digitalinfowave


Are we on air?

The words are in red font, all caps against a striped yellow-and-white awning at the heart of Sunset Boulevard. The man on the microphone is Arman Naféei.

“I always had an eye on the space,” he said of the newsstand — a landmark on the buzzy street, across from Chateau Marmont. Closed during the pandemic and neglected, Naféei has brought it back to life and made it his own.

“It was just sitting there,” he went on. “I saw that The Den [on Sunset], the restaurant next door, used it as a storage, so I just walked into The Den and said, ‘Hey what’s the story of this thing?’ And then we started the conversation, and it took a couple of months to get there. And then we took over the lease.”

Kiosk-o-thèque, he calls it — as an ode to his German roots and music background (“I started DJing when I was 15”). At just 250 square feet, overflowing onto the sidewalk with lemon-colored benches, it’s a podcast studio, retail space, DJ booth and art gallery all in one.

“The mantra has always been small footprint, big output,” Naféei said. “Let’s get a tiny space but fill it with energy.”

Naféei, based in L.A., is a renaissance man in the arts and hospitality sector, a cultural curator who’s been tapped by brands and companies to set the tone and conceptualize spaces as “director of ambience” — his official title working with hotels around the world including Chateau Marmont.

“Formally, yes, it’s a newsstand but, of course, with our own twist,” he said of Kiosk-o-thèque, a partnership with Idea Books (publisher and bookseller of Dover Street Market in L.A., New York, London and Tokyo). It opened quietly during Oscars week — though impossible to miss with its bright-yellow hue and twinkling lights at sundown. “It’s music-driven. You can buy records. We have DJ sets. We have our podcast studio in there, technically. Studio in quotation marks, meaning we interview people on the street for the pod.”

Guests on his podcast “Are We on Air?” — celebrating its fourth year and now available on Spotify — have included Dua Lipa, Rick Owens, David LaChapelle, Jane Birkin and Patti Smith, to name a few.

“One of the most encouraging words came actually from Patti right in the beginning,” Naféei said. “She really enjoyed it and said, ‘If you continue doing this, you’re building this library of knowledge.’”

Each episode includes a curated playlist by the guest. It’s what interests Naféei, he said of sharing knowledge while inviting collaboration and curation. “People come and discover,” he said of listeners. “The kiosk is just a physical form of it.”

Expect to find the leading newspapers, fashion magazines, limited-edition books and a selection of records among the goods (“Not the obvious stuff, you know, not the stuff that you can get at any record store.”) It’s a range of music, from Diana Ross and Prince to the soundtrack from Larry Clark’s “Kids” and one of the last recordings of DJ Larry Levan playing at New York nightclub Paradise Garage. Visitors are invited to hang as music plays on the turntable — a few are poured espresso. “It’s a mini block party.”

There are 1.1 million cars a week driving by, Naféei discovered. “That’s an insane number as an advertising space. So, I looked at this as an experiential billboard. It’s a billboard on Sunset. And what you do with it and who you bring with it gets a lot of exposure.”

Kicking off programming is a spotlight on the late fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez in collaboration with Danziger Gallery. The exhibit, “Antonio on Sunset,” presents vintage Kodak prints from the ’70s and ’80s, featuring the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Grace Coddington. Kiosk-o-thèque has been transformed into Lopez’s world, with a curated soundtrack of music and exclusive merchandise.

And that’s the vision moving forward, that the space will continue to morph with its assortments, various curations and takeovers.

“We’re here for the neighborhood first and foremost,” said Naféei. “You know, we’re really here just adding positivity.”

“Antonio on Sunset” at Kiosk-o-thèque opens April 4 at 6 p.m. and runs through April 13. Kiosk-o-thèque hours, with a loose closing time, are Thursday to Friday from 6 to 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. All information on upcoming events can be found on Instagram @areweonair.



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