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8 High School Students Got the Chance to Shoot Polaroids in Daniel Arsham’s Studio

Last week the artist invited eight students from the Henry Street Settlement to tour his massive Long Island City studio.
Works by Daniel Arsham in his studio. All photos by Andrew Nunes

After years of considerable success, including collabs with Pharrell and Hedi Slimane and solo shows at both New York’s Galerie Perrotin and LA’s OHWOW Gallery (now rebranded to Moran Bondaroff), artist and architect Daniel Arsham is giving back. This past Wednesday, the artist opened his enormous studio doors to eight lucky high school students involved in the non-profit social service agency Henry Street Settlement.


Daniel Arsham converses with the Henry Street Settlement students

Visiting Arsham’s Long Island City studio, an all-white space the size of a small factory, filled to brim with art materials, computers, and assistants, is an incredible experience for anyone, let alone teenagers with a budding interest in the arts. Its gigantic walls offers mini-retrospective of the artist’s oeuvre: Chicago Bulls Jackets and classical-style busts of Usher made of various different metals and rock sediments, geometric and cavelike indentations in the walls, and the outline of a body sticking out of the wall 20 feet in the air are but a sampling of the dozens of works that dazzled the students (and this writer as well).

The Henry Street Settement students and Daniel Arsham

After entering the studio, the high school students took turns introducing themselves. Some were part of Expanded Horizons at Henry Street Settlement, a college success program that offers the students opportunities like funded college visits and top-of-the-line college counseling. The remainder of the group came from StudioCollective, an intensive arts program for students interested in becoming artists or engaging in some way with an artistic practice. Despite the difference in background and motivations for coming, the enthusiasm was widespread (if anything, those coming from the college success program were even more amazed at the sheer grandiosity of the artist’s studio).

Daniel Arsham and his work

Once introductions were over, Arsham gave the students an overview of his practice and background. “Because the art world can be intimidating, I try to make things that everyone can access,” Arsham told the students. Pointing to the Chicago Bulls Jacket sculptures, the artist explained that they are meant to be ‘fictional cultural artifacts,’ preserved archeological objects that future generations could encounter and used to understand the moment of time we live in.


Daniel Arsham explains his work to student Derek Hernandez

Arsham also explained that the lack of color and monochrome nature of most of his works isn’t incidental: the artist is colorblind and is only capable of seeing 20% of the colors a normal pair of human eyes can. But, the artist reveals that he was recently given a pair of glasses with EnChroma technology, enabling him to see a wider variation of color and thus enabling him to experiment with more vibrant palettes in his works.

The Students engage with Polaroid Cameras for the first time

Student Bryan Moreno photographing Daniel Arsham’s works

Student Cassie Persaud photographing a work by Daniel Arsham

Now came the interactive part of the studio visit. With some help from the Impossible Project, the students were each given a polaroid camera and accompanying film and encouraged to explore the recently revamped technology with each other and the plentiful objects in the studio. For most of these students born at the turn of the century, this was their first time using and even encountering a real Polaroid camera. The genuine curiosity and amusement of the Gen Z crowd was palpable.

Students Cassie Persaud and Colleen McKoy show off their Polaroids

Student Francesca Bomeisler of StudioCollective

Student John Embaba of Expanded Horizons

Although this marked the end of the students’ studio visit, this isn’t the end of Henry Street Settlement’s involvement with Daniel Arsham. Tonight, October 18th, the settlement and Metrograph will be hosting CINEMAtheque, a fundraiser consisting of a film presentation of Daniel Arsham’s Future Relic series, a Q&A with film producer and TriBeCa Film Festival co-founder Jane Rosenthal, with an afterparty at 9 PM. Tickets are available for purchase here.

Click through to check out more of Daniel Arsham’s work.


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