Cleveland-native artist, Daniel Arsham just joined the Cavaliers family in a first-of-its-kind partnership.
Through an exciting intersection of basketball and art, Arsham will be responsible for the NBA franchise’s visual identity — what the artist describes as a reinvention of what actually qualifies as “art” to blur the line between sport and culture. The appointment was first announced on his Instagram, and comes shortly after the NBA’s confirmation that the upcoming 72-game 2021-2022 season will tip off on December 22.
“Basketball, both as a ball and as a global phenomenon, has been a reoccurring theme in my art practice,” Arsham shares with Forbes. “What can be achieved if we look at the NBA from the perspective of the fans’ visual experience?” His creative tasks include designing on-court apparel and player jerseys, team merchandise design and distribution, banner designs and, of course, a reimagination of the court. Digitally, he’ll provide input for video and graphics across the team’s platforms, and beyond the arena, Arsham will lead efforts in redesigning several public courts throughout Cleveland.
“I am a third-generation Clevelander,” Arsham wrote in a letter to the city of Cleveland on Instagram. “My family can trace its roots back to 1908 when my great-grandfather first arrived as an immigrant to build his life here. He came to this country with nothing, and like many hard-working Clevelanders, he built his business from the ground up. From the rushing waters of Chagrin Falls, to the pizza at Geraci’s and autumn in the Metroparks, Cleveland is a place that has heavily influenced me throughout my life, no matter where my life has led me. The Land is a part of me.”
As one of the most respected contemporary artists today, Arsham’s unique design language is a modern blend of art, architecture and performance. His solo exhibitions and work through his own company, Snarkitecture, have gained notoriety particularly in the realms of pop culture, streetwear and the auto space, thanks to creative partnerships with the likes of Pharrell, Porsche, Dior and Uniqlo. Arsham will be the first artist to assume this type of creative role in the NBA and the first-ever for the Cavaliers, however this isn’t his first rodeo with the team. In 2019, he installed the kinetic Moving Basketball wall sculpture at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, which is the team’s home arena. “The Cavs understand that sports don’t have to be confined to arenas and art doesn’t have to be just in museums,” Arsham explains. “We’re going beyond the traditional structures and norms, to create something entirely new.”
The NBA has increasingly become a trend-setting stage beyond the influence of the game, especially within the world of fashion — its multi-year partnership with Louis Vuitton boasts a menswear capsule and the design of the official trophy case, and for individual athletes like LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, arena arrivals have become concrete catwalks for “tunnel ‘fits”, stirring sartorial buzz and social media virality. Now, with Daniel Arsham at the design helm and converting Cav’ country into a coveted art exhibition, can we anticipate other NBA franchises will want to follow suit? The answer is likely, yes.
“We are beyond excited to welcome Daniel into the Cavs organization, and to be at the forefront of innovation with this new partnership,” said Grant Gilbert, director of brand strategy for the Cavaliers. “Daniel’s singular vision as an artist and creative thinker will take us in thrilling and unexpected new directions and at the same time, ensure that we continue to deliver world-class experiences, both on and off the court, for our community and fans worldwide. This type of partnership has, until now, been unprecedented in sports, and everyone on the team is looking forward to seeing Daniel’s ideas brought to life.”
As part of this long-term collaboration, Arsham will become a minority partner in the franchise, and be responsible for the branding of not only the basketball team but the rest of the organization’s entities, including the Cleveland Monsters (AHL), Canton Charge (NBA G League), and Cavs Legion (NBA 2K) in addition to operating Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.