Arman French/American, 1928-2005
Regarded as one of the most prolific and inventive creators of the late 20th century, Arman’s vast artistic output ranges from drawings and prints to monumental public sculpture and his famous accumulations of found objects. His work was strongly influenced by Dada, and in turn became a strong influence on Pop Art.
Born in Nice, France in 1928, Armand Pierre Fernandez showed a precocious talent for painting and drawing as a child. Inspired by Vincent van Gogh, he signed his early work with his first name only; he retained a printer’s 1958 misspelling of his name for the rest of his career.
After studies at the École Nationale des Arts Décoratifs in Nice, Arman went to Paris to study art history at the École du Louvre. His work in these early years focused on abstract paintings inspired by the work of Nicolas de Staël.
Arman sought inspiration through books and art reviews, as well as during frequent road trips throughout Europe with his artist friends from Nice, Claude Pascale and Yves Klein. During this period, Arman developed a passion for Eastern philosophy, early Chinese art and the martial art of judo. Inspired by the Dadaist collages of Kurt Schwitters, Arman’s first solo show, in Paris in 1954, exhibited his Cachets, assemblages and accumulations of stamps and fabric that were to prove an important step in the development of his artistic vision.
More consequential yet was his signing, in 1960, of the manifesto of the Nouveau Réalisme (New Realism) movement, with fellow artists Klein, Martial Raysse and Jean Tinguely, among others, in which he would re-examine the artistic possibilities of everyday objects, elevating the banal to the aesthetic, and refuse into art. The same year Arman had a Landmark exhibition at the Iris Clert Gallery in Paris.
In 1961, Arman unveiled the colères - manmade objects he would smash, then reassemble and mount on wood panels. These well-known works, together with his coupes (slicing) - objects (frequently mass-produced) he would cut apart then put on display - and his “combustions” - objects he set ablaze, and whose charred remains he exhibited - represented acts of artistic creation through destruction. In 1967 Arman left for New York and moved into the Chelsea Hotel. He became an American citizen in 1973 adopting the official name of Armand P. Arman. As he established himself in New York, his projects became ever more ambitious and prolific, and featured accumulations of tools, clocks, jewellery and countless other materials. He would weld hundreds of these objects together into sculpted formations. He would encase the objects in polymer resin to form optically intriguing showcases for them.
Arman was the first contemporary artist to receive commissions from the Renault car company; this collaboration resulted in a series of works using car parts which Arman exhibited at the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka, Japan. He also drew intense inspiration from the sinuous shapes of string and brass instruments - and harnessed his longstanding appreciation for music - to create countless accumulations and coupes of cellos, violins, and trombones; these are perhaps his most widely known works.
Later in his career, Arman returned to painting. In 1989 he exhibited paintings at New York’s Vrej Baghoomian Gallery and, in 1995, he exhibited a series of paintings inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Arman produced several series of monochrome paintings, often using the paint tubes themselves on the canvases in addition to the paint they contained. In 1991, he unveiled a series of robot-portraits of classical composers - from Bach and Beethoven to Wagner and Arman’s contemporary Philip Glass. These large-scale works evoked their subjects through assemblages of such objects as sheet music and instruments.
Over the course of his career, Arman had over 600 one-man shows, and was the subject major retrospective exhibitions at the Houston Museum of Fine Art, USA in 1991, and at the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris, France in 1998. He was awarded many prizes and awards, including International Biennale of Prints, Tokyo 1964 and Premio Marzotto in 1966.
Public collections include:
Centre Pompidou in Paris, France
Modern Art Museum, Munich, Germany
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
Musée d’Art Moderne, Gent, Belgium
Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, France
Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris, France
Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium
Museo Civico di Torino, Turin, Italy
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
Peter Stuyvesant Foundation, Brussels, Belgium
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Tate, London, UK
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA