Daniel Arsham to Become First Artist to Serve as Creative Director for NBA Team

Ohio native Daniel Arsham is having a historic homecoming. On Tuesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers announced that the artist has been named creative director of the basketball team, making him the person ever to hold that position. It is also a first for the NBA altogether: no artist has ever been given the title, which typically goes to a pop cultural icon like Drake, who acted as artistic director to the Toronto Raptors.

Arsham will be charged with revitalizing the iconic team’s entire brand identity, a task that spans managing the Cavalier’s social media accounts to designing team apparel. The long-term deal also makes Arsham a minority partner in the team, another first for a collaboration between an artist and professional sports franchise.

This is far from the first brand collaborations for Arsham, whose prolific career includes partnerships with Porsche, Dior, and Merce Cunningham. Arsham, who is based in Brooklyn, is also a partner and cofounder of Snarkitecture, a design studio which produces high-end furniture and large-scale installations.
Artists have long formed a part of the Cavaliers’ activities, with their arena already home to an art program privately funded by Dan Gilbert, the Cavaliers’s chairman, and Gilbert’s wife Jennifer. The program features around 100 works from their collection of contemporary artists, including pieces by KAWS, Nina Chanel Abney, and Arsham.

Arsham, who is represented by Perrotin gallery in New York, has gained international recognition for his multimedia practice at the intersection of sculpture and architecture. His best known works are eroded casts of cultural objects, from a Delorean, to VHS tapes, to Romanesque busts. The artist was introduced to the Gilberts through the Detroit-based gallerists Anthony and JJ Curis, who presented work by Arsham at the Cranbrook Art Museum and assembled the Gilbert’s art holdings, known as the Fieldhouse collection.

Though the Cavaliers will be Arsham’s priority, the artist will also collaborate with other sports franchises owned by Gilbert, including the Cleveland Monsters in the American Hockey League, the NBA’s Canton Charge, and the Cavs Legion e-sports team.

“Becoming a big brand in the NBA has historically been about geographic location or having a superstar player,” Grant Gilbert, the Gilberts’ son and the team’s director of brand strategy, told the Wall Street Journal. He added that “no team has taken it upon itself to do the things we’re talking about doing in terms of building a new narrative.”

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