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Kanye West at Madison Square Gardenvia The New Yorker

What the hell is an Art Dad?

Kanye’s an Art Dad, Luka Sabbat is an Art Dad – but what on earth does that mean? The term’s originators Tremaine Emory and Acyde break it down

If you follow those that Kanye keeps in his inner circle – Virgil Abloh, Theophilus London, Heron Preston – you’ll likely have seen a phrase repeated again and again over the past few weeks: Art Dad. It is an accolade or a term of endearment that has been bandied about by the likes of Angelo Baque (Brand Director of Supreme) and Aaron Bondaroff of Know-Wave, and applied to such figures as Cali Thornhill Dewitt and Andre 3000. It is ostensibly something you would want to be, and a phrase used by people blatantly cooler than you or I. But what the hell actually is an Art Dad?

“Art Dad is a reaction to everything being about 'youth youth youth'” says Tremaine Emory, one of the term's originators. “There’s something to be said for being responsible, having health care (speaking for Americans), taking care of business but still having fun,” he adds. Along with his friend and business partner Acyde, Emory launched No Vacancy Inn earlier this year – a transient space that has since hosted pop-up parties at Tom Sachs’ exhibition spaces, created exclusive t-shirts for Dover Street Market, hosted a number of podcast interviews with the likes of A$AP Nast, and now expanded the lexicon of internet-obsessed culture aficionados. The founders of 'Art Dad' break it down.


Acyde: He might not appreciate this, but he might actually find it funny. We were watching Kanye's Madison Square Garden fashion/album preview. Kanye is pretty into fashion obviously and he likes clothes and has always made a statement through what he wears. And then when he showed up at Madison Square Garden in a baseball cap and a long sleeve Pablo t-shirt... He just didn't care, ’cause obviously he was busy. Like, he’d just had a kid, he had just finished his album and he was putting on a fashion show. That’s kind of an incredible feat to pull off. So maybe getting dressed was the last thing on his mind, but it looked so natural and we were like, ‘Oh, that's an art dad!’ He was just like ‘I'm just showing up to do my job.’ It started off as kind of a joke but it makes sense. Because youth is one thing, and a lot of people get embarrassed about being into fashion at a certain age and drop it. Whereas actually what you do is graduate it and get more subtle.


Tremaine Emory: I guess you could say, like, someone who holds onto their personal style is someone who's also holding on to their dreams. They haven’t let life beat them, they’re still doing what they want to do, and pursuing their hobbies whether it makes them making money or not. It’s not even gender specific, it's just people who handle business but still enjoy life and still live in a moment. Whether that’s still cutting, still painting, or still going playing basketball on Sunday even though you can't really jump no more, whatever. Luka Sabbat, he's an Art Dad and he's 19 years old, but he has his own personal style and his personal viewpoint. He's like a 40-year-old in a 19 year-old-body! So it's a sensibility, about life and about people, style, art and just the world.


Acyde: I remember John Lennon saying that one of the reasons he left The Beatles was that he didn't want to be in a gang when he was 30 years old – because gangs are what teenagers are in. So John Lennon is probably the original Art Dad for that sentence, because he graduated to being a father, an artist and a musician simultaneously and quite naturally. Whereas when you look at Rock'n’rollers or rappers, the antithesis of being a really big rapper or a Rock'n’roller is being a dad, ‘cause the moment you're a dad people are like, “oh you're not interesting anymore” cause you're not out in a club anymore. John Lennon kind of defeated all that really, in a way, while Mick Jagger just kept being that guy. That's what being an Art Dad is: you don't stop being what you were in your 20s, you just develop it, mature it, but you're still you.