Congratulation on your show at Joyce Hong Kong! Can you tell me about its focus
Thank you! The exhibition opened in conjunction with Art Basel Hong Kong, and is another stellar manifest of our program of carpets we design in collaboration with artists. We launched three new carpets by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard and one carpet by Swiss artist Olaf Breuning. We will also be exhibiting carpets by artists Richard Prince, Helmut Lang, Anselm Reyle, Leo Gabin, Wilhelm Sasnal, Juergen Teller, and ones we designed in collaboration with Tom of Finland Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for The Visual Arts. It is the first time we exhibit in Asia and we are delighted to do it at one of the world’s most respected and influential fashion fixtures: Joyce, which is quite the legendary establishment. They did a great job in installing and designing the show. After having had store wide exhibitions at venues that include Barneys New York Madison Avenue and colette, it’s the perfect match.
Which artist designed carpets are set to be featured?
In addition to the above names, we are also showing throw cushions we designed together with assume vivid astro focus, Scott Campbell, Robert Knoke, Marilyn Minter, Richard Phillips, Jack Pierson and Mickalene Thomas, all of whom have also designed carpets with us, but could not be included this time.
Can you give us some insight into the collaboration process? How do these partnerships come about?
Our program of artist collaborations was developed together with our curator Joakim Andreasson back in 2012, when we decided to take the possibilities of what can be created through the media of carpets to task and collaborate with contemporary artists. We launched 12 artists simultaneously at Barneys New York Madison Avenue in May 2014 during Frieze Art Fair, which was quite the statement. Each artist is invited and selected to synergize with the next, gravitating toward artists that have established their own rules in the art world, either by practice or by status. The result is a curation that, when combined, offers an eclectic, aesthetically broad and authentic grouping, with an overall common denominator of openness to the cross-disciplinary practice at hand, which can also be traced in the artist’s body of work. The creative process is very different from one artist to the next, depending on their core practice – we have to date managed to translate sculpture, paintings, collages, relief pieces, photography, drawings and even tattoo works into the media at hand. None of the designs to date have felt like a comprise. On the contrary, each piece has managed to maintain its own artistic purpose and function.
You've held various exhibitions at fashion retailers, like Barneys New York and colette. Why do you think fashion retailers have been so responsive and supportive of the project?
The fashion world is in many ways more open and experimental than the art world. Fashion encourages cross-disciplinary practice, whereas the art-world prefers artists to be purists. The fashion world may also be attracted to this project due to the fact that carpets are woven and have familiar traits to textiles. Many of our artists have impacted or collaborated with fashion in one way or another. Richard Prince and Scott Campbell did collections for Louis Vuitton, Anselm Reyle for Dior, Nan Goldin, Juergen Teller and Jack Pierson regularly photograph for fashion publications. Tom of Finland greatly influenced designed such as Jean-Paul Gaultier and Tom Ford, Andy Warhol’s work is currently seen on the runways of Versace and Calvin Klein, and Helmut Lang of course created an incomparable imprint through his work in fashion.
What has been your most proud moment to come out of the Henzel Studio Collaborations project?
There are so many moments. But ever since we started to work with Joakim Andreasson on collaborating with artists, I must say that I feel proud every time we achieve a design that the artist is pleased with and stands behind as their own. Anytime we see one of our exhibitions mounted and get reactions from visitors, I can’t help but feel a sense of great accomplishment and pride. Most recently, we had a joint exhibition with Equator Production at Tanja Grunert Gallery that was beyond stunning and museum show quality. I must also say that collaborating with The Andy Warhol Foundation is quite the milestone given the influence Warhol has had on my work.
What are the challenges of translating some of the most notable contemporary pieces of art into carpets?
We generally invite challenges as it allows us to move the project forward and further the possibilities in terms of design and production. But otherwise, it really depends on the discipline and practice of the artist. Technically speaking, it is always challenging to translate any ideas that are too detailed.
One of your ongoing projects is with Tom of Finland Foundation. Can you tell me about how that collaboration?
Our work with Tom of Finland Foundation started after Joakim approached them to collaborate. Who knew he would thereafter be offered to manage their entire licensing program? Anyway, the integration of Tom of Finland’s work into the media at hand – hand made rugs and pillows - was ignited by the unique environment and interior elements that make TOM House. Located in Echo Park, Los Angeles, it is home of Tom of Finland Foundation, guardians of the artist’s body of work and living archive for the erotic arts, and where Tom permanently lived for the last decade of his life. Founded in 1984, it a place where Tom’s relentlessly butch aesthetic and drawings mingle with different styles of décor, artifacts, rotating art displays and open air installations. It is a place that is marked by a community that disarms shame and judgment, and promotes Tom’s message of encouraging respect, acceptance and love through art. We could not think of a better message to encapsulate through our work.
Are carpets from this collaboration meant to be understood as art or design objects?
I always like to leave this question open-ended as we invite subjective interpretations and I myself am not a fan of confining anything through definitions or terms. Most of our customers do end up using them as floor carpets, but they work just as well on the wall.
What collaborations do you have on the horizon?
We are working on countless new collaborations, but the one I can mention is a very special carpet with Lawrence Weiner that will be unveiled at an exhibition at BOCA Raton Museum of Art in Florida next month.
Do you have any dream collaborations?
Absolutely, but I never like to jinx anything by making lists. Our collaborations evolve very naturally and organically.