On the face of it they look like a pair of innocuous ceramic salt and pepper shakers. It’s only on closer inspection that the handwritten scrawl identifies one as “Cocaine” and the other as “Heroin”. Located in the dining section of Florian Wupperfeld’s ecommerce site CultureLabel, the tableware by artist David Shrigley provides a convenient metaphor for Wupperfeld’s approach with the business; challenge the status quo, the mundane, the everyday and, the ordinary.
It’s a very different dining experience from when, aged seven, he was taken to Paul Bocuse’s restaurant in Paris, that bastion of French gastronomy. Although he didn’t enjoy the food, he remembers sensing that the experience was something special. It’s with this slightly uneasy attitude to luxury that Wupperfeld approaches his work today. He prefers to talk about “high end” products and “quality”, rather than luxury as an absolute (he thinks the term has become too fragmented in the past decade). This aversion to being pinned down is also apparent in his career path. Wupperfeld has worked as a film producer, DJ, trend scout, marketing consultant, gallery owner, artist and book publisher, with employers spanning Soho House, hotelier André Balazs, Agent Provocateur, Moët Hennessy and the Royal Academy.
With his latest project CultureLabel.com, Wupperfeld’s multi-faceted experience has brought him to a single aim: to provide a meeting point between culture and consumer culture, without devaluing either. Since co-founding the business in July 2009, he’s been working with the brands of cultural institutions, from indie art spaces to the Tate to the Royal Armouries, to create objects that are part art and part everyday product. It’s a boutique platform that distils the best design objects, limited editions and one-off pieces from these galleries and museums – from drug-emblazoned pepper dispensers to haute jewellery and original artwork.
For Wupperfeld, this cultural entrepreneurship is about connecting culture and consumers. He believes that CultureLabel is a response to the new consumer who craves products with a meaning and narrative, and wants to brand themselves according to their cultural affiliation. CultureLabel’s now expanding to work with international institutions in cultural hubs likes Shanghai and Stockholm. Another strand of the business that has developed is CultureGeneration, a consultancy that works with brands to help them understand more about the culture industry – not, it’s important to understand, the other way around.