Arman (November 17, 1928 – October 22, 2005) was a French-born American artist. Born Armand Fernandez in Nice, France, Arman was a painter who moved from using objects for the ink or paint traces they leave ("cachet", "allures d'objet") to using them as the painting itself. He is best known for his "accumulations" and destruction/recomposition of objects. From his father, Arman learned oil painting and photography. After receiving his bachelor's degree in philosophy and mathematics in 1946, Arman began studying at the École Nationale des Arts Décoratifs in Nice. He also started judo at a police school in Nice where he met Yves Klein and Claude Pascal. The trio bonded closely on a subsequent hitch-hiking tour around Europe.
Early on, it was apparent that Arman's concept of the accumulation of vast quantities of the same objects was to remain a significant component of his art. Ironically, he had originally focused more attention on his abstract paintings, considering them to be of more consequence than his early accumulations of stamps. Only when he witnessed viewer reaction to his first accumulation in 1959 did he fully recognize the power of such art. In 1962, he began welding together accumulations of the same kinds of metal objects, such as axes
Inspired by an exhibition for the German Dadaist Kurt Schwitters in 1954, Arman began working on "Cachets," his first major artistic undertaking. At his third solo exhibition held in Paris's Galerie Iris Clert in 1958, Arman showed some of his first 2D accumulations he called "cachets." These stamps on paper and fabric proved a success and provided an important change of course for the young artist's career.
At the time, he was signing with his first name as an homage to Van Gogh, who also signed his works with his first name, "Vincent." And, thus, in 1957, Arman chose to change his name from Armand to Arman. On January 31, 1973, upon becoming a citizen of the United States, he took the American civil name, Armand Pierre Arman. Nevertheless, he continued to use "Arman" as his public persona.
In October 1960, Arman, Yves Klein, François Dufrêne, Raymond Hains, Martial Raysse, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and Jacques Villeglé, and art critic and philosopher Pierre Restany founded the Nouveau réalisme group. Joined later by Cesar, Mimmo Rotella, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Christo, the group of young artists defined themselves as bearing in common their "new perspective approaches of reality." They were reassessing the concept of art and the artist for a 20th-century consumer society by reasserting the humanistic ideals in the face of industrial expansion.
Arman can be seen in Andy Warhol's film Dinner at Daley's, a documentation of a dinner performance by the Fluxus artist Daniel Spoerri that Warhol filmed on March 5, 1964. Throughout the portrait-screen-test film, Arman sits in profile, looking down, appearing to be entranced in his reading, seemingly unaware of Warhol's camera, only making small gestures, rubbing his eyes, and licking the corner of his mouth. He remained silent, eyes gazing over the pages of what seemed to be a newspaper, in this four-minute, 16mm black-and-white reel. Warhol owned two of Arman's Poubelles and another accumulation called Amphetamines, which were sold at Sotheby's auction of the Andy Warhol Collection in May 1988.
Fascinated with the scene in New York, Arman took up part-time residency there from his home in Nice in 1961, after his first exhibition at the Cordier Warren Gallery. In the city, he met Marcel Duchamp at a dinner given by the artist and collector William Copley.
Selected exhibitions and awards
Arman, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland
Arman, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Arman, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, Italy
Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, France; *Louisiana Museum of Modern Art Arman, Modern Art Museum, Stockholm, Sweden
Arman, Artcurial auction house, Paris, France
Arman: A Retrospective 1955 - 1991, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York; The Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, Michigan
Arman, Musée du Jeu de Paume, Paris, France
Arman, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel
Arman: Arman, Museum of Contemporary Art of Teheran, Teheran, Iran
Arman, Marlborough New York City
Arman, a retrospective, Centre Georges Pompidou, Oct. 2010, Paris
Arman, retrospectve, Museum Tinguely, Feb. 2011, Basel, Switzerland
Arman-in les Baux de Provence, July-Oct. 2011, Les Baux-de-Provence
Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York
Public collections in the U.S.A., selected
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
Harvard Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan
The Museum of Modern Art, New York