that I've done and the very heavy use of social media to get these works out reach an audience that isn't part of this conversation. They don't feel that they're engaged with it, and they can be through this other vehicle."

View of the installation It Speaks at Oi Futuro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Photo James Law. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin

In the pipeline is an exhibition at the Guimet Asian Art Museum in Paris that will take place from October 1, 2020 to January 1, 2021 for which Arsham will be making casts from the Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais workshop's molds of Asian antiquities. For this Carte Blanche show, his eroded sculptures expressing his fictional archeology approach will come face to face with the museum's permanent collections and will thus prolong his reflection on the way in which museums influence art history. He describes the role of the artist, "I think it's to reinterpret our everyday lives or culture and to expose the unseen things. Sometimes that can be in a very overt way and sometimes it can be in a more introspective and quiet way. I've never tried to be very specific about the meaning of any of my works. They're an introduction to an alternate potential future, so there can be a lot read from that, but it's not about some kind of post-apocalyptic idea and not necessarily about art history, but could be. All of these things kind of get mixed up within it." When asked if he hopes his art will stand the test of time and eventually become iconic millennia from now, he replies, "Certainly it's the wish of every artist to engage with people. My work is really about a conversation that's engaged through the work, and if that can be engaged across time in the future, of course that would be interesting to me."

Portrait of Daniel Arsham in his studio

Photo Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin


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