Remembering Tobias Wong

Tobias Wong

A sad day in design. Word just out that Tobias Wong died Sunday morning. He was only 35.
No one seems to know why or how. And we keep wanting to believe this is just one more sensational provocation from an artist who wowed us with his legendary happenings and witty products in the art and commercial arenas. But we won't be so lucky as that. A neo-Dadaist who preferred to let his work–and not his personality–take centerstage, his varied contributions charmed children and environmentalists (the Sunjar) and art curators and urban anarchists alike (Cokespoon series now in collection at SFMOMA). Some of our perennial favorites at A+R are by him, collaborations with friends like Philip Wood from Citizen:Citizen, with whom he realized some pretty outrageous, wonderful pieces.

"Ballistic Rose," a Kevlar corsage by Tobias Wong and Citizen:Citizen

The news comes at the heels of two other losses in recent days, maverick multi-threats Dennis Hopper, who died Saturday at 79, and Louise Bourgeois, on Monday at 98. They had a lifetime, long lives, to create. Sadly, Tobias' chance was cut too short, and the world is all the sadder for it.

Here is the release on his life and death.

D. TOBIAS WONG, 1974-2010

D. Tobias Wong, the Canadian-born, New York-based artist and designer, passed away in the early morning of Sunday, May 30, 2010. He was 35. Through his work, Wong helped bring forth much of what is now taken for granted in contemporary culture. Influenced by Dada and, especially, Fluxus, he questioned authorship through appropriation; held a mirror to our desires and absurdities; upended the hierarchy between design and art, and the precious and the banal; and helped redefine collaboration and curation as creative practices. Working within what he termed a "paraconceptual" framework, Wong prompted a reevaluation of everything we thought we knew about design: its production, its psychological resonance, its aesthetic criteria, its means of distribution, its attachment to provenance, its contextualization and its manner of presentation. Wong was a keen observer, an original mind, a brilliant prankster, and an unerring friend.

Wong's work was widely exhibited, including at the Museum of Modern Art and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. His many projects included those for Colette, Comme des Garcons, Prada/OMA, Cappellini and Swarovski Crystal Palace. In addition to the objects he created, re-created, repurposed, rarefied and otherwise manipulated, Wong's work included events and happenings that included, among many others, a pop-up tattoo parlor at Art Basel Miami Beach/Design Miami and the Wrong Store, a "store" in New York that was in fact never open. (As with much of Wong's work, both were collaborations.) Wong was named Young Designer of the Year by Wallpaper* magazine (2004) as well as the Brooklyn Museum of Art (2006). In 2008 and 2009, he served as founding co-creative director of 100% Design Shanghai, affiliated with the 100% Design fairs in London and Tokyo.

Born and raised in Vancouver, Wong studied in Toronto before moving to New York in 1997 to attend the Cooper Union, from which he graduated with a major in sculpture. He is survived by his mother, stepfather, brother, partner and BFF.


Photo of TW: Nigel Parry for Esquire

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