© Jeremy Alvarez
As I attended the Another Magazine conference last month at colette, Paris, I was caught by the art work on the walls by KAWS. And the ambitious and empowering tagline : Creative Future. A bit confused with wether it had anything to do or not with Jefferson Hack (Another Magazine), Charlotte Stockdale (Garage Magazine, @chaosfashion) and Suzy Bubble’s conference, I asked Guillaume Salmon. And I did well because of course although these last names are powerful creative brands hence my feeling that the conference could have had a link with Creative Future the two were totally different projects. So it was how I got in touch with Christian Andersen, founder of Creative Future. With a sleek and comprehensive web site introducing the project, cfcolette.com overview colette’s collaborations with artists André Saraiva, Curtis Kulig, Erik Parker, José & Rey Parlá, Julia Chiang, KAWS, Kevin Lyons, Michael Dupouy, Pedro Winter (pictured below holding one of Creative Future’s books) and Todd James. Three decades of creative projects and exhibitions are commented and analysed through the lens of some of whom participated to this story such as Genevieve Gauckler, Casey Neistat, Jeremy Alvarez and more. A limited numbered and signed edition to be ordered on cfcolette.com, it was initiated, designed and written by Christian Andersen. Eager to understand what would drive a 20 something student to start such an enterprise I contacted him.
Business Madame: colette was founded in 1997 at a time when you were only a schoolboy. What was your culture at that time, what were you interested in? And why/how/when did you make the decision to study art?
Christian M. Andersen: Back in ’97 I was only five years old, so I naturally don’t remember much from that time. I was probably interested in what any other kid at that age was interested in. It wasn’t until later in life that I discovered my passion for art when I took an art class during an exchange year in the US. After returning from my year abroad I slowly started developing my skillset and experimenting with different mediums across an array of artistic disciplines. I eventually ended up studying design, which I have been doing for almost two years now.
BM: Then in 2011 you launched Creative Future. What was your idea?
CMA: Creative Future was born out of a passion and eagerness to create something of my own that I had full creative control over. I was only seventeen years old when I started Creative Future, so everything was still very uncertain as far as what Creative Future was and what eventually was supposed to become. One thing that I always wanted was to embrace the comprehensive knowledge and artistic processes of some of today’s most talented creative individuals across several creative disciplines, and I think that vision also became much more clear and defined as I started getting more projects under the belt.
BM: How did the connection happen with colette?
CMA: The project started out as a conversation that Sarah Andelman of colette and I had in June 2013 when we discussed the idea of teaming up for a special book edition about the unique history of colette. Before we started working on the book, they had already been selling some of the publications I had published in the past, so they already knew a bit about what I was up to and what Creative Future was about. When we started the project we thought that it would be interesting to highlight the unique history of colette and the many artists that had been working with them over the last eighteen years. Striving to create a book that not only was a testament to colette’s importance for contemporary culture, but also documented of the unique array of artists that colette had worked, collaborated and exhibited with since 1997, it took more than one and a half years for us to develop the book. There were so many unique stories and artists to cover, which made the project seem very overwhelming at times, but the countless hours of work, traveling and meetings also proved to be revelatory in the end.
“Creative Future was born out of a passion and eagerness to create something of my own that I had full creative control over. I was only seventeen years old when I started it …” Christian M. Andersen.
BM: How was it to work on this collaboration with the team at colette?
CMA: Working with colette was of course a big dream of mine that came true. I really owe Sarah and the rest of the team at colette my deepest gratitude for accepting the risk of the unprecedented experience. This book wouldn’t have been possible without them being open-minded towards a young guy like me. The process of creating the book was very long and definitely not without its struggles, but in the end it is also these challenges that leaves you feeling more experienced in the end. When looking back, it is something I always will be grateful for.
BM: In the book, only a few of the artists whose work has been exhibited in the gallery at colette are featured. How did you choose them and what about the others?
CMA: Well, all of the artists that are featured in the book have all worked or exhibited with colette at some point in their career. Since colette has worked with more than 200 artists, it wasn’t possible for us to feature all of them. We did get Kevin Lyons to do an incredible timeline of all the exhibitions that has been at colette over the last eighteen years, so all of the people who has worked with colette are highlighted in the book.
For the first time in my three years of running Creative Future, this project allowed me to go abroad, not only to meet and work with great people at colette in Paris, but also to visit the studios of some of the most talented contemporary artists in New York. This also means that when it became time for us to decide who to feature and interview for the book, I wanted to feature as many artists that I had the chance to meet in-person, as it would allow me to generate a more personal editorial structure and provide an exclusive look inside their studios. I personally think the stories are much more personal and honest when they are done in-person, as it gives you a chance to feel the actual atmosphere of the artist, their workspace and their art.
BM: Do you feel that these artists have grown up at the same path as colette and the artistic crowd it beautifully gather?
CMA: Many of the artists featured in the book have known and been affiliated with colette since they first opened in 1997. Back then many of them were emerging artists themselves, so a lot of them have grown and evolved simultaneously with colette.
When speaking of the artistic crowd that gathers at colette, I think it is hard to define its core audience because it appeals to so many different cultures, people and artistic disciplines. It is really the fortuitous combination of their open-mindedness, their willingness to take risks and their involvement with not just one, but a vast array of creative disciplines that makes their audience so unique and hard to define. Colette is really an experience. What makes it notable is not necessarily the unique assortment products related to art, fashion and design it carries, but more importantly the unique experience, atmosphere, and feel that it evokes. In reality, colette has always been about empowering others and the fact that they have managed to attune to the current dynamics of the art world while still acting as an incubator for artistic talent is one of the reasons why you see so many artists and creatives praising it.
BM: The art of printing… Although most beautiful or so called ‘coffee table books’ are dedicated to the arts, the making of books is often more associated with graphic design, hence to design better than to art… (I am reffering to the fact that there is a trend encouraging the publishing of arts related books. Nicknamed ‘coffee table books’ : Rizzoli, Taschen, Phaidon and alikes … Graphic design is also very much associated to the making of books, the same arts books I was reffering to. But at the end of it these are very much associated to graphic design because to be a success their art direction and brand identity must be quite ambitious. So to art we add design. Although ironically only a few table books are focusing on design as a sole subject (compared to the arts). Your book seems to combine art + graphic design + design. Since you are interested in the real art of making a book – meaning beyond the editorial management or content – I ‘d love to hear your view on this.)
CMA: Yes, I agree. In order to present subjects related to art in the format of a book, you have to know certain rules and systems of design. There are a lot of design technicalities that comes into play when working on a book, and you have to go through a lot of trial and error before you end up with something decent. It is definitely a constant learning process. I personally love the art of making quality books that are tactile and where the intelligence behind the design, printing and binding befit the unconventional subject matter and design concepts of the book. It is all about creating a sensible experience through the object. When working on a new book I always try to have an equal emphasis on the editorial content and the book as a physical object. At the end of the day it is always my goal to create books that can be considered actual objects of art with a clear function. If the books are as much nourishment for the mind as cannoli for the eye, people will also feel more attached to it.
BM: You describe yourself as an artist amongst other activities. Where do you stand in the colette artists’ community? Do you feel that you belong to a trend, a specific movement to any extent?
CMA: I try not to think too much of current trends, as it often blocks your creativity and power to innovate. At the moment I am still young and still in school, so I am really just trying to learn and experiment with different artistic mediums. As far as the community of artists that are closely affiliated with colette, I feel super blessed to have had the opportunity to work with such an incredible array of artists on this project. I would never have imagined working with such a talented team as colette and meeting such a diverse range of artists at the age of twenty-one and for that, I am deeply thankful. Colette has always been respected for its close involvement and affinity with the creative industries, so the fact that I have been able to share this creative journey with them is just really incredible. They are and will always be family.
BM: You say that you want “to expand the artistic horizon of Creative Future and explore a more multifaceted array of disciplines within the world of contemporary art and design.” What does it take to achieve that and how will you proceed?
CMA: As mentioned, I think it is important to keep learning and experimenting with different things even if it isn’t within your particular field of expertise. I didn’t know a thing about printing, writing or designing when I started Creative Future in 2011, but I worked hard on perfecting my skills. In addition, I think it is important to take risks and reach outside your own comfort-zone. I know it is a bit cliché to say, but it is just super important to never stop progressing and learning. You should always be a student – even if it is just to yourself.
© Colette x Creative Future