With a influential aesthetic that blends high design and low fidelity, Palace Skateboards’ presence in the skate world has quickly become ubiquitous. Grainy VHS filmed clips, dance beat heavy soundtracks, an all-around fun looseness and penchant for triangles, has created a highly mimicked brand identity. In an era of arbitrary collaborations, Palace’s choices stand out and make sense -- even if they seem tenuous at first glance. Their latest work with the Tate Britain Museum for a deck series could be their boldest yet.
Having worked with Reebok on a series of sneakers, including a vulcanized revamp of their classic Workout Low this past year, and connecting their love of clean design and football by working with Umbro, Palace has shown that they want their collaborations to be more than co-branding. In speaking with owner Lev Tanju, it’s obvious that the motives behind who they partner with aren’t solely based on exposure or even an immediate relationship.
"I don't see Palace connected to fine art in any way,” Tanju said of the choice to work with the Tate Britain on boards inspired by the work of John Martin. "I think the inspiration for the collab was more to do with the Tate Britain trying to work on some projects to get younger people into the gallery. It’s a honor for me to do something and exhibit at the Tate Britain, and if it helps direct younger people through their doors, then that's all I care about."
In a video explaining the collaboration, Tanju is seen aiming analog tape video cameras at Martin’s painting "The Great Day of His Wrath," one of the works incorporated into the board series, before projecting the filmed images over a sculpture, creating a entirely new work for the deck graphics. He also insists that there’s entirely no use of Photoshop during the process. The choice was simple for Tanju -- he selected Martin’s work because he had been a fan of his since seeing his paintings on art school trips.
The results of Tanju’s labor are striking, preserving the dramatic spirt of Martin’s painting, while also paying homage to the work. It’s that passion, devotion to aesthetics, and desire to do something different with Palace that makes the company’s output both championed and copied. For Tanju, it’s also about preserving the spirt of Palace, "Everything we do we are super excited about and want to do. It's important to not just take the biggest check and do a deodorant collaboration."
Though there’s an obvious seriousness and attention to the brand’s aesthetic and direction, Palace is a skate brand and Tanju and the team always appear to be genuinely enjoying skateboarding, not killing themselves for a clip or coming off overly serious. It’s something that he attributes to his personality and the overall closeness of the team. As with any form of humor and wit that makes its way across the ocean to the United States, sometimes that comedic sense can be misconstrued. Tanju himself isn’t a fan of being overly jokey and doesn’t think the highly corporate world of present day skateboarding would benefit from taking itself less seriously. "I don't particularly like loads of lightheartedness and sarcasm in skate companies," he said. “And I don't think that's the main thing missing in corporate companies either -- they’re not missing stuff necessarily, they’re just fake and engineered to sell stuff to idiots."