Daniel Arsham customizes the Porsche 356 “Bonsai” through the Japanese aesthetic concept Wabi Sabi

2 mins read
Daniel Arsham Porsche 356 "Bonsai"

A 1955 Porsche 356 Speedster modified to expose its raw materials. This is the new work of American artist Daniel Arsham, based on the Japanese aesthetic concept Wabi Sabi.

Great believer in the concept of time travel, Daniel Arsham likes to stage what he describes as the future relics of the present. So on this nearly 70-year-old sports car – one of less than 4,000 Porsche 356 Speedsters still in existence worldwide – the man dubbed “the architect of the future” worked for two years to reveal the vehicle’s age and wear, through Wabi Sabi, the art of imperfection. Wabi-sabi (侘寂), a Japanese term for an aesthetic and spiritual concept that celebrates the imperfection of things, and focused on the notion of beauty and the passage of time.

The acceptance of imperfection and finding peace in the natural processes of time came through in both the stripped-down raw metal exterior and the indigo-tinted interior of the 356 Bonsai.

The 356 sits in such an interesting position within the Porsche catalog as the starting point for the heritage brand,” said Arsham. “The nearly 70-year-old vehicle contains the roots of the modern Porsche brand that we know and love in the purest form.

Working in collaboration with Willhoit Auto Restoration and the Bridgehampton Motoring Club, Daniel Arsham stripped all of the car’s paint, removing the original finish and years of restoration, revealing all of the welds, pit marks and natural wear over time. On the stripped body, the artist applied a layer of linseed oil to protect the raw metal from the elements, in a Japanese craft tradition. And, to further accentuate the effect of patina, the wear and tear of time, Arsham added well-worn, original components to the rest of the exterior – from headlight covers to vintage license plates – as well as restored all function-related components, including the original numbered engine, to off-the-factory floor level.

For the vehicle’s interior, the artist worked alongside Japanese fashion designers Motofumi “Poggy” Kogi and Yutaka Fuji to dress the entire interior in traditional Japanese fabrics, from boro to patchwork to selvedge Japanese denim. For example, boro was used for the driver’s and passenger’s seat and the trunk lid; indigo-dyed cotton fabric, punctuated with cross-stitched lines on the door trim and seat edges; and Japanese denim to line the roof, covering the entire interior of the car.

In the trunk, a Japanese tatami mat sit under the spare wheel in the luggage compartment. Made of rice straw, these mats are a classic element of Japanese architecture, and are usually fitted as a floor
covering in living areas. The connection between the car interior and home architecture was a detail that nods to Arsham’s admiration of omotenashi, like wabi-sabi, better experienced than explained:
warmth and the welcoming of guests into a household.

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Daniel Arsham Porsche 356 "Bonsai"
Daniel Arsham Porsche 356 "Bonsai"
Daniel Arsham Porsche 356 "Bonsai"
Daniel Arsham Porsche 356 "Bonsai"
Daniel Arsham Porsche 356 "Bonsai"
Daniel Arsham Porsche 356 "Bonsai"
Daniel Arsham Porsche 356 "Bonsai"
Daniel Arsham Porsche 356 "Bonsai"
Daniel Arsham Porsche 356 "Bonsai"
Daniel Arsham Porsche 356 "Bonsai"
Daniel Arsham Porsche 356 "Bonsai"
Daniel Arsham Porsche 356 "Bonsai"

© Daniel Arsham