The Skateroom is on a quest to save the children, one skateboard at a time

The Skateroom’s premise is a simple one: Collaborate with some of the biggests underground artists and high-profile estates that the contemporary art scene has to offer, reproduce said artists’ work over a series of beautifully-rendered, fully-functional and wonderfully rare skateboard decks, and sell them to subculture enthusiasts and art collectors the world over. Even if gallerist, philanthropist and founder of The Skateroom, Charles-Antoine Bodson, were to stop there, he would still stand as an expert curator of board-based art and irreverent blurrer of popular culture and fine art boundaries.

Only Charles didn’t stop there. Instead, he teamed up with NGO Skateistan to pave the way for a novel, socially-conscious and ethical breed of artistic entrepreneurship. Working in Afghanistan, Cambodia and now in Johannesburg, both The Skateroom and Skateistan harness the collaborative and communal pull of skateboarding and art to engage with at-risk youths in war-torn and poverty-stricken countries. Again, the premise is a simple one: Donate 20% of each board sale to build skateparks and schools, create nurturing communities and creative outlets for those that have neither, and just let kids be kids.

The decks themselves deftly blur the line between art, skate culture and social activism. From the fevered vibrancy of Jean-Michel Basquiat to the blistering, political commentary of Ai Weiwei, The Skateroom’s curations set the high-brow and the lo-fi on a direct collision course with explosive results. Art curation, counter culture and sobering doses of social realism give the whole enterprise a double authenticity as both socially engaged and artistically relevant.

For all the philanthropic merit and artistic clout of The Skateroom’s endeavours, however, what the initiative truly highlights is the importance of ethical consumerism. It’s a sad truth that consumerism and ethics seldom go hand-in-hand. That The Skateroom is able to appeal to consumers, elevate the artistic merit of skateboard culture, and support children in an engaged, enduring and meaningful way is a searing blow to current trends of consumer apathy.

In practice, Charles-Antoine Bodson has achieved an almost impossible juggling-act between artistic integrity, street credibility, and social engagement, but his premise remains a simple one. It’s a heartfelt, selfless and artistically enriching premise that also has the added charm of, well, saving lives. EJ

Words by Will Halbert
Image Credits by The Skateroom