Since we haven’t done an interview for the blog yet… What was the inception of CULTUREEDIT?
CULTUREEDIT is the name of my company and has been since I started on my own back in 2014. To give you a little bit of background, I moved to Los Angeles in 2013 from New York (for love at the time), giving up my job as studio manager for Mr. Helmut Lang, where I oversaw his operations as an artist. Looking back, that was quite naive of me. Only seven months later I got royalty dumped - locks changed - no job or income - and no plan. Rather than going back to New York with my tail between my legs, I decided to stay and make Los Angeles my own. I started to create creative projects fusing art and commerce from the ground up: curated exhibitions, managed PR campaigns and developed partnerships across sectors. And I started working with Helmut again, this time with him as a client. Most notably, I created a high-profile program of artists designed rugs with Swedish brand Henzel Studio, and we have over the years developed fine art rugs with some of the most prominent names in the artworld.
How did you start to work with Tom of Finland Foundation and take charge of the store?
I met the guys at Tom of Finland Foundation when I did PR for their exhibition at MOCA on behalf of the museum. I invited them to do a line of rugs for Henzel Studio, and shortly after I was offered to manage their entire licensing program, which at the time was limited to publishing, classic tees and tanks and miscellaneous basic merchandise. Within the first year of me working with the Foundation, we developed our adult toy line, a home textiles collection with Finlayson, luxury rugs and clothing line with Rufskin among other partnerships – shortly thereafter coffee, spirits and much more. I explore each opportunity with a very open mind and understanding that Tom’s audience is diverse and that his art can be applied, contextualized and appreciated on multiple levels. I did get resistance in the early days from people who could not see beyond a purist lens, but with time I think our recent commercial history has proven to be successful. Long story short, we saw the need for a centralized online point of purchase for all things TOM, and I decided to take matters in my own hands and created the online store, which I also own. With the pandemic, sales increased quite a bit and we moved to a warehouse location in Hollywood, which is now open to the public post pandemic. I maintained the name CULTUREEDIT for this space to establish utmost independence, even though we also go by Tom of Finland Store for online purposes. We have for the past two years established ourselves through word of mouth as a credible destination for progressive fashion, and mechanize across adult, decor, publishing, and of course all things Tom of Finland, including all the collabs and licensed goods.
What is your background in art/fashion/commerce?
I have always known that I wanted to work in the intersection of art and commerce. I remember applying for a grant in 2002 (which got denied!) in which I articulated what I wanted to do very clearly — somehow I have stuck with it. Sometimes things feel so articulated that you don’t know how to do anything other than what drives you, you know? I love breaking rules and doing things outside of the usual mold; somehow those projects become the purest. I started my career with prominent brands that include Dior Homme, Visionaire, Alexander McQueen, Yohji Yamamoto and Guggenheim Museum. Upon graduating from Parson School of Design in 2004, I joined Helmut Lang where Mr. Lang created a position for me. I oversaw Lang’s studio and transition from fashion designer to artist in various capacities between 2005 - 2021.
Tell me about your collaboration with Henzel Studio. How long have you been working together? What’s your relation?
I have been working with Calle and Asa Henzel since 2012, when I approached them out of the blue about engaging contemporary artists to design art rugs. We launched the program in 2014 releasing rugs by twelve artists simultaneously with a storewide exhibition at Barneys New York Madison Avenue. Both Henzel and I are Swedish, so we have a lot of common ground, and we both appreciate independence and autonomy over abiding by industry games.
Does living with art matter? And how does Henzel bring art into our intimate spaces?
In the bigger scope of things, I don’t think it matters at all. However, in submitting to a material world, we might as well choose options that have longevity, integrity and contribute to broader conversation of possibilities while enhancing our short-lived experiences on Earth. Adding value to design through art in a responsible way is an integral part of sustainability as it makes products less disposable. As far as intimate spaces, I think our rugs enhance our senses and engagement with our surroundings, and provoke unexpected experiences.
What inspired you to curate the show ERODE — MORPH — BLOOM? How does it fit into your curatorial journey?
I had the pleasure of getting a preview of Twentieth’s new space back in December, and shortly thereafter proposed to do a focused exhibition of rugs also accompanied by an original work selected together with each featured artist to create a relationship. Less than two days later, I confirmed the participation of all exhibited artists — so I knew we had a solid concept at hand. The domicile layout inspired me to propose an intuitive confrontation with any preconceived notions towards the distinction between fine and applied arts as it pertains to works of the same authorship. The three words ERODE - MORPH - BLOOM in isolation came to mind when observing the exhibited rugs and provoked a thematic demand or mantra… They all call for a certain natural movement and process, which in this context of textiles can be attributed to the actual artisan making of the rugs, but also be tied into each rug’s subject matter. For example, Nan Goldin’s rug is an adaptation of a photograph she took of a heart-shaped wreath of roses that dried in her Paris bedroom, which now lives on in hand-knotted wool and silk. Kim Gordon, in turn, literally morphed one of her artworks into a rug by creating an abstract from using a painted vintage dress that we based her design on.
How did the artists respond to seeing their work in textile glory? And how does this new medium bring new light to these works?
Thankfully, none of the artists have expressed any disappointment to date. We approach the making of our rugs without any regard to past design movements, related principles and rules. I say that because the artists we work with are invited to freely and seamlessly translate their work and artistic ethos into the media at hand, exploring shape, volume, and finishings, where practicality is secondary to the concept. This expansive brief allows the artists to embrace the outcome as part of their main practice and body of work.
Do you have personal relationships with any of these artists? What was it like working with Nan Goldin? Don’t you know Helmut Lang well?
Yes, I have met with most of them and engage with them personally on an ongoing basis. We do not work with agents or intermediaries, which is an important part of the formula to attain authenticity. I took Nan out for dinner once and have since liaised with her over email. Helmut I have known and worked with for almost 20 years.
You have impeccable style, it shows in the curation not only of the show, but the store you run, too. How do you manage so many projects at once and keep them all fresh?
Honestly, I avoid looking at competitors and trust my instinct. I hate going to stores, which my friends find quite amusing. I’m not sure that it’s the best way in terms of assessing the competitive landscape, but it does help keep projects pure and honest. In terms of the volume of projects, the answer is simple: I work a lot. There is no shortcut. Owning your own business is a constant experience, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
Do you have any criticism of art commerce?
My general complaint that I am witnessing way too much is what I call “culture rape”, this idea of going through artists in order to create seasonal products. I would like to see seasonal releases removed, and allow time for the art processes to dominate, which can take however long until the desired outcome has been achieved.
How does style fit into your everyday life?
I like uniformity and efficiency. If it only takes 3 minutes to get dressed, you have established your own sense of style..
What are the most important aspects of curation?
I know I made the right choices if I can talk about decisions without uncertainty. People underestimate the power of articulating projects. They don’t always speak for themselves.
How are you contributing to Los Angeles’ unique aesthetic?
I don’t think I am. I am still very much an outsider by choice and run my company with 100% independence.
I know you have 75 things on the horizon, but what should we look out for next?
We have a number of Tom of Finland collabs coming out soon! This year we will see collabs with Trashy Clothing, Diesel, We Are Spastor and Julian Zigerli drop. We are also launching a new ToF sex toy line, as well as a number of lines in time for a big exhibition in Helsinki. We are also moving our store to a new space, which will allow us to step up our retail game and gallery program. I am also releasing two books encompassing different facets of my work later this year.