What would they have found if they had dug up the soil after centuries to find out what today’s world was like? Imagine these are pieces from the ’90s. Bugs Bunny or Super Mario toy, an Air Jordan sneaker, Walkman… These archaeological excavations come to life in the minimal sculptures of Daniel Arsham! Arsham, who doesn’t want to confine artworks to the world of galleries, presents the pieces which take people into a time-travelling journey, in the shops of fashion brands that have a cultural bond. The Mosaic Art Foundation, in collaboration with Les Benjamins, brings Daniel Arsham’s ‘Self Structure’ to a utopian environment. When you enter through the street door of Les Benjamins in Nişantaşı, a big Bugs Bunny welcomes you. On the second floor, you see clothes that shape Istanbul street fashion. The exhibition is open until October 12… We have discussed the details with Sinan Uzan, one of the founders of Mosaic Art Foundation and Bünyamin Aydın, founder of Les Benjamins.

How did you connect with Daniel Arsham in the process of making the exhibition happen?

Sinan Uzan: I have known Daniel for about 10 years. I’m even collecting his works. Apart from this, we have done a lot of joint work with his studio and done special projects abroad. He has an interest in Turkish culture and has come to Istanbul many times. It would be special in the spiritual sense to have an exhibition here and to tell art lovers about his works. Daniel is not an artist stuck in galleries like the usual contemporary artists. He uses important movements which have been shaped by the architecture, cinema, fashion and music in his works. Art is now out of the gallery, it now resides in people’s living spaces. We thought it would be very important to present such a post-discipline artist in Bünyamin’s aesthetically dramatic shop.

Les Benjamins x Daniel Arsham: Self Structure
Les Benjamins x Daniel Arsham: Self Structure

Bünyamin Aydın: I was following Daniel’s works. When Sinan told me the idea of bringing these things to Istanbul and to my shop, I couldn’t believe it. I’m a person who has always had big dreams so that astonishment disappeared and we immediately got to work. When I was in New York, Sinan texted me, saying that he was having dinner with Daniel and I should see his studio. When we met, I was once again impressed by his art. I also love the minimal point of view of his work. If I didn’t like Daniel’s work, there wouldn’t be such a good collaboration. Everything followed each other. We do not see too much of it in Turkey. He has a vision, and so do I… These two ideas are intertwined.

Les Benjamins x Daniel Arsham: Self Structure
Les Benjamins x Daniel Arsham: Self Structure

Sinan Uzan: When their ideas overlapped, there was inevitably a cultural unity. Istanbul is a location that combines the old and the new so beautifully. Daniel’s work is like this. Although his works look like historical artefacts from an archaeological excavation, they also represent a modern icon. Just like Istanbul…

‘We give each other energy through art’

Daniel Arsham is named ‘Time Traveler ‘.Does this perspective inspire your designs?

Benjamin Aydin: I think everyone is affected by each other. We give each other energy, and we are evolving to different places. Daniel, one of the rare artists who combine street culture, fashion and art … For example, no one has ever seen his Super Mario work, and it is here for the first time. Those who are not included in the Future Relics work are exhibited here for the first time.

Can you say that you are carrying the exhibition in a fashion shop takes it to a point that is also accessible in a spatial sense?

Sinan Uzan: That was our aim. People who are not in the habit of going to the gallery or museum are definitely in the habit of going to the shop. Daniel wanted to give you a message here. Self Structure tells us about our childhood times… It shows us the time when we were inspired and were evolving as a person. This is an exhibition that comes to life with 90’s objects. Our youth is also photographed. Daniel decided the placement prior because he is also an architect. He made his calculations meticulously. First, he determined the theme and then he predicted how this theme would be in the shop.

Bünyamin Aydın: Sinan’s friendship with Daniel is sincere and real. Without sincerity and realness, no good work happens.

Les Benjamins x Daniel Arsham: Self Structure
Les Benjamins x Daniel Arsham: Self Structure

Before you opened this place, you said in an interview that you wanted to create a collective space and be intertwined with the street. Do you think that Les Benjamins does that?

Bünyamin Aydın: Absolutely.Parents coming with their children. A 16-year-old attends a graffiti workshop with his father. This is a place that accepts everyone without discrimination.

Sinan Uzan: This is very clear even in the architecture of the shop. There’s no wall, there’s just a big glass door.

Les Benjamins x Daniel Arsham: Self Structure
Les Benjamins x Daniel Arsham: Self Structure

Bünyamin Aydın: I’m trying to spend time in the store. You don’t have to buy anything here. When you come, let’s talk and share our ideas. Now, people entering the stores are experiencing the brands from all the sides. In fact, every person who comes here is a value. We also want you to step into Benjamin’s world.

‘Les Benjamins is a brand that touches the younger generation’

You have also entered this road in a month that is full of Art…

Bünyamin Aydın: The young generation who loves street culture is not invited to those art galleries. We’re gonna unite them. Now they either take artwork or appear as a sneaker collector. We will be one of the rare names that touch the younger generation.

Sinan Uzan: We want to show that young people can also be art collectors. I bought my first picture when I was 15. Being a collector has no budget, you don’t need to have much money. You can also start with small work. When you go out on the street, you show your character or attitude with the small details on your clothing. It is also very nice to do this with artwork in your home.

Les Benjamins x Daniel Arsham: Self Structure
Les Benjamins x Daniel Arsham: Self Structure

What was the first artwork you bought?

Bünyamin Aydın: I bought a painting of an architect friend. Art has always been a wonder for me. Every day I learn something new. I studied art history, but collecting is a very different world. It’s not just about dealing with art. You need to spend a lot of time. You should examine the story in depth.

Sinan Uzan: I bought the OBEY poster of Shepard Fairey. But I want to meet the artist of every work I buy. To better understand their message, to share their vision.

Les Benjamins x Daniel Arsham: Self Structure
Les Benjamins x Daniel Arsham: Self Structure

Will such special projects continue in the future?

Bünyamin Aydın: When these two come together, they start talking about the next project. Long-term thinking is a plus for all of us. We both lived abroad but we want to improve Istanbul.

Sinan Uzan: I have been managing artists and architects in America for 15 years. Whenever we talk about Istanbul, they say that they want to come here and they love it. We need to introduce Istanbul to more people. Especially we have to start with the street culture … we also have to talk about the archaeological culture of Turkey. Even if there is not a piece inspired by Turkish culture in the exhibition, our archaeology history is very important for Daniel. We’ll have more projects with him.

Bünyamin Aydın: We cannot explain ourselves to the world very well. Youth should be proud of their country and present it with a modern perspective.