Monsieur Mosh Pit: That’s whom Dior Homme tapped for its Winter 2017 collection, by enlisting American street artist Dan Witz. In 20 minutes, the realist painter tells Men’s Folio all about the collaboration.
How did this collaboration come about?
Kris Van Assche collects my work and was interested in acquiring a mosh pit painting. When I sent images of available pieces, he reached out to me about a collaboration. Like many artists who come from a street art background, I am wary of brand associations. But my wife asked around, and everyone had very positive things to say about Dior. Eventually, I visited them in Paris, we all got along and I became open to the idea.
What is it about mosh pits that captivate you?
After I got out of art school, I played in post punk-type bands for most of my twenties. At 28, I “retired” from music and went back to making art full time. I was worried that staying home and painting would lack the same excitement as performing, and that my life and work would become boring and safe, or that I would lose my edge. And as an art student, I’d admired baroque art – all that chaos and energy felt very familiar, not just from my days playing in bands but from coming of age in the early 1980s in New York City. Painting mosh pits seemed like an apt way to explore this. From start to finish, the whole process of producing these paintings turned out to be ridiculously challenging, which I suppose satisfied my need to be living close to the edge.
How different was the work process for the Dior Homme project?
The Dior Homme collaboration actually folded nicely with my normal activities. A lot of my time is spent travelling and doing street art. Last summer, I was in Paris and was able to visit the Dior studio. It’s an amazing place and they were very hospitable. As for my actual process, besides working from photographs (I use Photoshop to organise my compositions), I’m a fairly traditional realist painter.
Were there any learning points?
That I should listen to my wife more. If it had been up to me, I probably wouldn’t have been part of this project. And I would have missed out on a great experience.
How does it feel to have your work celebrated by Dior Homme fans all over the world now?
The whole fashion show in Paris was ridiculously surreal – even for my life. This was the same weekend that Trump was inaugurated, and the resistance hardcore vibe seemed to make sense in that foreboding atmosphere. When all was said and done, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at how cool the clothes were. All Dior Homme’s choices – the draping, the muted colour palette, the scale – I totally approve of. Even the sequinned suit worked so well. But yes, this rates as one of the weirdest experiences I’ve ever had.
Would you wear anything from the collection?
That sequinned suit! But in my personal life, I’m pretty much the opposite of flamboyant, so only at an art opening for my work. Or, maybe, at my 60th birthday party, which is coming soon – Hi, Kris!