The Beauty of Imperfection: Daniel Archham 356 Bonsai

The Beauty of Imperfection: Daniel Archham 356 Bonsai




In his latest project, Daniel Arsham bows down to Japanese craftsmanship: Based on his 1955 Porsche 356 Speedster, the American artist has reimagined the nearly 70-year-old sports car – baring the raw materials that make up the car and embracing the car’s rich history through concept. Japanese esthetician Wabi Sabi.


Over the course of two years, Arsham has taken steps to reveal the age and clothing of the car, drawing on the car’s production history, inspired by Arsham’s reverence for Japanese culture and its many craftsmen. “Imperfection” and finding peace in the natural processes of time is accepted in both the raw metallic exterior and the indigo-dyed interior of the 356 Bonsai.

For the exterior of the 356, Arsham stripped all paint from the car, removed the original finish and years of restoration, revealing all welds, pot marks, and natural wear over time. Now, only a layer of linseed oil protects the raw metal from the elements, according to the original Japanese manufacturing processes. On the car’s rear engine grille, Arsham added a lively bonsai tree-covered bronze pattern. However, the polished exterior doesn’t stop at the body, as the artist also found fully-worn original components for the rest of the exterior – from headlight housings to an old license plate.

Although the exterior of the car may look worn out, the 356 Bonsai is fully drivable, with all job-related components, including the original numbered engine, restored to an out-of-factory level. For artwork, Arsham has collaborated with Willhoit Auto Restoration and Bridgehampton Motoring Club.

“The 356 occupies an interesting position in the Porsche catalog as a starting point for the heritage brand,” says Arsham. “The approximately 70-year-old vehicle contains the roots of the modern Porsche brand we know and love in its purest form.”

Textiles rich in tradition and ancient processing techniques

Archham ponders, “Throughout my career, I have looked to Japan as a source of inspiration for their love and dedication to the industry. These sensibilities were the basis for Bonsai 356. We produced all textiles in Japan using traditional artisans.”


356 Bonsai, Arsham Studio, 2022, Porsche AG





For the car’s interior, the artist worked alongside Japanese fashion designers Motofumi ‘Poggy’ Kogi and Yutaka Fujihara to outfit the entire interior in traditional Japanese fabrics from boro blends to Japanese selvedge denim. For the driver and passenger seat, along with the trunk lid, it is made of plaid fabrics dyed indigo. Originally, this Japanese repair technique was used to increase the quality and durability of clothing, while also embracing the natural wear and tear of local workwear. Along with Boro, Arsham has added more indigo-dyed cotton fabrics punctuated by sashiko-stitched stripes on the door edge and seat edge. As the final fabric, Arsham and his team produced Japanese denim for the roof upholstery, to cover the car’s interior. These three fabrics come together to enhance the impact of Wabi Sabi on the vehicle as a whole – an eclectic choice of materials that are meant to age with use and age.

In the trunk, there is a Japanese tatami mat under the spare wheel in the luggage compartment. These rice straw mats are a classic element of Japanese architecture and are usually installed as ground cover in living areas. The relationship between the interior of the car and the architecture of the house is the detail that indicates the artist’s admiration for Omotinashi, like Wabi Sabi, who has a better experience than is shown: the warmth and welcome of guests into the house.

About Daniel Arsham

Daniel Archham was born on September 8, 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in Miami, Florida. As the iconic artist of our time, Arsham breathes new life into everyday life, experimenting structurally to connect past, present, and future in unexpected forms. His work is characterized by subtle changes, particularly as he incorporates objects in order to transform familiar structures. 356 Bonsai is Arsham’s third project to include a vehicle from the Zuffenhausen-based sports car manufacturer. Porsche Japan plans to display 356 bonsai in Tokyo at the end of the year.

Daniel Archham immortalizes his life story in the 911 Turbo

As a child, Daniel Archham spent his time drawing sneakers, cameras and various Porsche models, particularly the legendary 911 Turbo.

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