Søren Solkær Interview

September 11, 2017 10:00 AM

Stepping out of a cab into the urban symphony of Midtown, the entryway to The Quin Hotel was easy to spot— with classic architecture and bright satin flags swaying slowly in the summer breeze. There was a new exhibit on display called Heartbeat City, featuring photographs of the most recognizable symbols of New York, all with a distinct tone and colorful whimsy. Reminiscent of the iconic screen prints of the 60s, the modern, elegant lobby of The Quin had been transformed into a setting of cosmopolitan celebration. After exploring the lobby display and all of the other art locations throughout the hotel, I was escorted to interview Søren Solkær, the artist behind the dynamic photographs.   

 

Audrey Rose at TWELV: Can you tell me a little more about your exhibit Heartbeat City? 

Søren Solkær: Heartbeat City is the title for the whole lobby installation, but it’s mainly inspired by my new work. “Beat City” was the name of the first music video I ever did with The Ravenettes, and part of it was shot in New York. So it goes back to the late 90s or early 2000s. And the “Heart” part came from my love for New York. I’ve come back here maybe forty or fifty times. This image that I did of Nick Walker (also when I came to The Quin for the first time) had the very iconic heart in it, too. 

 

A: What were your main sources of inspiration for the project?

SS: All of the work is done in New York City– whether its a photograph taken from an airplane, one of street artists or some of the most iconic spots in New York, or shots from the 90s. All the photographs are New York, as seen by me, across many projects and during quite a long period of time.   

 

A: What keeps drawing you back to New York? 

SS: I’m here a few times every year, and I know the city really well. Not quite like a local, but almost. I’m here that often. I’ve shot a lot in the streets, so I know a lot of the buildings and corners and the different neighborhoods. There’s just nothing like it. If I haven’t visited for 6 months, I find a reason to come back.

 

A: How have you experienced New York change since you first started coming here?

SS: It’s a good question, because it’s one that I can’t answer very well. I think I’ve changed a lot in the same period. When I started coming here, I was sleeping on friends’ couches. But I’ve always been mainly interested in the art and the street life, and I don’t really know how it’s changed– it’s just always been exciting! It’s always been this unlimited source of inspiration for me.  

 

A: You originally started working as a photographer with Danish rock bands in the 90s. How was that experience?

SS: I started with Danish bands, but after a couple years of photographing in Copenhagen, I started working with English bands. It doesn’t take a long time to get acquainted with all the bands in Copenhagen– it’s a small place– so once I ran out of new exciting bands, I started working in London. 

 

A: And that was when you transitioned from photographing mainly musicians to working more with artists and shooting street photography?

SS: Yes, but I’ve always worked with artists. Before I shot musicians, I did a project where I just photographed photographers. And in this work I photographed forty-five photographers. I’ve always been interested in working with other creatives, whether it be visual artists or actors or musicians. 

 

— D.K. Johnston, the art curator at The Quin, joins the conversation. He sits across from Soren on the couch. After we all take a little break for small talk, we resume the interview. 

 

A: Søren, what is it about The Quin that attracted your attention as an artist? What made this the perfect place to exhibit your work? 

SS: It was a place that I started hearing about last year. I had never stayed here in the past, but some friends of mine showed here. I learned about the art program and that The Quin has a special relationship with artists. And then one day, Darren [D.K. Johnston] called me, and that’s really how it all started. 

 

A: Did you have a say in where you wanted your art to be showcased within the hotel? Or was that more of the curator’s expertise?

D.K. Johnston: My hope is to have more and more different fingerprints on the visual process and the experience for the guests, so for someone with the aesthetic and design vision that Soren has, it was really mostly his own perspective on where to place things. We shared the history of different experiments that we’ve tried at the hotel– now that we’re almost to 20 of these solo shows– so it was a good base to work off of layout-wise, too.

SS: Yes, I had a pretty different plan when I arrived the first time, so actually it was something that developed over time, which made it really custom-made for the space. And the opportunity came up to show some work in the penthouse, and suddenly the hotel opened up even more, which was great. 

 

A: You cite pop art as a source of influence for Heartbeat City, and we’ve seen pop art in its purest form shift towards something that’s more mass produced and used across immense media platforms. What are your thoughts on this evolution?

SS: I suppose it was pretty shocking when Andy Warhol did it, because he was using commercial printing techniques to create art– and that was shocking. But now I think it’s been absorbed, especially by street artists. Almost every other street artist has a studio practice as well, so these print-making techniques have really become part of it. Of course you can see Warhol’s fingerprints all over today’s art world even though it was many decades ago that he started doing it. I had a few different ideas for this new project about New York, but I ended up not going the printing way. Instead I did these multiple exposures that had been inspired by pop art prints, but using my camera.  

DK: When I start to hear pop art tossed around in a dialogue on street art, my aspirations lean towards tying the two movements together. A lot of street artists have the same challenges that pop artists faced in the 60s, 70s and 80s– challenges of defining a movement. I tend to find that the same players in the movement have little to do with each other as artists, other than that they were alive at the same time. And street art struggles with that same kind of loose connectivity. There is a vast amount of nuance. This art is all collected and sold by the same group of people and followed by the same group of admirers. And pop art had this too, and it took a long time to formulate a valuable market around it. I think in street art, you have a movement that was born out of graffiti, and you have writers on that side like TAKI 183 or Cornbread who really have no commercial viability, but every person in the graffiti industry has to tip their cap to them for opening up the door. And I think that Soren has helped memorialize a lot of these artists.

 

A:  Do you see politics as a major driving force in the street art community?

SS: They are driven by many many different things. Some are more aesthetics. Some are more political. Some are ego-driven. There are some artists that if you go into a certain kind of bar, be it in Prague, London, New York, you know you’ll find their stickers in the toilet. Say with Shepard Fairey and Obey, his stickers are found everywhere. 

DK: And a lot of that is his tribe. His admirers buy his stickers and they’re proliferating his ideas. It’s pretty interesting. I’ve been working with all these artists and representing them for many years, and Soren has photographed many of them. This continuity and now being able to share the backstories and evolution has been a lot of fun. But the hope of trying to memorialize what’s going on here has been a real challenge, and Soren took on that challenge over a long period of time and did such a thoughtful job of telling their stories and capturing their work and the importance of it– I think it’s a cornerstone for the movement. 

 

A: As an artist, what kind of impression do you want to make on people when they see your work? 

SS: When we first talked about what I would show here, it wasn’t going to be work based on New York. It would be bringing another part of the world to this hotel to show what it’s like there. But, I felt like it made more sense to showcase New York because people staying at this hotel are from everywhere in the world. And at least while we’re all staying here, this is what we have in common. I wanted to offer my view and love for the city. That’s what I wanted to share. 

DK: When we got started, we wanted to focus on celebrating the art heritage here. I compare it to the difference between hanging up taxidermy trophies and actually wanting to live with animals. You can hang cool art on the walls, but if you really want to feel like the creative class is here, then they have to be here. It’s a delicate balance. We really wanted to live with giraffes and rhinos and art in its natural habitat, and we’ve done it. The artists that work with The Quin interact with the guests and are involved in a lot of the events. That’s a level of authenticity that you don’t often see. 

 

A: Both street artists and musicians often have reputations for their somewhat volatile personalities. How has your experience been working in such close collaboration with them? 

SS: After having worked with musicians for so many years, I eventually worked with most of the ones I wanted to work with. And I also found that it was getting harder and harder to express myself in music photography, because there was more and more control. The higher you get, the more restrictive it is. Suddenly, there would be people at shows making sure you were where you were supposed to be and that just doesn’t interest me. The reason I started doing music photography was because I thought I had a lot of creative freedom there, but I felt like it had become very commercialized and controlled. During those years, street art started popping up everywhere. I started seeing all these great murals going up, and I started recognizing the work and recognizing the names, but I would know nothing about the artist. It’s so different from other art forms, because you don’t know what the artist looks like– you don’t know them. So I felt like this was the new place where the rock n’ roll types would go and express themselves. And I was right. The street artists are twenty times more rock n’ roll than the rockstars. 

 

A: Was it challenging to transition into the street art world? 

SS: In street art, at first, no one knew who I was. Basically I wanted to get back to creative freedom and creative collaboration. And that’s whats been really wonderful about this project. I’ve gotten to work with some amazing people with great ideas and crazy energy. And they’re up for anything. The second artists I shot for this project was like, “No, my face can’t be in there!” and I had never thought about that before. So, I had to find a new way of doing it, and the fact that so many street artists didn’t want their faces in the frame became a creative obstacle. But it made this project more interesting. 

 

A: So you went from music to the new rock n’ roll, which you feel is street art. What do you think will be the new new rock n’ roll?

SS: Probably the not-so-established street artists. Things change when you get established, but I think the difference between going into a rehearsal with three guys and doing illegal work at night on a roof, risking your life and your freedom, to tell the world your name or about your dreams– I think it’s a much wilder thing to do than get a hit on the radio. 

 

A: How do you think this style of photography, capturing street artists, will change in the future?

SS: I’ve done almost all of the shoots out on my own, just me and the artist, with maybe my girlfriend filming. And that was it. It was super simple. And it’s very likely that it won’t be possible to do that in 5 years. An army of photographers want to come up with the artists in the lift when they’re trying to finish the wall. Street artists are becoming stars, so it’s changing for sure. I think it’ll be harder to do what I’m working on in the future, but that’s the beauty of it, too. It happens in the streets. Anyone can go out and talk to the artist. And I think that’s pretty cool.

 

Edited for length and clarity.

 

 

WRITTEN BY AUDREY ROSE

EDITED BY HOLLIS DE LANEY

 

SPECIAL THANKS: BURNS PATTERSON AND THE QUIN HOTEL

PHOTO CREDIT: SØREN SOLKÆR

 

 

related posts

NIAN FISH INTERVIEW

Nian Fish, creative director of KCD, has been, for decades, a pivotal figure in the fashion world, assembling and producing fashion shows that have become cultural benchmarks unto themselves, such...

September 17, 2019 6:45 PM  |  People

TOM PECHEUX INTERVIEW

TWELV got a special interview from Tom Pecheux. Read as we host interviews and explore the lives of artists who shape the final product - directors, fashion designers, stylists, ...

August 20, 2019 3:17 PM  |  People

ANTHONY VACCARELLO INTERVIEW

Anthony Vaccarello was considered as one of the brightest new talent in fashion: he was part of this new generation of talents the whole industry has kept an eye on to see them grow, to see them...

July 24, 2019 12:03 AM  |  People

Why is Everyone in Hollywood Buzzing About Actress Malgosia Garnys?

Have you ever felt like you were beautiful and powerful and the universe was conspiring in your best interest, and your opportunities were endless because you’ve lost people you loved...

March 02, 2019 10:00 PM  |  People

R.I.P Chek Wu

We at TWELV are deeply saddened to announce the passing of talented photographer, boundless free-spirit, and our friend, Chek Wu.

November 28, 2018 12:00 PM  |  People

GatherNYC: Everything We Love About Church With No Weird Stuff

GatherNYC is Everything We Love About Sunday Service With None of the Weird Stuff

 

November 17, 2018 3:00 PM  |  People

NEW TYPE #33: Catherine Casias Inteview

If fashion is an expression of experiences, Catherine Casias has a lot of area to cover. She has excelled as an Olympic volleyball player, a philosophy major, and a fine artist....

October 12, 2018 4:00 PM  |  People

Party Czar Carmen D’Alessio, Empress of the Sun and the Queen of the Night

You may not know Carmen D’Alessio by name.

October 08, 2018 10:00 PM  |  People
Shot by CHAMA

IKEMEN #39: JORDAN HENRIQUEZ

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

August 28, 2018 5:00 PM  |  People

IKEMEN #38: WARREN KAY

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

August 07, 2018 5:00 PM  |  People

NEW TYPE #32: ALEXANDER ROYS INTERVIEW

"Introducing an innovative Men’s designer to inspire you with the visions of future and the rise of technology."

June 26, 2018 4:00 PM  |  People
Silvia Mella (right) with Thomas De Bruyne for "House of Molteni"

Branding in the Worlds of Art and Commerce According to Silvia Mella

Branding is everything. For an entrepreneur, it is the difference between viability and bankruptcy. On social media, we are all our own brands.

May 21, 2018 4:00 PM  |  People
Jackie Yang, Creative Director of Chelsea and Walker. Video Still.

Interview: Jackie Yang, Creative Director of Chelsea and Walker

TWELV sat down with Jackie Yang, Creative Director of Chelsea and Walker, in the brand’s New York City...

May 21, 2018 2:00 PM  |  People
Krystal and Marilyn Lavoie

New Type #31: Angela Mitchell – Krystal and Marilyn Lavoie Interview

We are living in the age of fast fashion, and even Europe’s most storied luxury brands have been moving their factories to Asia to reduce costs.

May 17, 2018 3:00 PM  |  People

Ikemen #37: Dominik Halas

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

May 03, 2018 12:00 PM  |  People
Bianca Allen, Carolina Sarria, and Samantha Deller

New Type #30: Carolina Sarria & Bianca Allen Interview

Both Carolina Sarria and Bianca Allen knew they wanted to become fashion designers from a young age.

April 16, 2018 5:00 PM  |  People

Interview & Backstage: Christian Siriano Celebrates 10 Years in Fashion

After the successful launch of his book Dresses to Dream About, a decade-anniversary celebration on the runway, and a whirlwind of striking celebrity looks on the red carpet of...

March 09, 2018 11:00 AM  |  People
Jackie Astier. Photo: BFA.

New Type #29: Jackie Astier Interview

Astier places its identity within the advanced adaptation skills of the modern New York woman.

February 24, 2018 11:00 AM  |  People

INTERVIEW: Meet Kiko Arai, Miss Japan-turned Face of Balmain and Zara

Kiko Arai hails from Osaka, Japan, and after winning the title of Miss Japan 2012, the now 27-year old is captivating a new audience– the fashion world.

February 06, 2018 12:11 AM  |  People

Interview: Parisian Designer Frédéric Robert's Debut Shoe Collection "ME.LAND"

A vibrant brand of Italian-made shoes for men is emerging this year as one-to-watch.

January 26, 2018 10:00 AM  |  People
Maxime Tiliouine and Quentin Hernandez

New Type #28: the Design Duo Behind Maxime Hernandez Interview

The streetwear phenomenon in the fashion establishment is not slowing down anytime soon.

January 12, 2018 2:00 PM  |  People

MICHEL NAFZIGER INTERVIEW

With a wealth of experience shooting some for some of fashion's most renowned clients (Yves Saint Laurent, Guy Laroche), ...

December 29, 2017 2:00 PM  |  People

IKEMEN #36: Jérôme LaMaar

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

November 27, 2017 12:00 PM  |  People
Alcone Backstage Set Designed by Roger Padilha. Photo: Santiago Felipe.

Alcone 65th Anniversary @Capitale: Interview with CEO Maria Stewart

No make-up company has a more storied history firmly ensconced in New York showbiz.

November 13, 2017 4:00 PM  |  People

Ikemen #35: Zaher Saleh

IKEMEN (ē´k´mɛn): Japanese Slang

"REALLY, REALLY, RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING PEOPLE"

October 31, 2017 5:00 PM  |  People
Keith Kattner

Interview: Neurosurgeon-turned-Artist Keith Kattner on the Surgery of Classical Painting

Dr. Keith Kattner does not have the typical background one would expect of a successful neurosurgeon.

October 25, 2017 4:00 PM  |  People

New Type #27: Nika Tang Interview

San Fransisco-based designer Nika Tang has emerged as boldly committed to her ideology as to her pieces. Her namesake brand centers...

October 06, 2017 11:00 AM  |  People

TWELV ARCHIVE JOE McKenna INTERVIEW "Call Me Joe"

CALL ME JOE

October 04, 2017 4:00 PM  |  People

Interview: Becky Donnelly's Fashion Creatures

Quirky girl from Dublin with a penchant for drawing fantasy creatures relocates to London after art school.

October 02, 2017 12:00 PM  |  People

New Type #26: Herman – Raif Adelberg Interview

Authenticity.

September 29, 2017 11:00 AM  |  People
Brooke Candy & Kaimin. Photo: Mark Hunter

Kaimin Interview & S/S18 "Slut from the Future" Presentation @ the Top of the Standard

Pulsing with a heavy beat and hazy with a deep rouge glow, the Top of the Standard is as glamorous a place to be as ever. And tonight it is packed with partygoers.

September 28, 2017 10:00 AM  |  People

Yasmina Alaoui Interview & Opera Gallery Exhibition

Yasmina Alaoui burst onto the international arts scene in 2003 with "Tales of Beauty," a collection of nude...

September 11, 2017 5:00 PM  |  People
Søren Solkær

Søren Solkær Interview

Stepping out of a cab into the urban symphony of Midtown, the entryway to The Quin Hotel was easy to spot— with classic architecture and...

September 11, 2017 10:00 AM  |  People

Kyra Ross of Mona Liza Studios Interview

TWELV sat down with the charismatic Kyra Ross, founder of Mona Liza Studios which falls under his larger moniker "...

August 28, 2017 11:00 AM  |  People
Photo by Giorgio Codazzi for Gioia Magazine

Ira Sumbaeva Interview

TWELV sits down with model Ira Sumbaeva to give a glimpse into the story of the cutest Belarusian...

August 25, 2017 8:00 AM  |  People

Pages

SITE BY: monocomplex©Marbles & Marbles International Inc. Drupal Development by: DivDiv, NYC
▲ back to top ▲