Daniel Arsham is an artist – a 34-year-old artist whose success in the last seven years proves one important thing about how to make it in the streetwear space (and in the rest of the art world for that matter): find an aesthetic that appeals to people and stick with it, until your work is so immediately identifiable that no one needs to look at the signature to know it was you.
Find A Signature Style
It’s a strategy that many artists have understood as the key to success (and financial reward) in a post-Internet art landscape: Shepard Fairey has his Obey pop-graphics. KAWS has his ballooning cartoon characters. Kenny Scharf has his eclectic face collages. Daniel Arsham’s signature style involves using plaster to cast everyday objects so that they appear as ancient artifacts, eroding and crumbling like they’ve been buried underground for hundreds of years.
Daniel Arsham X Stampd LA, Del Toro and Pharrell
The technique and the objects he chooses to recast – things like DSLR cameras, keyboards, basketballs and Scarface-era cellphones – have worked and played well with a streetwear audience, and the powers that be have sat up and taken note. Just this year, he collaborated with Stampd LA on a series of graphic sweatshirts, with Del Toro on a pair of lean white 3M inverted chukkas, and with Pharrell on a casio MT-500 made from volcanic ash (he even cast Pharrell in his signature relic style).
Pharrell X Daniel Arsham Explain Their Casio MT-500
But even before that, Arsham’s art caught the eye of some very high-powered, non-streetwear people. Back in 2005, Hedi Slimane enlisted Arsham to recreate the fitting rooms for Dior Homme’s LA location. The only requirements? … “A hook, a seat, and a mirror”. So what did Arsham do? He slathered the walls with his plaster and created an installation, in which the walls of the fitting room melted down over the benches, and the mirror looked like it had been chipped out from the wall. Then in 2006, legendary modern dance choreographer Merce Cunningham enlisted Arsham to design the set, lighting and costumes for one of his new shows, “eyeSpace” (this should remind you of JR’s recent take over of the New York City Ballet).
Rather than building actual buildings, the idea of the endeavor was to work “within existing spaces or in collaboration with other artists and designers. The practice focuses on the investigation of structure, material and program, and how these elements can be manipulated to serve new and imaginative purposes.” One of the duo’s best projects to date? – a commemorative installation at the former site of the Orange Bowl, where Arsham and Mustonen placed 10-foot-tall concrete letters – based on the venue’s original – around the plaza of the new park. Each was arranged so that, as you walk through the space and your perspective changes, the letters form themselves into a whole set of different words.
In an on-going collaborative effort between Snarkitecutre and En Noir, the firm created the runway for the label’s Fall/Winter 2014 show at the Park Avenue Armory in New York (see the gallery below). Here’s the scene: “Referencing En Noir’s concept of ‘tunnel vision’, guests entered the space through a 100′ long tunnel. Beginning as a narrow passageway, the cragged enclosure transitions into a cavernous opening along its length, ultimately leading into the 40,000 square-foot volume of the Armory. The environment is made from a single piece of black, knitted mesh fabric suspended from above, its undulating form recalling the excavation of a tunnel.”
So, what’s next for Daniel Arsham? More of the same. Arsham has found what artists search their whole lives for: a style that speaks to his audience – a signature aesthetic that plays on the seemingly clashing ideas of modernity and antiquity.
Find out more about Snarkitecture on the company’s website.