Former tech mogul and current artist Arthur Becker acquired three townhouses in SoHo as part of an investment and development deal, but he wasn’t committed to the idea of actually living there. “I was going to just stage one of them,” he says. “A broker friend suggested doing Holiday House there and introduced me to Iris Dankner.”
Dankner, an interior designer and breast cancer survivor, founded Holiday House in 2008 to benefit breast cancer research. Becker and Dankner met at a showhouse event in the Hamptons, and they agreed to meet again in Manhattan to discuss using the new townhouse as a location for the next fundraiser. “After the showhouse he wanted me to stage the townhouse, rather than design it for his personal use,” says Dankner. “Eventually he decided that he wanted to live there, and he got more and more involved in the design decisions.”
The pair was a perfect match—Dankner has a fine arts degree and she understood Becker’s need to be surrounded by art, his own and others. Becker liked Dankner’s sense of style, and the fact that she appreciated his collections of ancient objects. “There is a stillness to these rooms with the neutral colors and the light,” he says. “It feels like a loft space. I love sitting in the parlor surrounded by the things I love. Antiquities have a deep resonance.”
Becker’s art and aesthetic were an important factor in the design. Although he took a long and successful detour into the business world, he majored in ceramics and photography in college. His artwork Money Mandalas and Moneyflies merge both of those worlds. “I have a relationship with money, and a fascination with it,” he says. “I’m interested in the ways people assign value to things.”
In both series, Becker transforms currency into another form by 3D printing and then folding the notes, origami-style, into butterflies and shapes. The Mandalas series is inspired by the geometric shapes of Tibetan thangkas, and Moneyflies questions our perceptions of value, vanity and ego. The origami butterflies, made from currency, are set on backgrounds of fashion colors like Hermès Orange and Tiffany & Co.’s Scuba Green.
He is currently at work on a large-scale installation for the St. James Building in Boston. Having already installed Money Mandala and Moneyflies in the space, he is expanding that project with a set of dining tables and chairs that are created from coins and primitive objects. “I collect antiquities, so I thought it would be interesting to take these objects which are quite small, and 3D print them and scale them up,” Becker says. “The 10-foot, cast aluminum tables are based on an African scroll that is 8-inches long. The chair backs are scaled-up Qin Dynasty coins shaped like a truncated man with flared pants. The seats will be made of plexiglass, so that they disappear, and it will just look like a row of coins.”
This use of technology allows Becker to appreciate the antiquities that he loves in a new way, by making them modern, but preserving their geometry, scale and gestural qualities. Says the artist, “These things represent the history of man and man’s societal development. With the use of technology I am trying to make them part of modern life.”