Art you can eat in, drink in, dance in, drive in and wear is all the rage. As the distinctions between art, design and architecture blur to the haze, we take a look at the art-is-life phenomenon.

Architects are working as designers, designers are working as artists, and artists are working as designers, too. The transdisciplinary spirit is all about cross-pollination and collaboration. As the distinctions between disciplines become increasingly blurred, creative people are wearing all sorts of different hats. It's an all-encompassing phenomenon, with artistic muscles being flexed any which way.

For some artists, it's about connecting life and art in a fusion of usability and vibrancy. Take The Double Club ( in London, which opened at the end of November this year. Orchestrated by the Fondazione Prada (, it has been designed by the Belgian-born, Stockholm-based Carsten Höller. It is a pop-up bar, restaurant and nightclub doubling as an art installation and is only open until the end of February. Each space is subdivided into a Congolese half, inspired by Höller's personal interest in the war-torn African country that he's visited many times, and a Western half. Congolese cuisine is served in the Congolese part of the restaurant, which features paintings by Cheri Samba and Moke the Painter (Monsengwo Kejwamfi), and a stage dress of the guitarist Franco (Luambo Makiadi). Western cuisine is served amid décor showcasing an embroidered map by Alighiero e Boetti, an Andy Warhol silkscreen on paper, a relief by Louise Nevelson and paintings by Carla Accardi and Olle Baertling.
The Double Club is Höller's latest wacky venture merging art and fun. Indeed, this is the artist who is best known for his playful, interactive installations such as his helter-skelter, titled "Test Site," which he erected inside Tate Modern's Turbine Hall two years ago. It was hugely successful, with families and friends lining up to hurtle down the series of slides, giggling and shrieking as they went. And when Höller presented a carrousel at Art Basel in 2006 and again in 2008, art lovers gleefully rode on the swings. The "come and play" aspect contrasted with the usual "Don't touch" rules. It's worth remembering that Höller trained as a scientist; for him, the art domain is like a laboratory in which he can test out experimental ideas.

The reality of artists accepting commissions is, of course, centuries old. Remember Michelangelo being commissioned by the Catholic Church to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel ( Well, Höller's Double Club or, let's say, Jeff Koons' yacht "Guilty," commissioned by the Greek super-status dealer Dakis Joannou, are the contemporary equivalents. What has changed is the level of wide-reaching, multitasking involvement, something that traces back to Andy Warhol. Warhol famously launched his own magazine, "Interview," ( and the TV series "Andy Warhol's Fashion," "Andy Warhol's TV," and "Andy Warhol's Fifteen Minutes." He also worked on music videos for bands such as The Cars and Curiosity Killed the Cat in the 1980s. Derek Jarman is another artist who directed music videos, for The Smiths and The Pet Shop Boys, two decades ago. Another groundbreaking art-life-commerce fusion in the 1980s was Keith Haring opening the Pop Shop (, a retail store in SoHo, New York, selling T-shirts, toys, posters, buttons and magnets bearing his images. Haring regarded the Pop Shop as an extension of his work, and painted the entire interior in an abstract black-on-white mural. Significantly, he trained as a graphic designer before enrolling at art college, just as Warhol studied commercial art and worked as an illustrator for magazines such as Vogue and Harpar's Bazaar and in advertising prior to his art world success.

Haring's unique retail environment, which the American artist exported to Tokyo, was criticized at the time for combining art and commerce in a blatant, self-branding way. Yet Haring defended that commerciality by claiming that he was accessing a larger audience. His trail-blazing idea was highly influential. Think of how Damien Hirst has just opened his first store, Other Criteria (, next to Sotheby's in London. Like Haring before him, it enables Hirst to extend his appeal enormously, creating affordable clothing, prints and posters embossed with images of his art.

The phenomenon is largely about art as a liveable experience. In Copenhagen, for instance, art lovers can soak up exciting contemporary art in Jeppe Hein's Karriere Bar (, which opened last year – a year before The Double Club. The Danish artist invited 32 artists to contribute artworks that define the functions and design of the place. For instance, Elmgreen & Dragset came up with the name and designed it in neon; Dan Graham made an outdoor mirror installation; Olafur Eliasson made a series of lights; Hein designed the bar itself. The pleasurable, collaborative project follows on from Hein's site-specific, interactive installations, and his amusing benches that move in unexpected ways when you sit on them. The fact that so many artists became involved in Karriere Bar is indicative of how artists are shaking off their reservations about entering the domain of design. It also mirrors how designers such as Ron Arad are entering the arena of art.

The idea of the art bar has caught on. The Belgian artist-designer Arne Quinze came up with the concept for the Kunstbar in Cologne, using furniture from his design company, Quinze & Milan. Seats and tables made from wooden transport boxes cover the bar, which is located under the steps of the dome of the city's cathedral. They serve as a metaphor for how what happens in a church stays unrevealed from society. Quinze is also the first artist to exhibit his artwork inside; his video installation "Eye.C.U" of a digital eye alludes to the all-seeing eye of God and religion.

Alongside this transversality, artists are making artworks that seem more ambiguous in intention and identity. One such example is Richard Prince's customized 1970s Dodge Challenger muscle car, which was presented at Frieze Art Fair in 2007. Ready for a derby racetrack or for a gallery installation, it stepped Marcel Duchamp's concept of the ready-made up a notch. "It takes the ready-made debate to its logical conclusion," says Neville Wakefield, the curator of Frieze Projects. "Duchamp's urinal was a urinal, but its re-contextualization as art also stripped it of function; you couldn't take a piss in it without getting your feet wet, whereas Richard's car is art that you can drive. It's a much more democratic form of the ready-made." According to Wakefield, the piece also references the vernacular and how ordinary people fetishize revamping their cars. He adds, "Richard, I think, has always in some way aspired to create art which plays into that – artless art that aspires to the condition of a driverless car."

"Artless art" runs parallel to artists creating art that is about architectural, design-led installations evoking real-life situations. A case in point is Elmgreen & Dragset's nightclub installation, presented at Victoria & Miro in London in October. The main room, with a disco ball and empty beer bottles on the floor, evoked a dance floor after a party had ended, and was adjoined to men's toilets (including a graffiti-covered condom machine, interlinked basins, and a gay couple in a stall) and a cloakroom full of coat hangers. The work reveals Elmgreen & Dragset's transversal sensibility. The fact that it so closely resembles an actual club is what makes it so god.

The workability of these art fusions hinges on the strength of their credibilityt and the emotions that they inspire.

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