Ten Meets Artist Daniel Arsham at the Opening of His Holiday Corner Shop in Selfridges
Have you always been dreaming of a different kind of white Christmas? Daniel Arsham is here to make your dreams come true. The American contemporary artist has taken over The Corner Shop at Selfridges until the end of the holiday season with a hyper-modern approach that’s an antidote to the usual, camp-y red, gold and green bonanza. The House by Daniel Arsham brings the artist’s signature visual lexicon of what everyday objects of today might look as archeological artefacts of tomorrow. Set-up as a home, each of the rooms reflect a different area within the domestic environment, embellished with elements of decay. Up front and looking at the ever busy Oxford Street, a deconstructed Porsche (which is the only object that’s not on sale, but will go back into the car brand’s museum after the installation closes) is joined by a copper version of the E.T. bike and a few smaller installations. The “garage” of the House of Arsham leads into the kitchen, where the customised cans of Heinz tomato soup sit next to bottles of hand soap created in collaboration with Byredo and a full Xmas dinner table setup and a decorated tree in hues of clinical whites, blues and green.
Yesterday, the space opened to the public and quickly proved that now is the good time to put conceptual arts front and central in a retail environment. Amid the shopping madness (the £1.50 soup cans were selling like hotcakes and the miniature Porsche sculpture was bought within the first few hours), we had a chance to sit down with the mastermind behind it all and ask him all about the intentions behind this collaborative project with Selfridges.
It all started last year when Arsham’s studio created the in-store space for streetwear mavens at Kith within the Oxford Street store and met Sebastian Manes, Selfridges’ buying and merchandising director. “He asked me point blank ‘Would you be interested in doing something with us?’ Those were the early stages of the Corner Shop and they were still thinking about the use of this space. Since then, my work has crossed over a lot with experiences outside a typical art environment in a museum or a gallery, so we started conceiving this idea of the house with a car. We then got to the soup and the plates and then we just kept going,” explains Arsham.
While the partnership with Selfridges expanded naturally, not every aspect went as easy as that. When the artist pitched the idea of a white can design to Heinz, they were quick to respond: “Absolutely not. It has to be red and have the gold outline,” Arsham remembers. But he is not just an incredible artist, but also a great salesman. “I told them to trust me and that ‘this is gonna be good for all of us.” So they did. The can itself is a clear reference to Andy Warhol’s signature works. That was America and Campbell, this is UK and Heinz. And while he nods to Warhol’s pop art in our conversation, Arsham wants to make sure there’s a distinction between the two worlds: “His work was a cooption of the existing. This is an alteration of something that people have in their everyday experience.”
The pièce de résistance which keeps stopping traffic on one of the busiest shopping streets in London is the decayed 9/11 Porsche, an experiment in integrating art, design and lifestyle. That’s why the car represents the culmination of ideas by a generation of creatives functioning at the crossroads of these fields. Arsham credits Kim Jones for “always being ahead of the game.” Jones was the one who recently started a new wave of the artist’s popularity as the two worked together on the set and some of the accessories for Dior’s SS20 menswear show in Paris. Joining the duo in the race to make the world a more artistic space are Yoon Ahn of Ambush and *A-Cold-Wall’s Samuel Ross, both of which have previously worked with Arsham and have now offered their expertise on the Corner Shop’s fashion offering with a limited edition of their designs available to shop. One of the jackets available to buy are actually an adapted replica of a lab coat Ross previously designed for the members of Studio Arsham.
In this revolution of taking peripheral ideas into the mainstream, Daniel Arsham makes a point in recognising the power of social media and its wide-reach abilities. “I haven’t shown my work many times in London, maybe two other exhibitions, and this [Arsham points at the human centipide that circles all around the Corner Shop] can happen. Not because they have seen other exhibitions but because of Instagram which creates this coalescing energy around it.”
We say our goodbyes as I try to make my way out of Selfridges, bumping into several eager customers trying to spend their hard-earned coins on Arsham’s version of the most wonderful time of the year. Who ever knew hypebeasts will be queueing up to buy some wrapping paper and a can of soup?
The House by Daniel Arsham will be on display at The Corner Shop at Selfridges until Sunday, January 5th 2020. Photographs by Lewis Roland.