Clos19 talks to Laolu Senbanjo, Brooklyn-based visual artist who uses both traditional mediums and the human body as his canvas. Laolu has recently teamed up with Belvedere to create a limited edition bottle with a unique pattern inspired by Belvedere’s DNA and supporting the global fund to help eliminate HIV/AIDS in Africa. We discuss the inspiration involved in his designs and what the art of hosting means to him.
How do you define good taste?
Good taste is something that when I see it, it brings me joy. It can be simple and delicate or it can be outlandish and extravagant. I often think good taste is more classic and simple though, like clean lines, black and white, music with real instruments, things that you really cut down to the original element, not too much pomp and circumstance.
What does the (your) future taste like?
My future taste is extravagant and impeccable. It’s bold and original and experiencing things I’ve never had the opportunity to try before. It’s filled with adventure and learning the art of relaxation.
If your art was a drink, which one would it be?
It would be on the rocks because my art is meant for those with a defined artistic palate, someone who understands it’s complexities, the details, the clean lines, and its boldness. My art is smooth, rich and intricate similar to drinking something that is unadulterated, where you only taste the character of the beverage to truly understand its depth.
FOR THE 8TH YEAR OF THE (BELVEDERE)RED PROGRAM, YOU COLLABORATED WITH THE BRAND ON A LIMITED-EDITION BOTTLE WHICH SUPPORTS THE GLOBAL FUND TO HELP ELIMINATE HIV/AIDS IN AFRICA. IS THIS CAUSE CLOSE TO YOUR HEART?
Having built a career working with those that are discriminated against and oppressed, you see a new side to humanity. That’s something that never leaves you and when it comes to witnessing the effects of a debilitating disease like HIV/AIDS, it’s not hard to want to be a part of that relief effort and fight as well. If my designs can have even a small part in improving the lives of those affected– that’s all I can ask for.
YOUR WORK TIES TOGETHER TEHEMES OF AFRICAN HERITAGE AND SOCIAL ISSUES. HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN YOUR INTENTION TO CREATE DIALOGUE AND BRING THESE THEMES TO LIFE?
Yes, I think so. My Yoruba heritage is something that is a part of me, like it’s impossible for me to create something that does not have the feeling that a Yoruba person created this. Also, my upbringing and my legal career have impacted me in such a way that I always feel like it’s an artist’s job to tell stories of those who cannot or don’t have a voice.
WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION AND MEANING BEHIND THE PATTERN YOU DESIGNED FOR THE BELVEDERE LIMITED EDITION BY LAOLU?
My designs are meant to reveal the inner beauty of my subject, so when dreaming up this creation I focused on drawing out Belvedere’s elements of beauty using my design aesthetic. I want those who purchase the limited-edition bottle of Belvedere Vodka to experience Belvedere’s fine ingredients, the water and the rye, and see how they work together to produce dimension and taste, through the fluidity of my design. I aimed to pull the best components from my Nigerian Yoruba heritage and Belvedere Vodka’s roots and weave them together throughout the design.
WHAT DOES THE ART OF HOSTING MEAN TO YOU?
Hosting means showing those I love a good time.
WHEN DO YOU FEEL THE MOST COMFORTABLE WHILE BEING ENTERTAINED?
I feel the most comfortable with those I know very well and in a place where there are few people, a more intimate gathering
WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF A GREAT EVENING? IS THERE A MAGICAL INGREDIENT?
Always music and art. My magical ingredient is that of creation and finding a canvas. A canvas can be silence, it can be found in an instrument like the keyboard or the guitar or just the voice, it can also be painting on someone or something.
WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE WHEN IT COMES TO FOOD AND DRINK?
My guilty pleasure is actually Nigerian food. I love my food. But in the past year I’ve become really fond of burgers.
WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL WAY OF ENJOYING FINE DINING WITH THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE?
I like to be in quieter more intimate spaces. I’m a very private person actually. I like to have good food and good drinks with nice music and good friends.
WHEN ENTERTAINING AT HOME, WHAT IS YOUR SECRET WEAPON?
Family. Family is my secret weapon at home. They are what centers me and keeps me grounded. They also take care of the smallest detail and really enjoy entertaining.