Reuben Dangoor cannot be locked up. The visual artist first went viral in 2015 with his regal renditions of British grime artists, depicting D Double E as a military officer and Skepta on horseback with the Union Jack in his hand. Since then, the Londoner has pushed his love for music and sport through collaborative projects with his beloved Arsenal FC and the England national football team. Most recently, Dangoor worked with adidas on their new Predator football boot, as well as a FIFA 22 collaboration kit featuring David Beckham. And while constantly working on projects with global reach, his British roots have always come first.
Dangoor is now collaborating with the NBA for sports franchises’ Creator Series. The new program is a celebration of the league’s 75th anniversary, welcoming a wide range of artists from all over Europe to present a concatenation of original artwork commissioned by the NBA.
The series of artwork releases began earlier in the month, with each Tuesday welcoming a new piece from the Creator Series collective. Now Dangoor has showcased his painting, with a release amid drops from Greek, Spanish, French and Italian artists. “I think the whole project has bridged a gap in the world, taken the British essence and woven it into something that feels like part of the NBA and American sports,” Dangoor told Hypebeast.
As basketball continues to grow in the UK, Dangoor’s play for the Creator Series celebrated the influence that former South Sudanese-British basketball player Luol Deng had on the game. The artwork shows Deng hanging from a basketball hoop in a Chicago Bulls jersey – the team for which the British player achieved star status in 2012.
With that in mind, Hypebeast caught up with Ruben Dangoor to talk about the NBA. Creator Serieshis interest in American sports, and more.
Hypebeast: How excited are you that your work for the NBA Creator Series is finally in the sight of people?
Ruben Dangoor: I buzz, it’s a really cool project. The NBA explained that there were artists from all countries getting involved with players from different regions representing where they came from. So it’s a really good idea as a way to merge a mix of styles and a whole bunch of artists. I feel like the work was completed a long time ago, and there was no rollout and the next thing I see is a lot of different art from the project being announced . I’m really excited to have a piece that’s in and among all of that.
What is your relationship with basketball and how did you find your work with the NBA?
I’m a sports fan in general – I’m a huge football fan. Basketball is one of those sports that I loved when I was younger. I used to go to UK basketball games and watch teams like Sheffield Sharks and then met some of the players from that era. At that time, it was the Portland Trailblazers. But, I didn’t really have access to them – they weren’t very aired on television at the time, but I collected basketball cards. To be honest, I didn’t have the same relationship to basketball as I did to football. But what I really love is that art and sport intersect so much now, but early in my career it wasn’t happening as much.
Now I think that’s really rich, especially because the fan base is so passionate and the franchises are so big, there’s huge potential for some really cool creative concepts. For me, with the NBA – the scale is huge – it’s really nice to dive into the details. A lot of the work I do is detail driven and fans are good at picking up the little touches. I think the sport has a combination of that history, fan culture, pure athleticism and brilliance on the pitch or on the pitch. There is a very good fertile creative ground to be able to do good things.
As a very UK-centric artist, did you take this opportunity to bridge the gap between Britain and America?
I really think the worlds between the UK and the US feel closer than ever. I think the NBA approached me because my view of things is from that British and very London perspective. The thing about basketball is that it’s so American by association, you can’t help but close that gap by putting a player in a certain environment. What was interesting to me was that I didn’t know too much about the history of the British players in the game, I just thought it was an all-American sports franchise.
It’s interesting now because even in football you get the screening of an odd MLS player, so it’s kind of similar on the NBA side. There aren’t many British players there, but they are there, which is why it’s interesting from a British perspective. I also learned that there are incredible Greek and French basketball players. So I think the whole project has bridged the gap and taken the British essence and woven it into something that feels like part of the NBA and American sports. For me, that’s cool because a lot of the stuff I’m working on is very British, so it’s good to have that transatlantic vibe in there and I’d really like to do more of that.
When you can find this link between an artist and a musician, it’s a beautiful thing.
How will you translate your Britishness into more Americanized work?
I think a lot of the things I like about British culture and use in my work, people will appreciate overseas. Whether it’s working with brands or artists, I can use the same things that people appreciate in my work here and see if that translates. I think it would be fun to do more, especially musically. I think that’s where the transition would be very smooth collaborating with American musicians. Likewise, with sports, it feels like it’s a very universal language because of the fan culture and the universal lines that run through all sports.
What are the similarities between music, sport and art?
In my opinion, acting is one. Especially sports and music, they both have this aspect of performance and I think a lot of art is a way to capture that performance in this sport. Whether figurative or abstract. Art can also be a visualizer within music, that’s why I really like working with musicians because when I hear things, I see things and this audiovisual synergy is very strong with which I like to work. Personally, I have such a passion for the sport, that my head goes to the same place as people on the court or in the field and it makes me think of interesting ways of being able to interpret that. Music shapes interpretation for art and sport. Athletes listen to music in the locker room before they perform and I think sport creates a lot of identities for musicians.
For example, AJ Tracey is synonymous with Tottenham Hotspur and Loyle Carner is a huge Liverpool fan. It’s like a badge that people wear with pride. There are also so many lyrics that reference sports and I think that’s a huge 360 of them all. For me a lot of my work is based on things that interest me and even if I wasn’t doing art I would still be interested because I’m a fan. It just so happens that now that I’ve been doing it long enough, I’m lucky enough to be involved in projects like this.
The audiovisual synergy is really strong with which I like to work.
Finally, what more do you think people can do to express their interest in art?
It’s tricky because I think collecting art is a pretty personal thing. There’s always a price to pay, so a lot of different people will have different types of art, and they might not be completely open to sharing it. I think you have a lot of artists who have this visual artistic vision, I think single and album artwork in music is a sure thing, there are some artists – slowthai for example – [where] you can see in their videos and album art that there is a clear understanding of what they want or what they like. Tyler, the creator, is another great example – working with visual artists as collaborations and I think that says a lot about the artists. So sometimes an art collection is a personal thing and it’s an investment. But for me, I think it’s really cool when musicians have an identity with art. I did something with Arlo Parks recently and that art was shown in the background when they were performing at 02. So when you can find that connection between an artist and a musician, it’s a beautiful thing.