Omar S: Conant Gardens Party Store - Red Bull Arts Detroit

Omar S: Conant Gardens Party Store

October 29 – December 20, 2020
Sunday – Saturday
12pm – 12am
20201029 12:00:00 20201220 18:00:00 America/New_York Omar S: Conant Gardens Party Store Red Bull Studios New York 220 w 18th Street 10011 New York, NY USA

Red Bull Arts Detroit is pleased to present Omar S: Conant Gardens Party Store, an exploration of the particular interests and passions of the legendary, elusive electronic musician, DJ, and producer, Omar S. Comprised of an interactive, virtual exploration of his personal collection, which ranges from arcade games to records to vintage VHS tapes, as well as a physical installation that will host a series of limited-edition drops, the exhibition maps the esoteric artist’s personal creative landscape and the expansive forces that coalesced to form his singular style.

Born and raised in the Conant Gardens neighborhood of Detroit, Omar S (real name Alexander Omar Smith) is noted for his raw, stripped-back approach to both creating, releasing, and marketing his music, and whose enigmatic, prolific output has cemented him as a local legend with international prominence. While associated with the genres of Detroit techno and house, he has historically resisted the inclinations of media to categorize or define him and is known for maintaining a fiercely independent, low-key public profile despite having released critically acclaimed and provocative albums and singles, including his pair of recent records Fuck Resident Advisor and the subsequent Still Fucking Resident Advisor. Originally funding the production and distribution of his music through his day job at Ford Motor Company, he has self-released most of his music through his label FXHE Records Detroit, rarely working with other labels and keeping his list of collaborators close. Smith has alluded to the reason behind the decision, saying, “I don’t have a good relationship with a lot of distributors. So why waste money?”

Omar S: Conant Gardens Party Store offers an unprecedented look into the universe of an artist who seldom discusses historical influences, and has often presented his work as strictly in the present. Drawing from the artist’s eclectic personal collection, the exhibition features two interpretive, immersive recreations of the eponymous “party store”—Michigan slang for a small neighborhood convenience store—where the artist spent his formative years. Owned by Omar S’ family since the 1950s, the store housed a number of classic arcade games and pinball machines, some of which Omar S still owns. In addition to introducing the artist to gaming, it also led to his interest in collecting—not only arcade games, but also cartridge video games, memorabilia, records, VHS tapes, synthesizers, drum machines, cars, and more. Now in the artist’s ownership, the space serves as the headquarters for his FXHE imprint.

Equal parts street and geek, Omar S’s unconventional approach to creativity is impossible to put in a box – expect the unexpected. Whether he’s selling “Fuck Resident Advisor” t-shirts, or showing off his souped-up rides, one can always count on Omar S for a variety of things, including a good laugh. His distinctive sound has proven to be one of the city’s very best,” says DJ, writer, and radio host Ash Lauryn of the influential platform Underground & Black.

Originally conceived as a physical exhibition, Omar S: Conant Gardens Party Store now lives online as an interactive web environment where users can explore the store and its contents, watch videos, listen to original music, and more. This virtual exhibition highlights numerous elements selected from the artist’s personal archive including his collection of obscure arcade games—some modified by the artist with custom components and sound effects—films, vinyl records, cartridge video games, Detroit music memorabilia, and related paraphernalia that inspired him. 

Alongside the virtual exhibition a full-size replica of Omar S’ family store opens in Red Bull Arts Detroit to release limited-edition merchandise, debuting Saturday October 31 from 10am to 6pm with additional events November 14 and December 19. Celebrating his passion for the arcade games featured in his collection, Omar S will debut Record Packer the first week of December, a new mobile video game designed and scored by the artist, which takes its inspiration from the 80s classic, Tapper. Presented on the occasion of the exhibition, Record Packer will be available as a downloadable iOS and Android app, playable in the virtual party store, and on view in a custom-created arcade cabinet at Red Bull Arts Detroit.