CAST IN BRONZE: Daniel Arsham, the artist famed for transforming items like Walkman cassette players and Nike sneakers into “future relics,” is bringing his weathered aesthetic to that most personal device, the mobile phone.
Known for collaborations with brands including Adidas, Tiffany & Co. and Dior, the U.S. artist has teamed up with Chinese consumer electronics giant Xiaomi on the Xiaomi 12T Pro Daniel Arsham Edition, whose packaging and case recall his eroded bronze sculptures.
Launching on Dec. 16 in a limited edition of 2,000, priced at 899 euros, the phone will go on sale in Europe exclusively on highsnobiety.com and mi.com, in addition to a Berlin pop-up on Dec. 16 and 17.
The project marks Arsham’s first collaboration on a smartphone, and Xiaomi’s first artist partnership branching into the international market, as it steps up its challenge to Apple on the high-end segment of the smartphone market.
“The phone today is the most ubiquitous object that we engage with. I’m always interested in bringing my work into arenas that are not typical art-world scenarios. This seemed like an interesting project to bring this type of erosion into something that people would engage with daily,” Arsham told WWD.
Mindful of the built-in obsolescence of consumer goods, he approached the project like a sculpture with a lifespan beyond its use as a functional object.
“In 20 years, there will be people who have this phone who no longer use it as a phone. It will transition into a sculptural object linked to a particular moment in time. In that way its use is carried beyond the functionality,” the globe-trotting artist said via e-mail.
Xiaomi said it was interested in engaging with Arsham’s time-bending approach. “This collaboration is not only a smartphone, but advanced technology used to actualize the artist’s design. We believe it will be an exciting product for people today, and remain an interesting and collectible piece for decades to come,” the company said in a statement.
Arsham’s design has been completely customized, from the packaging to the phone exterior and the user interface design.
“The packaging was probably the most challenging to actualize. There were two key parts — the surface of the outer box made of special gold foil paper, and a multiple three-dimensional embossing process used to give the surface the erosion feeling I wanted to achieve,” he explained.
“The packaging was made of paper with a magnetic structure, weighted to match a wood box. The inner packaging is made with a matt UV technology, fully customized with new design,” he added.
Advance images show the phone screen blissfully uncluttered by apps, though Arsham said he has more than 70 on his own device, with the camera being the most frequently used. While Xiaomi touted an “imaginary future of digital dematerialization,” Arsham isn’t certain that the phones of today will eventually appear as clunky as the brick phones of the 1980s.
“It is hard to say. For a while phones were getting smaller, but lately they have been getting bigger to accommodate more technology,” he remarked.