Most skateboard decks sold as art end up sitting in plastic bags next to other rare collabs in storage or hanging on the walls of tacky condos, like the ones falling apart in Brooklyn after the building boom. Most of the time it’s Supreme who taps contemporary artists including Damian Hirst, Raymond Pettibon, Jeff Koons, and Peter Saville–the guy that designed the Joy Division album cover that’s been puked onto everything on Earth–to make a limited board, so that people dressed in crispy new clothing and uncreased sneakers can wait in line to buy these limited collectables.
Los Angeles based artist Paul McCarthy’s $30,000 deck series certainly packs the most sticker shock of the “Skart” phenomena, but the work actually does more than pander to hoarders. Organized by Brussels based non-profit Skateroom in conjunction with MoMA, the recently released 11 deck series of dirty looking things on boards will help fun the Skateistan NGO.
Originally started as a way to empower and educate Afghan youth, Skateistan has been successful in their goal, boasting a 40% female enrollment in a place where girl’s aren’t allowed to ride bicycles. The profits from McCarthy’s series will help Skateistan build a skateboarding and cultural center for underprivileged children in Johannesburg, South Africa.
We spoke to Skateroom’s founder Charles-Antoine Bodson about the series, the skate deck as art, and working with McCarthy.
In seeing Paul’s final work, how did it translate to skate decks and what was your impression of the relationship between the images and the medium?
The first time I saw Paul McCarthy’s Propos it was at the SMAK in Ghent (Belgium). I was amazed by the huge formats all aligned on the wall, I probably stayed there an hour, letting it all sink in. The dirty propos on the clean colored background was so compelling, simple yet powerful.
When we contacted Paul McCarthy to propose him to do a collaboration, we had already given him a mock up suggesting some propos on decks along with other works he did.
The rendering was pretty cool and it just seemed natural to put these propos on boards. Ultimately it was Paul and Damon’s final feedback and suggestions which determined the series we produced.
It was actually the relationship between Paul’s artistic vision (his critique of Western Culture) associated to what the skateboard represents (subversive counter culture) which for me seemed logical and seemed to be a natural combination of two worlds.
Why has the skate deck become such an emerging art medium and will it become a staple or be looked at–like skating once was–as a fad?
The skate deck has been an art medium for the past 30 years! Keith Haring was one of the first ‘big’ contemporary artist to customize skateboards with his art work in the early/mid-’80s. Skateboarding has known ups and downs since it first emerged as a sport but I believe it will never be looked at as a fad, since skateboarding represents much more than just a sport, it’s a universal counter culture with its own values and rules and has inspired several generations of artists (and upcoming ones too)
Also, through our mission of social entrepreneurship and through the fact that we make art affordable and useful, I strongly believe we are relaying a feeling that many people have today – especially the younger generation: Being fed up of buying for the sake of buying, the desire to live in a world that’s less selfish and one that develops fair(er) trade.
Why should Americans take interest in Skateistan and what have you gained by working with them?
We are now living in a hyper connected globalised world where everything everywhere is relayed in a click of the mouse. Borders are no longer inpenetrable, space and time have shrunk considerably with the advent of internet. In my opinion, education is key in making this world a better place; and that is exactly what Skateistan is doing. It’s not just Philantropy, it’s empowering these children, potential future leaders in their country, and helping them build their own personality based on healthy values, giving them the opportunity to live their childhood, and grow up to be better adults.
We’ve gained immense pride of being part of Skateistan’s adventure, and knowing we are helping them reach out to more children in more countries.
With Paul McCarthy, it’s the ambition of entirely financing the construction of their first skate park on the African continent. And when the skate school is built, we’ll be heading out with the McCarthys to witness the final result and we’ll be bringing back images and testimonials of how the skatepark has changed their daily lives.
The movie will be available on our website and vimeo once the movie has been edited after our visit to the skatepark in September.
With art decks now able to fetch prices comparable to paintings, is this a commentary on skate related art’s validity or has the art world co-opted skateboarding’s aesthetic?
To be honest, I don’t know. In our case it’s not a question of getting approval of the art world, it’s getting artists we admire to endorse a project we believe in! The 35 sets in their custom built flight cases that are sold at $30,000 are actually pretty cheap considering Paul McCarthy’s Art Market value.
Our aim is not to make heaps of money, just enough to be able to help Skateistan finance the entirety of the skatepark in Jo’burg, so they can allocate their existing funds to everyday costs (security equipment for the kids, paying teachers, buying notebooks etc.)