Ben Jones On His Art Basel Installation for Adidas

Ben Jones On His Art Basel Installation for Adidas

The footwear brand leaves its mark on the annual art fair with massive party, Ben Jones installation, and limited-edition sneaker.

The footwear brand leaves its mark on the annual art fair with massive party, Ben Jones installation, and limited-edition sneaker.

Text: Nick Remsen

The Miami Marine Stadium is one of those oddball Magic City relics that lives on, despite the area’s constant development. Located on the Rickenbacker Causeway—en route to tony Key Biscayne—this strange brutalist arena, now a hulk of humidity-stained concrete, is where skate kids break onto the roof to smoke weed, where vandals have left myriad graffiti tags, and where, last night, adidas hosted a major Art Basel blowout to fete a gigantic commissioned piece by the artist Ben Jones. (Jones created a video installation of lo-fi, repeated nineties-esque graphics that was subsequently projected against the Stadium’s vaulted overhangs.)

The day before, in buzzing Wynwood—the arts neighborhood in midtown Miami—Jones said: “The static electricity in the air, the color, it’s real. Being here is definitely a thing.” The testament ended up aligning nicely with his concept—one could feel a kinetic throb in the space as his piece aired above. “Things are different now, though,” he added. “My first time at Basel, we drove down for a project that Jeffrey Deitch was doing. We had a car full of cardboard and house paint. I think we slept in the exhibition space.”

Said difference is palpable amongst Basel-goers who have seen the show morph from small and insular and mildly branded to gigantic and popular and commercially saturated. But adidas’s involvement was smart this time around; they pulled off something fresh with the project, and even though the Stadium is a fair hike from the beach, it was worth it.

The event also served to kickstart a greater company campaign around adidas’s EQT product line, new merchandise of which drops in January. They did introduce a limited edition Art Basel edition sneaker, which they released in a series of public giveaways on Wednesday night. It also featured a panel moderated by System Magazine with Jones, model and activist Adwoa Aboah, and rapper Pusha-T, who later performed. 

But Jones’s work was the star of the night. “There was this great idea to look at a body of work and design language from the nineties, the original era of EQT,” he said. (The EQT line first came out during the decade, and was an exercise in paired-back restraint—the minimum needed for maximum impact.) “adidas really had a strict manifesto of purpose and of function,” Jones continued. “When you look at it now, it was ahead of its time.”

So how did that manifest in his video? “I indulged in the technology of the era. As an artist I always kind of default to working with early computer graphics, those primitive, bad computer programs.” And where did it most correlate with adidas’s aesthetic ethos? “It comes down to limitations. Sometimes, limitations are a great way to define purpose.” 

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