Antoine Rolin at The Skateroom's ICFF booth
Even among all the classy companies and offerings at this week’s high-end luxury 2018 ICFF furniture fair at New York’s Javits Center, the skateboard decks hanging on the wall of The Skateroom’s exhibition booth still stood out—not only because they seemed objects out of place but because of their pedigree: On display were decks by Andy Warhol, Shepard Fairey and Ai Weiwei, all representing The Skateroom motto “Art as a force for good.”
Specifically, The Skateroom identifies itself as “a social entrepreneurship whose main purpose is to help empower youth using art and skateboarding.”
The Brussels-based organization does so by offering limited editions of artwork on the medium of skateboards at an affordable price, making art available to the greater public with proceeds going to non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The Skateroom’s “affordable art,” noted its rep Antoine Rolin, takes the form of functional skateboard decks designed for wall display by featuring artwork from “socially engaged artists”—directly or through their estates and foundations. Besides Warhol, Fairey and Weiwei, these artists include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Rauschenberg, Albert Oehlen, and Paul McCarthy.
McCarthy, for example, chose 10 of his famous PROPO photoraphs for a limited edition of stateboard decks to finance the first Skateistan skate school in Johannesburg, South Africa. Artist/activist Weiwei likewise launched with The Skateroom a limited edition skateboard deck of his Study of Perspective—White House, part of his Study of Perspective series showing him flipping the bird at various landmark buildings or symbols of authority—this one also marking President Trump’s first 100 days in office.
Weiwei’s designated NGOs are B’Tselem, an organization which promotes respect for human rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories, and Halklarin Koprusu, the Turkey-based Bridging Peoples Association geared toward solidarity and friendship between all peoples on the basis of equality, justice, and freedom.
Rolin explained that through such collaborations with contemporary artists, The Skateroom “democratizes the price of art.”
“By using the skateboard as a canvas, we take art outside of the museum and gallery, and get it seen everywhere,” he said. “But most important, we do this while donating up to 20 percent of the turnover to aid independent NGOs.”
The NGOs are chosen by the artists, or The Skateroom goes ahead and financially supports the NGO Skateistan—the award-winning international non-profit organization empowering children and youth through skateboarding and education in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa.
Rolin cited Skateistan’s Outreach, Skate and Create, Back-to-School and Youth Leadership programs, by which it aims to give youth the opportunity to become leaders for a better world.
“It started in Kabul, Afghanistan, where girls have limited access to sports and education,” said Rolin. “There’s a cultural taboo for girls even for bicycling--but skateboarding is allowed! So it really is ‘art for change’: The Skateroom invites contemporary artists to interpret skate culture by creating art on skateboards, and in doing so, we support nonprofit projects that empower children through skateboarding and art.”
The Skateroom presentation