Daniel Arsham: Porsche, Pokémon, and Basketball

Daniel Arsham: Porsche, Pokémon, and Basketball

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Sport doesn't have to be limited to gyms, and art doesn't have to reside solely in museums. That's the message from one of the most successful contemporary artists collaborating with automotive company Porsche, Ikea, Swiss watchmaker Hublot, and luxury brands like Dior and Tiffany. Daniel Arsham is renowned for his works resembling archaeological finds and his use of unconventional materials such as volcanic ash or crystal. For the Tiffany & Co brand, he designed a series of jewelry inspired by Pokémon, for Adidas, sneakers with the inscription The past is present visible only under ultraviolet light, and in collaboration with Dior, an eroding basketball. Basketball is a recurring theme in his work. In 2020, he even became the creative director of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, historically the first artist appointed to such a role by the NBA.

"Future Relic Eroded Basketball, 2020, collaboration with the brand Dior, source: Artsy.net

When we look at Arsham's corroded artifacts, ancient times seem to breathe upon us. However, the artist achieves this effect paradoxically through objects of contemporary pop culture, presenting them as future archaeologists might see them. In Daniel Arsham's world, guitars, luxury cars, robots, Darth Vader, and Stormtroopers from Star Wars erode. In 2019, as part of his Fictional Archaeology series, an "eroding" basketball was created, inspired by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius but also referencing the global reach of basketball. It was produced in a limited edition of 99 pieces and sold in a clear resin case serving as a display, complete with a pair of gloves for handling.

Bronze Eroded Basketball, 2019, source: Christies.com

On the rooftop of the famous Le Corbusier collective housing unit, Unité d'Habitation, in Marseille, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, there has been a creative space called MAMO (Marseille Modulor) since 2013, regularly showcasing various artistic projects both in the exterior and interior of the historic building.

In 2022, Daniel Arsham created his site-specific installation titled "Le Modulor du Basketball" here, paying tribute to Le Corbusier and connecting history with sports. Arsham drew inspiration from the gymnasium originally located in the upper room of Unité d'Habitation and merged the visual language of the famous architect with basketball. He worked with the colors used by Le Corbusier in Unité d'Habitation, and there is also a reference to Le Corbusier's Modulor - a system of proportions suitable for human scale that Le Corbusier sought to apply to the spaces in which people live. Arsham used the Modulor, represented by a figure with a raised hand, in the installation similarly to how Le Corbusier directly applied it to his buildings. However, his figure transforms into a basketball player, with the raised hand additionally holding a basketball.

Le Modulor du Basketball, 2022, source: Lofficiel.com

Another notable collaboration is with the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team. The first collaboration took place in 2019. Daniel Arsham was born in Cleveland, and his family has been settled there for several generations, making this collaboration very personal to him. Additionally, he has been a fan of the Cavs since childhood. He created an installation for the team in the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, where their home court is located.

I found that when I engage the audience in spaces that are not museums or galleries, people often feel more comfortable, and it allows them to enter the work in a different way.

The piece, titled "Moving Basketball," features a basketball wedged into a rippling white wall, appearing as if it has impacted the wall with such force that it drags it forward like a piece of fabric.

Moving Basketball, 2019, source: Artnet.com

The installation "Moving Basketball" has become one of the works in the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Public Art program, where contemporary artists create pieces specifically for the multifunctional arena. This collection includes works such as a mural by artist Nina Chanel Abney and a six-meter sculpture by artist and designer KAWS. The art collection is funded by the owners of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, Dan and Jennifer Gilbert.

Curating the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse Public Art program is Anthony Curis, founder of the Detroit-based gallery Library Street Collective, who has been collaborating with the Cavaliers team since 2013 and played a significant role in establishing the partnership with Daniel Arsham. The Cleveland Cavaliers are thus one of the teams demonstrating their commitment to supporting art. "In their desire to offer fans a comprehensive cultural experience, they saw the potential to create a more dynamic relationship between contemporary art and basketball," confirms Curis.

Basketball Rack, 2016, source: artist's website

At the end of 2020, Daniel Arsham became the creative director of this North American basketball team. It was the first partnership of its kind, which expanded the possibilities of artists' involvement in sports.

"My grandfather, father, and I were all born in Cleveland. Joining the Cavaliers as a creative director and having the opportunity to shape and lead the team's visual identity is an incredible honor," the artist responded to his appointment.

In this role, Daniel Arsham is tasked with revitalizing the team's brand. He designs jerseys and other team apparel, creates logos, addresses the visual aspects of promotional items, designs the basketball team store in the home arena, manages social media, and facilitates collaborations with local artists and community organizations.

"I don't think they realized how seriously I would take it," the artist says with a laugh about the breadth of areas he's involved in.
 Collaboration with Tiffany," 2022, source: NBA.com
 In designing the jerseys, for instance, Daniel Arsham drew inspiration from their historical designs since the team's founding in 1970. "I love the graphics from the '80s and '90s, partly because that's when I grew up," he explained. Then, in 2022, the second collaboration with Tiffany took place, resulting in a limited edition Tiffany Blue Basketball. This edition highlighted Tiffany as a longstanding maker of sports trophies, as Tiffany annually creates the Larry O'Brien Trophy for the NBA's best team.

Daniel Arsham, collaboration with Hublot, source: Hublot.com

Daniel Arsham was born in 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio, and spent most of his childhood and adolescence in Miami, Florida. After graduating from the Miami School of the Arts, Arsham began studying at Cooper Union in New York, specializing in architecture and stage design. He has exhibited in Los Angeles, Paris, London, and Tokyo and currently lives and works in New York City.

Artist's website: https://www.danielarsham.com/
Artist's Instagram: @danielarsham
 Jewelry collection created in collaboration with Tiffany & Co and Pokemon, source: Tiffany.com

911 Turbo (930) by Daniel Arsham, 2020, Porsche AG. Source: Newsroom


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Published 08.05.2024

Anna Strasserová vystudovala dějiny umění na Filozofické fakultě Univerzity Karlovy, působila jako webová redaktorka Národního památkového ústavu, nyní pracuje pro pražskou Artotéku. Amatérsky hraje florbal, má ráda kolektivní sporty, běh a běžky. Propojení sportu a umění je její vysněná kombinace. Obdivuje Miroslava Tyrše, má ráda jemné vzory a dobré knihy.

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