The Haas Brothers

The Haas Brothers—twins Nikolai and Simon (b. 1984; Austin, TX)—investigate the slippery divide between art and design with humor, whimsy, and inventive originality. While they are best known for their riotously colorful biomorphic forms, genitalia-adorned furniture, and pun-infused titles, an intellectual, conceptual, formal, and technical rigor grounds their practice. Marrying their respective personalities and strengths—Simon’s penchant for analysis and systemization and Nikolai’s playfulness, humor, and creativity—the duo’s practice integrates a studied, systematic approach to materials and processes with a commitment to dismantling the rigid social constraints, guiding them toward an emotional and spiritual resonance within their work.

The Haas Brothers apply their signature marriage of high and low brow across a diverse array of materials, incorporating their playful approach to artmaking and design in brass, bronze, glass marble, porcelain, and wool. Having begun their career as furniture designers, their work often marries the functional and the fantastical—stools, mirrors, chairs, street lamps, and side tables with furry bodies or biomorphic brass feet and legs. The Haas Brothers’s sculptural works take the form of fantastical beasts, giant mushrooms, and otherworldly aliens. Often finished with intricate beading, animal fur, and highly technical resins, the artists’ cast of fanciful characters have humorous names (often, again, puns on notable people) and endearing personalities. 

Now based in Los Angeles, Nikolai and Simon grew up in Austin, TX surrounded by a family of artists and creatives; their mother was a screenwriter and opera singer, their father a painter and stonemason, their brother an actor. Following a childhood of creative collaboration, the twins found themselves on opposite coasts—Simon studying painting at the Rhode Island School of Design while Nikolai focused on music in Los Angeles. In 2009, they began collaborating on furniture commissions for high-profile Los Angeles clients, officially founding their joint studio in 2010. Over the past decade, they have evolved from fabricators of whimsical furniture to boundary breaking, genre-defying artists and innovators. Lifelong collaborators, Nikolai and Simon’s complementary strengths and personalities shine through in their practice: Simon’s penchant for analysis and systemization balancing Nikolai's playfulness and humor. “[Nikolai] is an incredible cartoonist and sculptor, and his major talents lie in gesture and how to make objects feel alive and funny,” Simon says, “I’m on the end of obsessive material research and contextualizing our ideas. I also play the role of editor. I’m a studious nerd and he’s an out-there sculptor.”

With their creations—across media, scale, and form—the Haas Brothers strive for a resounding emotional resonance. Employing shock, humor, and titillation, the Haas Brothers build rooms filled with phalluses and suggestive orifices, adorn their furniture with bronze testicles, place lightbulbs in disembodied hands, and produce furry, headless beasts. The artists’ ultimate goal here lies in a desire for their work to release viewers from notions of shame—particularly those associated with sexuality and gender. Subverting the rigid norms that control imagination, the Haas Brothers’s work liberates its viewers to a land of fantasy, to a world beyond constraints, to a place of childhood innocence. “I think we are honing our ability to create fantasy,” Nikolai says. “It’s definitely supposed to take you back to childhood, and it’s meant to free you from preconceived stereotypes or rules in how you interact with the world and yourself.”

The Haas Brothers have shown their work widely in the United States and abroad. Exhibitions of their work are forthcoming at the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, TX and the Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI. Their work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY; the Bass Museum of Art, Miami FL; the Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, Savannah, GA, and featured in group exhibitions at the San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA; Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Snowmass Village, CO; the Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, VT; Sculpture Milwaukee, WI; the Boca Raton Museum of Art, FL; the KMAC Museum, Louisville, KY. In 2016, they were included in the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, NY, and in 2019, they were recipients of the YoungArts Foundation Arison Award. The Haas Brothers' work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI; the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, NY; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. The Haas Brothers live and work in Los Angeles, CA.