Richard Orlinski: French contemporary art’s big disruptor

When not placing his large animal sculptures in the most unexpected places, Richard Orlinski also produces pop music. This year, he expands to hospitality and a Netflix series

May 11, 2023 12:44 pm | Updated 05:47 pm IST

French contemporary artist Richard Orlinski

French contemporary artist Richard Orlinski | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Richard Orlinski can be termed a relative newcomer in the art world. He burst on the scene in 2004 with a bright red resin sculpture of a crocodile. Today, he has the distinction of having the highest global sales of any French contemporary artist (since 2015).

Taking inspiration from pop culture and everyday objects, his sculptures — especially the animal-themed ‘Born Wild’ series — stand for freedom, power and passion. While his pieces can be spotted in the homes of the rich and famous, from actor Sharon Stone, musicians Justin Bieber and David Guetta and footballers Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema, Orlinski enjoys being a people’s artist, exhibiting his work in unusual places. One can spot his ‘Wild Kong’ gorilla sculpture on the Croisette in Cannes, his crocodiles in the Miami Design District, and his five-metre-tall bear on the ski slopes of Courchevel.

Last year, Richard Orlinski designed a gorilla-shaped trophy for the French Grand Prix

Last year, Richard Orlinski designed a gorilla-shaped trophy for the French Grand Prix | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“The world of art was not expecting me,” he shares, on the fringes of Watches and Wonders (W&W) in Geneva. “So, I had to work things out a bit like Harry Potter. I had to take other ways to explore and to succeed. For instance, I’m also involved in music, design, comedy, and publishing. The various collaborations [think BIC pens, Simba and a faceted blue Mickey Mouse for Disneyland Paris, etc] bring me more opportunities to spread my wings.” His latest collab, the Classic Fusion Chronograph Orlinski Titanium timepiece by watch brand Hublot (launched at W&W), incorporates the Frenchman’s iconic angular architecture. Edited excerpts from a freewheeling chat.

What does ‘Born Wild’ mean to you?

It suggests that we have to learn from animals. They kill for something and we kill for nothing. They follow the natural circle of life. We need to learn from them.

You are a rule-breaker when it comes to your various passions.

Yes, I have so many other things to explore. I’m a DJ as well, and I have produced music [his first single, ‘Heartbeat’, came out in 2017 with singer Eva Simons]. The pandemic was very complicated for urban musicians, so in 2021 I reached out to them for a show for TV5MONDE. [The documentary series showcased urban culture and highlighted the plight of street artists; many were given a platform to show off their work.] It was a very interesting project. I will also be playing in a few gigs this summer.

In late April, American DJ Steve Aoki released Year Zero, a vinyl-only hardcore compilation with Orlinski. It is the latest in the ‘12on12’ series, which aims to connect music and art through collectible records.

Your sharp-edged 3D sculptural lines have found a natural connect with luxury watch brand Hublot since 2017. Whose idea was that?

I met Ricardo Guadalupe [CEO of Hublot] seven years ago and it was obvious very soon that we shared the same values, the same DNA. After the meeting, it was easy because they gave me a white canvas to do whatever I wanted. I was inspired by the brand values of Hublot [and how they use precious materials to create exceptional products]. Being a watch collector myself, it was easy to put it all together.

Richard Orlinski with Ricardo Guadalupe, the CEO of Hublot

Richard Orlinski with Ricardo Guadalupe, the CEO of Hublot | Photo Credit: Laurent Xavier Moulin

Classic Fusion Chronograph Orlinski Titanium 

Classic Fusion Chronograph Orlinski Titanium 

You’ve recently signed on a project in Egypt.

We are doing a project for Magnum Properties in Egypt, designing the interior of their new tower, which will be one of the biggest towers in the world. We have been developing our skill in designing hotels — there are many other projects all over the world. We want to provide guests with a reason to choose a hotel, from small things such as a special Orlinski menu or special pieces like the room key as a souvenir.

What is the next big thing you are planning?

We are creating a fiction series on Netflix, loosely inspired by my life. It is fiction because I would like to keep it pacey for my audience — they should be eager to watch the next episode more than knowing about the real Orlinski.

Will you play yourself in the series?

Yes, I think so. But we also have some big actors who have shown interest in this project.

The writer is founder-president of The Horologists.

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