F or as long as she can remember, Claire Olshan was that little girl commenting on napkin rings, wallpaper and outfits. A “full-blown aesthete,” as she describes herself, the New York-based Olshan first made her mark in fashion with the 2012 opening of Fivestory, a luxurious retail destination on the Upper East Side. With that same sense of artful curation, Olshan is trying her hand at the food industry with this spring’s launch of DADA Daily, a line of healthy and beautifully packaged snacks, ranging from Crispy Almond Butter Brussels Sprouts to Matcha Latte Truffles. “I always wondered why the health food world never jumped on the bandwagon to make products chic similar to the beauty and wellness industries,” Olshan told Sotheby’s. With her goal of elevating snacking, she also produced a dinner party set of whimsical accessories for hosting, including an Urs Fischer-esque hand candle, where all but the middle finger will burn once lit. “Just like many DADAists, we are cheeky, playful and just a tad bit dark in everything we do.” Ahead, Olshan talks art history inspiration and why snacking should never be thought of as naughty – even if your candles are.
How has your art history background influenced your career?
I got my bachelor’s and master’s in art history from New York University and Sotheby’s respectfully. I loved learning and being around art and teaching people about it. But when I had to sell it, something didn’t click for me. I realized then and there, art would be a lifelong hobby but not my vocation. That being said, I have carried my art training into everything I do. Training as a curator creates a discerning eye and has made me realize that I want to bring beauty into all aspects of my life…including snacking!
What was your impetus for entering the highly competitive food space?
Having been obsessed with the healthy food snack industry for a very long time, I saw a hole in the market for something that wasn’t being advertised as a diet or prescription. Eating and healthy living should be about joyfulness and freedom, so I started a company that is “accidentally” vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free, but very purposefully good for you. I also didn’t see any healthy snacks on the market that could express my aesthetic point of view. With DADA, we are creating a fun, carefree world where indulging doesn’t have to be something naughty and where snacking can be chic and elevated to a dinner party setting.
"DADA Daily is not about someone telling you what to eat, just like it’s not about a critic telling you what is or isn’t art."
What attracted you specifically to Dadaism as a movement to inspire your brand?
Dadaists challenged artistic and intellectual conventions and always sought to avoid classification. In each city that it manifested – whether New York, Paris, Berlin, Cologne or Hanover – Dada expressed itself differently. It was about making art that felt right to in the moment to the artists themselves. DADA daily is all about stripping down the restrictive nature of the health food industry and getting away from the word "no." Dada is about "yes, yes" – "da" means "yes" in many languages.
As the story goes, the name “Dada” was chosen in a typically Dada manner: by chance. Using a paper knife, Tristan Tzara, Hans Arp and others in Zurich arbitrarily selected a word from a French-German dictionary. Its meaning – hobbyhorse – was meaningless in this context. It simply served as an empty vessel into which artists could pour themselves. It is the only art movement named not by critics but by the artists themselves. As this relates to my company, DADA Daily is not about someone telling you what to eat, just like it’s not about a critic telling you what is or isn’t art.
Is there any particular artist whom you are most drawn to?
Marcel Duchamp has always been one of my favorite artists of all time. His Bicycle Wheel, the first readymade, was part of a class of objects he invented to challenge assumptions about what constitutes a work of art. The work placed a major importance on the human mind and body while heavily influencing the Surrealist focus on the fantastical imaginative world that they created. To me, all those elements sum up the ethos of DADA Daily.
What was your experience like selecting Surrealist works from Sotheby’s Sleep of Reason auction?
It was a dream to look through all these amazing works. What surprised and delighted me was the percentage of pieces done by female Surrealists. When learning about the movement in school, it is so heavily dominated by men, and none of these amazing women, such as Leonora Carrington and Dorothea Tanning, get very much air time.
The DADA Daily pop-up at Sotheby's will be open on 1, 3, 9 and 10 November from 2pm–5pm.