/ ARMAN : Think Things



「To change the state of an object is to change myself」
— Arman

The exhibition “Arman: Think things”, aims to show the construction process by Arman of one of the most singular languages of art in the 20th Century through a special selection of the artist’s works from the New Realism movement. Born in Nice in 1928, Arman started his art career in France in the 1950’s, and then moved to New York in 1961 until he passed away in 2005. Aiming to participate in a contemporary rediscovery of Arman who have influenced so much today’s contemporary artists, could be more relevant today than yesterday. From Damian Hirst’s pharmacies, to Subodh Gupta’s compositions of kitchen tools from India, we continuously witness the freedom of art that Arman's artistic thinking has brought to us. The thematic developed by Arman around our hyper consumer relationship to the objects, finds out in today’s debates a strong and powerful echo. Arman is a true inventor of forms who reset the art with a new style and a new medium. Making things its palette, Arman created a new language, offering to a vast audience of art lovers from all over the world, new figures to express a new vision of the world.

Studio of Arman, NY, 2003
Courtesy of Gerard Schachmes and the artist.

In 1950s, after the chaos brought by the war, the artistic movement sprouted from “the idea that rebuilding could indeed be done in an artistic way if it started ‘with the mind’.” In 1960, Arman found New Realism with Yves Klein. The word “realism” refers to the artistic and literary movement born in the 19th century which intended to describe, without magnifying it, an everyday reality. However, the term “New”, is just as there is a cinema New Wave: on one hand, it attaches to a new reality resulting from an urban consumer society; on the other hand, its descriptive mode is also new because it is no longer identified with a representation by the creation of an adequate image, but consists of the presentation of the object that the artist has chosen. At the core of Arman’s artistic statement are his “Accumulations”. He (re)gives meaning to what no longer has any, and show how art offers another use of the world, questioning through this provocative gesture the problematic of destruction as a postulate of creation.

The Music of Arman

I like to show the phases of something that we don't know.
— Arman

Rage is a sign of life. A positive energy, anger symbolizes life itself in the sense that it stages a gesture of destruction which is in fact a process of creation. Arman's art can also be seen as a challenge to death. Arman's first cuts were made in 1962, after the death of his art brother Yves Klein at the age of 32 - a life cut off in the full force of age and work. There is something about the death of the object in its cutting, or rather about the overcoming of the death of the object by a symbolic transmutation which assures it post-functional durability in the form of the work of art, stronger than death.

(Left)《Smokey Quartet》, Arman, 1998 / (Right) 《Mumuyé》, Arman, 1985
Courtesy of the artist.

《Fanfare sous le Feu》, Arman, 1989
Courtesy of the artist.

Every Arman exhibition could be subtitled “The Metamorphosis of Rejects”. Most of the works presented represent objects that no longer work. Violin, saxophon, cello, guitar… these precious instruments are here presented broken, burnt, destroyed by the artist himself, who took care to rid them of their functional properties, to transmute them into a work of art. “My father took me to an international exhibition where they showed engines and cameras cut in half, Arman explained. This revealing side of the interior fascinated me. For me, these are the guts of objects.” As other sculptors use clay or wood, Arman has made manufactured objects the raw material of his art. As the most noble objects, the music instruments play a strong symbolic role in this topic. Here, sliced instruments composed a new object which highlights the movement of the music in a sense – in the same logic, cubism “sliced” forms to give them movement, as if they are a visual symphony.

《Colere sur Bois》, Arman, 2001
Courtesy of the artist.

To My Lovely

I would like to stop the speed, the explosion, the bursting, patches of time, precious accidents where chance is always the same and again repeated.
— Arman

Music is a fundamental and recurring theme throughout Arman’s work – the artist was a passionate music lover. Music instruments are cut, burnt, split by Arman, as in a demonstration of martial art. There is another music that comes out of these instruments: the music of the art of Arman. Pour ma Jolie (“To my Lovely”, 1982) is an original cast in bronze - one of the first bronzes by Arman, which started this technique in the late 1970’s. The work represents a broken guitar which become the symbol of a love separation – the guitar being itself a symbol of the seduction. It is also probably a reference to a famous American movie “Farewell my Lovely” released in 1975 (Arman was a cinema passionate). Arman is proposing in his works a redefinition of the musical instrument - the artist substituting to reality a world that matches his imagination.

(Left)《Pour Ma Jolie》, Arman, 1982 / (Right) 《Untitled》, Arman, 2004
Courtesy of the artist.

Cachet & Appearances: Traces of the Things

In this perspective of “displacement” of objects from their daily use and their natural aging, I seek a transposition involving a reflection on time, space, and the relationship of manufactured objects with their environment.
— Arman

Those “Cachets” works, very singular and different in its technic, are however also the very first “accumulation” of Arman. Accumulation is certainly the other main concept of Arman’s art. Accumulation is certainly the other main concept of Arman’s art. Arman was an accumulator of life. He collected everything he could in his lifetime: artworks (a fabulous art collection of Warhol, Klein…), art objects, antiquities, art crafts, cars, houses, fine wines, friends… The accumulation concept in Arman’s art is also a way to question our modern way of life, based during decades on the accumulation of wealth and goods – the supermarket mass displays being the symbol of it. Logically the show presents some exceptional examples of “accumulations” of objects, painting tubes for instance - the kind of works which made Arman so famous and collected in the museums worldwide. Accumulating real objects of our life to create a new meaning for the objects through its serial presentation. The works become the flag of the hyper-consumer society we live in. Arman will use every object he found to create his accumulations: painting tubes, telephones, razors, forks, toys, coffee pots…

(Left)《Cachet 54》, Arman, 1954 / (Right) 《Priorite "A"》, Arman, 1957
Courtesy of the artist.

(Left)《Fossile Sonore》, Arman, 1990 / (Right) 《Procession》, Arman, 1964
Courtesy of the artist.

Following the Rubber Stamps logic, Arman developed in the late 1950’s another series of imprints named the “Allures d’objets” (Objects Appearances) after a concept from the musical vocabulary. “When I unwound my objects soaked in ink, Arman explained, I printed their appearance. I used eggs, a shoe, ball bearings, bottles, springs… I took anything that could leave an interesting trace”. Our show counts with two major Objects Appearances: Procession (1964), and Saga (1975). In those two paintings, one can see how the traces of the objects look like a visual music score. In his art, Arman makes the objects singing the music of our material world.

《Saga》, Arman, 1975
Courtesy of the artist.

The Ecounters of Art

We have nothing of our own, only time. And given that time does not exist we possess only the memory of time
— Arman

Pop art encounters New Realism in the sense both movements focus on the hyper consumers’ new society. Warhol’s iconic painting showing a repetition of cans of Campbell's soup (Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962), is clearly following the examples of Arman’s accumulations. Warhol uses also the object itself in a sense, or its advertising image, through simply reproducing it on the canvas as in a supermarket room. The dialogue between Pop Part and New Realism, and precisely the relationship between Arman and Warhol is intimate. In our show, we can see some works (the Rubber stamps for instance) which announce Warhol and his use of serigraphs and prints of daily objects. We also present a work by Arman, Bloody guns (1965), which could be seen as a pop artwork, by its colorful repetition of the motif of the gun on a canvas. We could associate this canvas with the accumulations of guns Warhol will paint in 1981 and 1982 (Gun). Arman and Warhol are two major artists, who happen to speak together and exchange through their works as well.

《Bloody Guns》, Arman, 1965
Courtesy of the artist.

Two works of our show, Monochrome 15, and Monochrome 20 (both works from 1988), accumulations of paint and tubes in acrylic white or black on canvases, are presenting a repetition of the object of the paint tube with the symmetry of Warhol’s accumulations, and the monochromatic colors of Robert Ryman’s monochromes (so famous works in the 1980’s in New York). Like his good friend and fellow Warhol, Arman wrote a fundamental chapter by opening new fields to the visual creation.

(Left)《Monochrome No.20》, Arman, 1988 / (Right) 《Monochrome No.15》, Arman, 1988
Courtesy of the artist.

It would take an entire book to evoke the profound influence of Arman on contemporary artistic production, far and wide, from Damian Hirst’s pharmacies to Subodh Gupta’s compositions of kitchen tools from India. Those two major figures of contemporary art have elected the object as their focus, and the accumulation concept as a main thematic of their work. It is interesting to underline how Arman’s influence has been particularly important for Asian contemporary artists in the early stage. In China, both Chen Zhen and Ai Wei Wei, leading figures of contemporary art of the last part of 20th Century, have been inspired by Arman’s philosophy of the things. In the Biennale of Venice of 2013, Ai Wei Wei displayed an accumulation of 886 three legged wooden stools entitled Bang. This work was also clearly a tribute to Arman’s cascades of chairs, through the Chinese artist composed a fully deconstructed movement of chairs inspired by the expansive rhizomatic structure, while Arman would prefer a homogeneous movement inspired by the cinema in his displays. Interestingly, in the same Biennale of Venice, the Chinese artist Shu Yong presented also an accumulation of resin bricks (with phrases produced by translation). Those major contemporary artists are not copying Arman, but their work conserve the deep mark of Arman’s significant legacy to the contemporary creation.

《Untitled》, Arman, 2000
Courtesy of the artist.

ARMAN: Think Things

2022.11.23 - 2023.07.12

ALIEN Art Centre

Curatorship and Setting-up
Yaman Shao, Jérôme Neutres


With the support of
The Arman Marital Trust; Corice Arman, Trustee; The Arman Studio Archives, New York; YUIMOM Group

Arman: Think Things, photo at ALIEN Art Centre © ALIEN Art

"Colere sur Bois", Arman, 2001, 121x222x11cm. Violins sliced, broken and burnt on three wooden panels in a frame, triptych. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

Arman: Think Things, photo at ALIEN Art Centre © ALIEN Art

Arman: Think Things, photo at ALIEN Art Centre © ALIEN Art

"Smokey Quartet", Arman, 1998, 186.7x125.7x22.9cm. Cello and violin shaped cigar boxes with cello and violin parts and bows on wood panel. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Untitled", Arman, 2000, 119.9x225x11.9cm. Paintbrushes on canvas with overlay of Plexiglas with paint and paintbrushes. Colors:violet, green, whits, yellow ochre. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

Monochrome no. 20" (left), 40.6x30.5 cm. Accumulation of acrylic paint and tubes on canvas. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Monochrome Accumulation no. 1519 (right), 40.6x30.5 cm. Accumulation of acrylic paint and tubes on canvas. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Monochrome No.15", Arman, 1988, 64 x 54 cm. Accumulation of acrylic paint and tubes on canvas. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Cachet 54", Arman, 1954, 36.8x29cm. Stamp impressions in ink on fabric. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Priorite A", ARMAN, 1957, 32x24.5cm. Rubber stamps on paper. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Mauve Administratif", Arman, 1957, 200x150cm. Rubber stamp traces on paper, mounted on panel. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Procession", Arman, 1964, 65x49.5cm. Gouache imprint on black paper. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Bloody Guns", ARMAN, 1965, 61x91.4cm. Accumulation of guns painted in acrylic paint on vinyl. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Saga", Arman, 1975, 124x230cm. Casein on paper mounted on canvas, traces of violins and bows. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Fanfare sous le Feu", Arman, 1989, 160x315cm. Sliced and broken brass musical instruments with acrylic paint on canvas. Colors: red, blue, green, orange, purple, yellow, brown, and white(canvas). Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Quatuor d’Automne", Arman, 1991, 124 x 230 x 15 cm. Broken violins and cello with bow and acrylic paint on canvas. Colors: yellow, orange, blue, green, ochre . Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Austerlitz’s Sky", Arman, 1990, 182.9x269.2cm. Diptych - sliced violins and bows with acrylic paint on canvas. Colors:permanent green light, mars black, chrome oxide green, cobalt blue, ultraarine blue, silver, titanium white. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Untitled", Arman, 2004, 81.3 x 61 x 8.9 cm. Smashed violin with gold acrylic paint on black canvas . Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Untitled", Arman, 1990, 162 x 130 x 10 cm. Paint tubes and acrylic paint on canvas. Colors: mars yellow, cadmium orange light, cadmium yellow light, raw sienna . Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Fossile Sonore", Arman, 1990, 197x130x20cm. Broken bass fiddle with tubes and acrylic paint on canvas. Colors: rose, green, yellow ochre, purple. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Untitled", Arman, 2002, 76.2 x 61 x 15.2 cm. Sliced tea pot with acrylic paint on canvas. Colors: gray, violet, yellow ochre, cobalt blue, burnt sienna. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Untitled", Arman, 2002,100 x 81 x 10 cm. Sliced guitar with acrylic paint on canvas. Colors: steel blue, white, ochre rouge, ultramarine blue, raw sienna, gray. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Untitled", Arman, 2004, 121.9x91.4x12.7cm. Sliced guitar with acrylic paint on canvas. Colors: hensa yelloworange (canvas), gold-green dyna, violet cobalt,white, pthalo turquoise,alixarin crimson. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Untitled", Arman, 2002, 81.3 x 101.6 cm.Sliced saxophone with acrylic paint on canvas. Colors: black, burnt umber, yellow ochre, orange, green, gray . Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.

"Mumuyé", Arman, 1985, 76x60x67cm, Sliced bronze French horns, welded-lnscribed Mumuyé. Courtesy of The Arman Marital Trust.