The Haas Brothers
Inspired by the otherworldly landscape of Joshua Tree National Park in southern California, Los Angeles-based artists and twin brothers SIMON and NIKOLAI HAAS have created a home collection of lovable monsters for L’Objet. Interview by Liviani Putri
The Haas Brothers have taken the art world by storm in the past few years with sculptural works and a fun aesthetic that blur the lines between art and design. Among the twins’ recent triumphs is a home line, the L’Objet Haas Brothers collection, which spans tableware, home décor, textiles and fragrances. It is available in Jakarta at Elite Grahacipta.
Working with Elad Yifrach, the Founder and Creative Director together with the master craftsmen at L’Objet, the brothers have brought to life a family of eccentric creatures with the highest quality of finish and function. Their lovable monsters are wild things that, despite their celestial origins, have somehow made their home in southern California’s eerie Joshua Tree National Park, where they roam free under fierce sun and freezing firmament.
Nikolai and Simon Haas were born in Santa Monica, California in 1984, but grew up in Austin, Texas. Their mother, Emily Tracy, was an opera singer and their father, Berthold Haas, a sculptor. Their older brother Lukas Haas is a much-respected character actor (as a child, he appeared in Witness with Harrison Ford in 1985).
Simon studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, while Nikolai focused on music with his band in Los Angeles. Their first collaborative project together was in 2009, when they created bespoke furniture for Tobey “Spider-Man” Maguire. This project led to other commissions for highprofile clients, including Lady Gaga, Donatella Versace and Peter Marino, all of which allowed the brothers to open their studio in L.A.
Their practice has expanded to include both small and large-scale ssculptures in a wide variety of materials. The Haas Brothers had a solo show at the The Bass Museum of Art in Miami, Florida in 2018 and 2019. They have also been included in group exhibitions at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, the ArtScience Museum in Singapore and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.
Simon and Nikolai gave Prestige an exclusive interview about their partnership, talking about the differences between Los Angeles and Austin, the Joshua Tree environment, their complete lack of sibling rivalry, and why they love to create monsters. Excerpts:
Why did you guys become artists? Nikolai:
I was a construction worker when I was young and learned how to make stuff from it. I just kept doing it until at one point, we were given higher and higher platforms. We started getting more interested in the impact our work had on the people that engaged with it. That’s when we started making art, and the process to the philosophy of the work itself gradually becoming more important to me.
Simon: I became interested in art when I was about eight years old and hanging in my Dad’s painting studio. I would read David Hockney books and fantasise about having his life. I wound up going to school for painting, but have always been fascinated by how things work and tried my hand at architecture in school as well. Niki and I arrived here by having separate interests, but with a singular desire to create things together. It’s a mash-up of everything we love.
How has living in Los Angeles shaped your perspectives?
Nikolai: L.A. is loose and easy, but also a very real place in the world of artistic endeavour. I think we’ve adopted this attitude, as well as an inclination towards a fun aesthetic. Beyond that, when you live in L.A. it’s impossible to ignore the movies, music and the overall culture that’s here.
Simon: We grew up between L.A. and Austin. L.A. gave us our love of pop culture, a sense that you can do anything, and a love for film sets. On the other hand, Austin rubbed off on us even more. There’s a funny stoner/slacker aesthetic that has found its way into our work.
Why do you like monsters and weird creatures so much?
Nikolai: I think our studio has a couple of hallmarks. Our gold hex stool, ceramic accretions and furry beasts could all be considered signatures, depending on how you were introduced to our work. Monsters and imaginative creatures play such a big role in our studio because they allow us to dive head first into fantasy. In fantasy you can say anything you want - and that’s really the whole point. We’ve created a platform where we can make any environment we imagine, and that all started with monsters.
Simon: We love monsters because they are invented and yet relatable. We are able to imbue them with any personality and fantasy traits, yet still make them someone you’d like to get to know.
Tell us about your project with L’Objet, and how Joshua Tree became the inspiration.
Nikolai: We only had a year to complete it, which is pretty fast and furious. But we still had a lot of fun. The inspiration was to create a celestial otherworldly vibe, and Joshua Tree felt like the perfect place to emulate that. Elad, Simon and I have spent a lot of time there because it’s near and dear to our hearts.
Simon: It was wonderful! We wanted our home line to be about the ritual of having friends and family in your home. Both of us have our own ritual of going to Joshua Tree together, because it’s close and a place we visit to get inspired. During that time, we were also going back and forth to Portugal. It was a beautiful meeting of minds between us, and someone (Elad) who cares just as much about beauty and craft as we do.
What’s the message of this collaboration?
Nikolai: The plan was that one could in a sense “visit” Joshua Tree when enjoying our collection. Each time you sat down to this table setting, you would feel a piece of that experience. Joshua Tree is a place that allows a visitor space to experience themselves and discover new thoughts and ideas. We really wanted a part of that to come through in plates and dinnerware, which is no easy task.
Siblings often fight, as we all know. How do you two get along?
Nikolai: I love working with Simon! It’s one of the most satisfying relationships in my life. I’m really proud of what we’ve created together. Of course, we’ve had our difficult moments, but there is no creative partner that will ever come close to the inspiration, honesty and philosophical value that Simon provides for me. It’s also really nice to have someone like Elad be so compatible with the relationship Simon and I have. At this point, we consider Elad a brother. It’s been a really awesome experience.
Simon: Niki and I work really well together. We both know that being brothers is more important than being right, and we both really respect each other’s opinions. We know when one of us has a better idea than the other, and we don’t compete or put our personal wishes ahead of the health of the artwork.
How has the rise of social media affected you?
Nikolai: I spent too much time on Instagram before. But since I have a son now, I don’t have as much time for technology. That being said, I love Procreate on the iPad because I can sketch any free moments I have. Also I enjoy digital scanning, because it allows me to sculpt a maquette (scale model) and then blow it up to any size in any material.
Simon: For me, it hasn’t had much of an impact. I enjoy using Instagram for fun, but our work is so based on hand work that technology has hardly had an impact.
What do you think is the secret to great design?
Nikolai: Oh, man. Great design is in the eye of the beholder. So, I just try to create what I see and feel in my heart. As cheesy as that sounds, that’s the best way to do it. As for inspiration, Simon is number one inside the studio. Then I’d say my son Fox, my wife Djuna and my best friend Johnny Smith. We have a real family in our studio! Everyone that works for us is really special and has rad opinions about the world. Beyond that, I am constantly inspired by all my friends and their seemingly endless creativity.
Simon: I don’t think there is a secret! I am inspired by nature and psychology. It comes down to creating something passionately, and not sacrificing your personal vision.