daniel arsham turns his porsche speedster into a wabi-sabi inspired ‘356 bonsai’

Porsche 356 Bonsai by Daniel Arsham

Daniel Arsham stripped down his original 1955 Porsche 356 Speedster to create the Porsche 356 Bonsai, inspired by the Japanese Wabi-Sabi concept as car design retains the natural age and patina of the nearly 70 year old vehicle. Arsham has long been influenced by Japanese culture and the way its skilled artisans pay attention to detail in their traditions. Wabi-sabi, a view on the acceptance of imperfection and transscience, comes to the surface of Daniel Arsham’s Porsche 356 Bonsai as the artist reveals the vehicle’s age and wear through the now stripped raw metal exterior and indigo-hued interior.

Arsham reflects that throughout her career, Japan has crafted her well of influences drawn from the Japanese people’s love and dedication to craftsmanship. He adds that their sensibilities become the foundation of the Porsche 356 Bonsai, even producing all of the textiles used in the vehicle by traditional artisans in Japan. Peering at the exterior of the Porsche 356 Bonsai, Arsham strips away its original finish and years of restoration, washing the paint off the car’s roof, revealing welds, pitting marks and the wear underneath. He applies a coat of linseed oil to protect the raw metal from rust, following the original Japanese manufacturing processes. It enamels a relief in patinated bronze, in the shape of a bonsai, for the rear grille of the engine of the Porsche 356 Bonsai. It continues with the weathered exterior in all original and worn exterior components, from the headlight covers to the decades-old license plate.

images courtesy of Porsche

Work with Japanese artisans and designers

Daniel Arsham worked with Japanese fashion designers Motofumi ‘Poggy’ Kogi and Yutaka Fujihara for the interior of Porsche 356 Bonsai, revisiting the interior with traditional Japanese fabrics ranging from patchwork boro to Japanese selvedge denim. Indigo-dyed boro patchwork tiles appear on the driver and passenger seats as well as the trunk lid. The Japanese mending technique employed extends the quality of the garments while the indigo-dyed cotton fabric punctuated with sashiko stitches highlights the door trim and seat edges. Arsham and his team also produced Japanese denim from Okayama to cover the roof and line the interior of the car. These three fabrics culminate in the Wabi Sabi influence that Arsham imparted to the Porsche 356 Bonsai, a craftsmanship of selectively choosing materials meant to evolve with use and age.

Porsche 356 Bonsai by Daniel Arsham
The Porsche 356 Bonsai is inspired by the Japanese wabi-sabi concept

Evoking the feeling of ‘omotenashi’

A Japanese tatami mat sits in the trunk under the spare wheel in the luggage compartment as an extension of the artist’s homage to Japanese culture. The mat is made of rice straw which is part of the classic element that characterizes Japanese architecture and its home. The interior of the car fits into the architecture of the house in terms of detail thanks to the artist’s reverence for omotenashi (“caring wholeheartedly for the guests”), which he says is better experienced than explained. Daniel Arsham’s fully functional and drivable Porsche 356 Bonsai has been restored to factory standard, in conjunction with Willhoit Auto Restoration and the Bridgehampton Motoring Club.

Porsche 356 Bonsai by Daniel Arsham
Arsham has long been influenced by Japanese culture and its skilled craftsmen

Porsche 356 Bonsai by Daniel Arsham
the interior with traditional Japanese fabrics

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