SA artist Robin Rhode's designs will grace limited-edition skateboards

Now you can bust a move on a piece of art

27 June 2017 - 12:55 By Sean O'Toole
Robin Rhode has produced five limited edition skateboard designs based on his sequential photographs depicting masked figures engaging with wall-drawn graffiti.
Robin Rhode has produced five limited edition skateboard designs based on his sequential photographs depicting masked figures engaging with wall-drawn graffiti.
Image: Robin Rhode

South African artist Robin Rhode has partnered with Skateroom, a Belgian charity that commissions artist-designed skateboards to support education initiatives in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Johannesburg.

Berlin-based Rhode has produced five designs based on his sequential photographs depicting masked figures engaging with wall-drawn graffiti. Individually priced at R5,000 and limited to an edition of 100 for each design, the skateboards can be ordered online from Skateroom.

Founded in 2012 by Belgian social entrepreneur and skateboard collector Charles-Antoine Bodson, Skateroom has previously partnered with a roster of A-list artists to produce skateboard designs.

They include Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, pop artist Andy Warhol, Japanese photographer Araki, American painters Jean-Michel Basquiat and Robert Rauschenberg, and graphic artist Shepard Fairey.

Skateroom is finalising a new skateboard project with Johannesburg photographer Roger Ballen, due to launch at the September opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town.



Cynics take note: the initiative has generated tangible results. The sale of skateboard designs by maverick Los Angeles artist Paul McCarthy raised R2.6-million ($200,000) for an educational facility in central Johannesburg.

Skateroom is not directly involved in the roll-out of infrastructure, but instead partners with the Berlin sport-based educational charity Skateistan.

Founded in 2007 by Australian Oliver Percovich, Skateistan is best known for its pioneering skate school in Kabul, which opened in 2009. It has served as a model for subsequent urban interventions combining skateboarding with educational outcomes.

A genre-hopping artist whose work is rooted in the "urban experience" and enigmatically interprets street culture, Rhode's interest in skateboarding is longstanding.

One of Robin Rhodes's skateboard designs.
One of Robin Rhodes's skateboard designs.
Image: Robin Rhodes

In 2003, at the start of his stellar rise to international prominence, Rhode participated in "How Latitudes Become Forms" at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. For the show's educational outreach he created a drawing of a skateboard that members of the centre's teen arts council attempted to ride.

Rhode's big idea of making a static drawing ''function" owes a great deal to his experiences at RW Fick Secondary School in Bosmont, west of Johannesburg. Older students would create chalk-drawn motifs, of bicycles for instance, with which younger students had to engage during initiation rites.

The joyful absurdity of Rhode's transformative adult work, which straddles drawing, performance, photography and film and often involves adolescent collaborators, has won him many admirers.

The Louis Vuitton Foundation, a ritzy art museum established by France's richest man, Bernard Arnault, owns two of his early video animations, New kids on the bike (2002-04) and He got game (2004).

The foundation, which is currently  hosting a blockbuster summer exhibition series titled Art/Afrique, the new  studio, is showing these works in an upstairs room.

A week before he was due in Paris for the exhibition's opening in late April, Rhode's 14-year-old son had a serious skateboard accident.

"He was in hospital for a few days, but is okay now," said Rhode at the Paris opening.

Rhode also proudly announced that he was a "citizen of Skateistan", a status that flows from donating to the charity.

• This article was originally published in The Times.

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