Wed 6 Sep 2023 to Sat 14 Oct 2023
Artist: Daniel Arsham
Opening: Wednesday 6 September, 4pm-8pm
Perrotin presents dual solo exhibitions of work by Daniel Arsham across Paris and New York, in honor of the artist’s 20th anniversary of collaboration with Emmanuel Perrotin. Arsham will debut multiple series of work that draw inspiration from the evolution of his artistic practice over the past two decades. Renowned for visually transforming cultural objects into subtly eroding artifacts, Arsham showcases the power of nostalgia by conflating past, present, and future. In the forthcoming exhibitions, Arsham will return to his oeuvre to examine and reflect on his long- standing appreciation for the complexities of materiality and space.
20 Years / 20 Ans will juxtapoze works on paper and paintings alongside life-size architectural inventions, sculptures carved from geological materials, to handheld objects and beyond. Key highlights will include a new collaboration with Star Wars, featuring the film’s iconic characters in Arsham’s signature “eroded” fictional archeological techniques; paintings in a new impasto paint specially developed by Arsham to invoke the texture of Renaissance masterpieces; a salon-style hanging of never-before-seen sketches on hotel stationery; wall surface manipulations bearing motifs of Falling Clocks and Veiled Poems and updated interpretations of Arsham’s classical antiquity sculptures. The exhibition will continue into the bookstores of Perrotin New York and Paris, with Arsham taking over these spaces to mark the launch of a new, coinciding book.
Emmanuel Perrotin says: “From the beginning of the gallery, our mission has been to make artists’ projects possible, giving younger artists the opportunity to produce their work. I met Daniel when he was 22 years old, an emerging artist living in his studio, and I was immediately drawn to his incredible talent and distinct vision. Daniel’s practice breaks the boundaries of fine art and exists across industries. As his success has grown, he has been able to keep his practice open to a broad audience, as a leader in editions, collaborations, and a widespread internet presence, which is admirable. It has been a pleasure to grow with Daniel, our gallery expanding alongside his career.”
Daniel Arsham says: “In this 20th year of collaboration and representation by Emmanuel Perrotin I’ve been taking stock of the journey I’ve been on. I began as a painter and many of the first exhibitions that I made with Emmanuel lived in this medium. As my interests and material palette have expanded the gallery has supported my work across mediums, disciplines and continents. I’m excited to unveil this new body of work which furthers my study of time dislocation and the integration of all my myriad interests. I make things that I truly want to see exist in the world and I hope that brings introspection and joy to others.”
Director of The Andy Warhol Museum and Curator
In September, Daniel Arsham will open dual exhibitions at Perrotin in Paris and New York, honoring twenty years of collaboration between the artist and Emmanuel Perrotin. Including new works that reference the full scope of his artistic production, 20 Years will survey two decades of his practice. Especially of interest is Arsham’s return to painting, his early primary medium, from which he diverged with an ambitious program of sculpture, architecture, and design. Aside from the allure of the individual objects he creates, it has always been the scope of Arsham’s production and the intensity of his ambition that has interested me. Of course, his diversity of practice seems familiar to someone who has been living and breathing Andy Warhol continuously for more than a decade.
I was thinking about Warhol and Daniel Arsham this spring while standing in the pleasure palace of Tiffany’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The space emerges from the glamourous past of Hollywood cinema (“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” made it into an eternal movie set) into a glorious present as imagined by powerhouse designer, architect, and collector Peter Marino. In the store’s elegant sweeping stairwell stands a monumental work by Arsham in his signature style of bronze classical statuary eroded to reveal a crystalized interior. Arsham’s work feels at home in this space. From a distance, the sculpture blends easily with the graceful sweep of the staircase that embraces it. It is only upon closer inspection that the sculpture begins to interact with the space in a more dynamic and jarring way as one takes in the eroded surface that reveals, in places, an inner, subterranean, hidden world.
Looking at Arsham’s sculpture, I thought of Andy’s love of gems and jewelry; how he would have loved everything about the new/old Tiffany store (except perhaps that his work is not represented). But Andy always had a curious relationship to luxury items that reminds me of Arsham’s relationship with some of the world’s most recognizable brands. For example, Andy owned some important and large jewels, but he always hid them, worn underneath a discrete black turtleneck or stashed in the folds of his canopy bed, imparting a sense of power tangled up in the shame of being a man sporting women’s jewelry and enhancing the thrill of their secret presence next to his body. Arsham also hides things, and in so doing, makes them even more covetable.
Arsham’s trademark crystals always emerge from within rather than being applied externally. They thrust out from erosions that are a kind of wound in the body or the object. These objects are ruined, eaten away as if by acid, and then redeemed into something even more glorious having been stripped of their perfection. It is the worn-out quality of these objects, combined with new materials, colors and context, that creates their fascination. There is repetition and seriality here in the same way that Warhol multiplied everything from Marilyn to Brillo while Arsham focuses on Rolexes and Porsches. With both artists, the strategy serves to magnify the brand and also critique the empty promises of all material possessions. The obsessive drawings, paintings and sculptures of Porsches that feature so prominently in Arsham’s upcoming exhibitions have been “ruined” in the sense that their coveted, pristine surfaces are defiled and therefore made more beautiful through the artist’s interventions.
The most obvious parallel between Arsham and Warhol is that both are unabashedly businessmen, blurring the line between art and commerce, but a richer comparison is the near constant presence of nostalgia in their work. This is not an easy, sweet nostalgia but a somewhat grim reminder that the great wonders of American life and popular culture are in the past. This is evident in Arsham’s drawings on hotel stationary, which document the artist’s success as a physical archive of travel as well as the transformation of his style and mark-making over time.
Drawing has consistently been an important discipline for Arsham, including a daily sketch book practice which he started at the age of nine. In his current practice, Arsham similarly uses drawing as a space of boundless creativity where he conjures ideas for large-scale installations. Like Martin Kipperberger’s extraordinary suite of drawings on hotel stationary, these works document the life of a successful artist bouncing from continent to continent, housed in a series of luxurious hotel rooms that are never home. Arsham’s drawings pull their subjects from many of his sculptural projects, scrambling iconic American cartoon and movie characters with classical sculptures and anime figures in a jetlagged mixtape. The drawings function as studies but also feel like a song that gets stuck in your head, randomly reappearing in the middle of the night to remind you of the pop hits of your high school years. All of the subjects share one quality - they look back through time.
Nostalgia also features prominently in Arsham’s return to painting. (In another Warhol reference, Andy somewhat facetiously told the world he was finished with painting in the mid-60s and was going to be a filmmaker, only to then produce some of his most fascinating canvases in the 70s and 80s.). Having recently viewed some of Arsham’s new paintings in his studio as he worked on them, it was not only their unfinished state that reminded me of Warhol’s paint by number (or “Do It Yourself”) paintings of idealized seascapes and small-town life. Arsham’s works were made with specially formulated, super matte acrylic paint in muted tones that, for me, echo the retro, thrift store palette of Warhol’s series. In particular, Arsham’s Pitstop Mobil with its classic Mobilgas sign and Storefront Tiffany & Co with now-extinct public phones in front have a familiar dusky longing embedded in them.
Another highlight of the upcoming dual exhibitions will be a collaboration (approved as opposed to appropriated) with the Star Wars brand in which Arsham will render the franchise’s classic characters in his own manner, stripping them of color and eroding them to reveal surprising inner surfaces. This series too resonates with Warhol as I think not only of Andy’s endless references to brands (sometimes explicitly via paid partnerships) but more importantly his palpable longing for childhood simplicity. Warhol’s “Myths” series that reimagined Mickey Mouse, Santa Claus, the Wicked Witch of The West and other American cultural icons in blazing Pop colors would fit nicely in a room with Arsham’s Darth Vader and R2D2 works.
But all comparisons between artists have their limits. Camp ran deep through Warhol’s veins and Arsham’s work is more earnest. There is perhaps a comparison to be had in that both Warhol and Arsham function as outsider/insiders, obscuring and hiding their real selves much as they hide the meaning in their work. Andy Warhol never forgot that he was Andrew Warhola from Pittsburgh and I wonder if Daniel Arsham sometimes feels a similar sense of dislocation as he inhabits the center of cool in contemporary culture.
Much as Warhol was sometimes dismissed for his embrace of commerce, I think many also fail to see the serious side of Daniel Arsham’s eroded relics of an American culture that has more power in its past than in its future. These objects float dislocated in time and place, existing both in a teenage boy’s bedroom late at night as he scribbles in a notebook and simultaneously in the pristine white boxes of museum galleries. There is another object hiding underneath what we see. And what is hidden underneath is the real subject at hand.
Patrick Moore is the Director of The Andy Warhol Museum and curator of “Fame: Andy Warhol in AlUla” as well as “Becoming Andy Warhol.”