Where I Work: Daniel Arsham

For this month’s Where I Work, we head to New York to virtually visit Miami-born artist and designer Daniel Arsham. His work notoriously bounces between art, architecture, and performance where it’s found a sweet spot that’s all his own. Early on, his work with iconic dancer/choreographer Merce Cunningham helped him make a name for himself before co-founding design practice Snarkitecture in 2007 with Alex Mustonen. The studio designs functional objects and large-scale, immersive installations that are monochromatic explorations of visual delight, and oftentimes highly Instagrammable. Arsham’s own work is a portfolio of surreal, sculptural objects, like his highly sought-after limited edition Future Relics that all sold out faster than most people could hit the ‘buy’ button. If you follow him on Instagram, chances are you’ve caught sight of what he’s been up to recently – creating a new body of work for his just opened exhibition called 3018 at Perrotin New York. The exhibition features two recognizable cars from two iconic 80s movies – Back to the Future (1981 Delorean) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1961 Ferrari 250GT California) – that are rendered in crystal and slightly “decayed” to reveal a mineral core made of volcanic ash, pyrite crystal, selenite, and quartz. Read on to get a glimpse of the work from Arsham’s 3018 exhibition and to see how and where he makes it all happen.

What is your typical work style?

I show up at the studio around 9am every morning and I leave at 6pm no matter what’s happening here and I would say in that way it’s basically organized, very regimented but everything else in the studio can be quite chaotic in a way that doesn’t incumber work happening. There can be a lot of things around – my desk can be messy.

Photo by Noah Kalina

What’s your studio/work environment like?

It’s a bright open space with a lot of natural light, very tall ceilings, a lot of plants, a dog named Dex, and it can be messy and clean depending on what we’re working on.

Dexter \\\ Photo by Tori Geddes

How is your space organized/arranged?

I don’t have my own space with a door – the studio is open and anyone can approach me or bring me to work on something.

How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?

We’ve been in the space for about 2-1/2 years, this space was a factory many years ago and more recently was Jeffery Deitch’s sort of outpost in Long Island City as a gallery.

If you could change something about your workspace, what would it be?

The only thing I would change about the work space would be to make it 2 to 3 times as large.

Do you require music in the background? If so, who are some favorites?

There’s usually very loud hip hop on, or music that comes from the architecture side that sounds like whale noises.

Welcome to the Future, 2015, Daniel Arsham \\\ Photo courtesy of Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Welcome to the Future (detail), 2015, Daniel Arsham \\\ Photo courtesy of Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati, Ohio.

How do you record ideas?

I do record ideas through writing as well as voice memo that I may send to other people within the studio.

Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now?

I don’t really keep an inspiration board per say but I keep notes of a lot of things.

Daniel’s desk \\\ Photo by Tori Geddes

What is your creative process and/or creative workflow like? Does it change every project or do you keep it the same?

As I said, I keep a notebook and I refer back to it frequently and there’s a lot of things happening in the studio that may not be for a specific exhibition or project but act as a kind of active way to experiment with processes or new types of making that eventually find themselves incorporated into my artwork.

Wrapped Bunny, 2018, Daniel Arsham \\\ Photo by Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy of Perrotin.

What kind of art/design/objects might you have scattered about the space?

This studio is separated so there is a separate shop which is supposed to be the more messy space.

Are there tools and/or machinery in your space?

Tools – there’s everything from casting materials to typical metal working and wood working machinery.

Quartz Eroded New York Magazine, 2018, Daniel Arsham \\\ Photo by Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy of Perrotin.

Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell us about your tech arsenal/devices.

I have a full Apple suite of computer, iPhone, iPod, and a Kindle that I read from.

What design software do you use, if any, and for what?

Adobe complete creative suite

Photo by James Law

Is there a favorite project/piece you’ve worked on?

One of the more interesting pieces scale wise was this giant knot that I did in Moscow which was certainly a huge opportunity.

Do you feel like you’ve “made it”? What has made you feel like you’ve become successful? At what moment/circumstances? Or what will it take to get there?

You never feel like you’ve made it and that’s part of the reason to keep working.

Eroded Delorean, 2018, Daniel Arsham \\\ Photo by Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy of Perrotin.

Eroded Delorean (detail), 2018, Daniel Arsham \\\ Photo by Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy of Perrotin.

Tell us about a current project you’re working on. What was the inspiration behind it?

Current project I’m working on, well I have my exhibition that’s just opened which includes two cast automobiles – 1981 Delorean DMC and a 1961 Ferrari GT California. Both cars are from cinema and they also have their own sort of cultural touch points just as automobiles and I’ve remade these as if they had been buried in the ground for thousands of years they’re almost calcified in geological materials.

Eroded Ferrari, 2018, Daniel Arsham \\\ Photo by Guillaume Ziccarelli. Courtesy of Perrotin.

Do you have anything in your home that you’ve designed/created?

Furniture that I’ve designed at home and a bunch of artwork as well.

Daniel Arsham’s 3018 exhibition runs through October 21, 2018 at Perrotin New York, 130 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002.

Caroline Williamson is Editor-in-Chief of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.