Daniel Arsham, The Artist Breaking the Rules of Art

Paris 3020, Daniel Arsham à la Galerie Perrotin Paris
Paris 3020, Daniel Arsham at Galerie Perrotin, Paris

Daniel Arsham, the name on everyone’s lips since his Paris 3020 exhibition and Dior catwalk show. This is no coincidence, his work on texture and his conceptual research have pushed the boundaries of contemporary art. Curious? Today, Artsper will guide you through the ways in which this artist has shaped his own form of aestheticism in the art world. Whether you’re already a fan or if you’re intrigued to know more, the time has come to discover the artist who appears to have won over experts and neophytes alike. 

Following Daniel Arsham’s footsteps into the art world 

Born in the 80’s, the young Daniel Arsham primarily grew up in Miami. During his childhood, he began to familiarise himself with art, starting with photography and also his grandfather’s great collection of artworks. Quickly, he decided to take up art classes and chose to study at the Cooper Union in New York. An education that undoubtedly contributed as a source of inspiration for his future works.

 Daniel Arsham, a key figure in contemporary art
 Daniel Arsham, a key figure in contemporary art

With a mind full of projects, Arsham did a series of experimental exhibitions such as at The House in Miami in 2004. It was there that he met Emmanuel Perrotin which turned out to be a decisive encounter, as the prestigious Perrotin gallery has subsequently followed him throughout his career.

One year later, Daniel Arsham went into a partnership with designer Alex Mustonen, together they founded Snarkitecture. The studio has blurred the lines between art, design and architecture by utilising space and matter in an innovative way.  Thanks to Snarkitecture, he produced large scale projects such as the KITH shops in New York and LA, as well as the DIG project. 

In 2011, Arsham visited Easter Island where he discovered the Moais, the monumental statues with a mysterious history. The artist was captivated by their beauty and resistance against erosion. The journey heavily influenced the artist who later reproduced this enigmatic weathering style in his works.

David Arsham at the Moco, Amsterdam
David Arsham at the Moco, Amsterdam

Daniel Arsham’s extraordinary world

In Arsham’s studio, everyday objects, clothes and symbols of street culture exist alongside antique statues. The pristine whiteness reveals imperfections and small crystals. Upon entering his studio, you discover small clues, which are a precious indicators of his work.

The artist is indeed known for his ability to interpret universal references. Christened by some ‘the architect of the future’, his works have an antique quality – as if they have just been discovered or come out of the ground – while retaining a poetic softness. The weathering is intentionally visible on the corners and extremities of pieces. However, he replaces the fractures with beautiful crystals. This original and instantly recognisable technique has become the artist’s trademark. A futuristic erosion immerses the spectator into a world that is ancient, mysterious and avant-garde. By reinventing archaeology in his own way – through corrosion and his choice of materials – he makes his art timeless.

Future Relic David Arsham
Future Relic, David Arsham, 2016

The Future Relic series by Daniel Arsham is an clear manifesto of his style, embodying the essence of his art. He transformed modern and familiar objects to make them appear as if they had been found two hundred years before, giving them an air of mystery. A combination of anachronism and singularity, his soft monochrome sculptures shock, disturb and amaze the spectator.

An original and long-developed technique 

Despite its apparent simplicity, this result is the fruit of hard work. In fact more than a year can pass between the initial drawing and final artwork. 

In the beginning, a long period of research and development work was necessary to establish the correct crystallisation technique and perfect texture. For instance most of his artworks are made from geological rocks, such as volcanic rock or quartz.

Then each time, the first draft has to be adapted into plaster, to then be made into the final sculpture. Sometimes, projects are impossible, in which case they have to be abandoned. This process is also a way for Arsham to question the limits of artistic creation. How far is he willing to go for a work that is close to his heart? At what point does he arbitrate between the importance of its creation and the time needed to achieve it?

Rose quartz eroded Hamadryade, Daniel Arsham, 2019
Rose quartz eroded Hamadryade, Daniel Arsham, 2019

Moreover, in his Paris 3020 exhibition, the artist pushed the boundaries of his creative process even further. In order to achieve the reproduction of iconic statues, such as the Venus de Milo or Michelangelo’s seated Moses in life-size, he collaborated closely with the casting workshop of the Réunion des Musées Nationaux (RMN). Quartz, gypsum cement and blue calcite, Arsham used the same materials as used for classical sculpture, while adding his personal touch with crystallisation. 

The result? He succeeded in breathing new life into what had come before, projecting his new vision, erasing all boundaries between past, present and future.

Pushing the boundaries

Overall, Daniel Arsham likes to experiment with materials and enjoys breaking down the barriers between art and architecture. For example, he has worked several times ‘in the wall’. In this case, the final work is barely visible… you can just about distinguish its forms and contours, the work becoming an integral part of the structure, part of the background. In these examples, the connection to Arsham’s early experiments with set design and architecture is clear. By distorting textures and defying the boundaries between the arts, Daniel Arsham upsets the very perception we have of a piece of art. 

Thus, his never-ending reinterpretation of everyday objects or ancient heroes can be seen as a way to communicate his artistic vision to us. One of his greatest strengths is his ability to make the his work crystal clear. This explains why he advocates the use of international references. Whether you’re from Brazil, Japan or France, everyone knows the Polaroid, the Mac and the Venus de Milo! Thanks to the immediate understanding of this initial reference, the spectator easily penetrates the world of Daniel Arsham and contemporary art, and everyone is then free to interpret it as they wish, which allows his work to live in many different ways.

Daniel Arsham
David Arsham at the Moco, Amsterdam

Moreover, the combination of monochrome works, often in pastel shades and impressive formats simultaneously reassures and enchants. He is not ambivalent with his colour use, he uses monochrome almost exclusively, ranging from white to black. Indeed, being colour blind inhibits his vision of some colours.

Prestigious collaborations and future projects

Daniel Arsham has succeeded in bridging the gap between art and fashion, he is notably the first artist to have collaborated with Adidas. Monochrome and elegant, the pair of trainers from this collaboration are a true reflection of his work. Additionally, in September 2019, Daniel Arsham and Dior collaborated for Men’s Summer Fashion Week 2020. The artist created the catwalk set design and the sculptures of the letters ‘DIOR’. Moreover, the colours and essence of the collection were in keeping with the artist’s aestheticism.

Défilé Dior, Collaboration avec Daniel Arsham 2019
Défilé Dior, Fashion Week 2019, Daniel Arsham

In the artistic domain, artists Daniel Arsham and Hajime Sorayama have twice worked collaboratively. The Japanese artist’s silver robots merged with the American’s futuristic relics together create two iconic pieces of work. 

Looking to the future, Arsham is said to have expressed a desire to turn to video. With this medium, he wishes to reach an even larger audience and to be able to exhibit his works in astonishing settings. At Artsper, we are already looking forward to seeing the results! In the meantime, you can discover his work on Artsper.

Fieg Gallery, Daniel Arsham
Fieg Gallery, Daniel Arsham

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