Daniel Arsham is a highly acclaimed multidisciplinary artist based in New York. His creative output includes sculpture, installation, film, painting, performance art, and design. He has collaborated in a myriad of projects with renowned artists and designers, as well as high-end brands. In his craft, Arsham playfully warps the perception of time, and poetically intertwines the past with a sci-fi future. Through his thought-provoking pieces, he invites the viewer to take a glimpse into a dystopian civilization occurring centuries from now.
Growing up in Miami, an area prone to severe tropical storms, he experienced firsthand the devastating path of hurricane Andrew at the age of twelve. It was the summer of 1992 when Andrew slammed south Florida, known as one of the strongest and destructive tropical cyclones of the century. The evening it made landfall, his family took shelter in a secure closet. The intense winds lifted the roof off, ripping his family’s house apart. Waking up to his home destroyed, as well as his town left in ruins, he grasped at an early age how natural hazards can wipe out structures. This surreal childhood memory highly influenced his artwork.
A trip to Easter Island in 2011 made a big impression in his art practice as well. He was fascinated by the Moai’s massive monolithic statues, more so when he encountered a group of paleontologists doing excavation work near the site. Soon after, Arsham reproduced this process by unearthing artifacts at his studio, and originated a fictional archeology.
Under this concept, his objects are presented as fossilized remains. Arsham explores the notions of destruction and degradation generated over time, caused by the changes in the surrounding environment. He accomplishes an artificial erosion and crystallization effect by implementing geological elements such as volcanic ash, quartz, rose quartz, blue calcite, and selenite, between the inner cracks of his subject. On the superficial layer, the bronze cast patina is hand-finished individually, resembling an oxidation process.
Recently, Arsham unveiled a series of new projects in the UK. His work is being displayed at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), located in a 500-acre country estate in West Yorkshire, north of England. YSP is the leading international center for modern and contemporary sculpture; one of the largest open-air art sites in the world. Arsham was struck by the history of the venue, its undulating grounds and ever-changing landscape; thus, establishing a connection with his pieces.
Relics in the Landscape displays six of his large-scale bronze sculptures dotted around the garden. This includes the three meter tall Bronze Eroded Venus of Aries (Large) (2022), a reenactment of the roman marble statue of Aphrodite from Menophantos with crystal formations; the Unearthed Bronze Eroded Melpomene (2021), placed seamlessly as if it was emerging from the ground; the Bronze Eroded Astronaut (2022), a revisit of the historic moment “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind” with the Apollo 11 Moonwalk in 1969; the Bronze Crystallized Seated Pikachu (2022), a mythological cartoon icon from the Pokémon franchise; the Bronze Extraterrestrial Bicycle (2022); and the Bronze Eroded Bunny (Large)(2022), the latter symbolizing pop culture figures, with the aim to create a dialogue about our current times in a fictional future setting.
“As history progresses, all objects become antiquated and in some way, they all become ruins or relics, disused or buried. In 1000 years everything that we own will inevitably become one of those things. I don’t particularly see that as having an apocalyptic quality – it’s sort of just the march of time moving on”. - Daniel Arsham
Concurring with Frieze week in the UK, the artist took over the London-based Shreeji Newsagents at Marylebone district. Recently renovated by developer Gabriel Chipperfield, son of the famous architect David Chipperfield, Shreeji Newsagents was expanded and revamped into a multicultural space, which includes a coffee and pastry-bar, as well as a reading area. Arsham’s green (patina) hue covered the facade of the store, and embedded on graphic prints, posters, apparel, as well as custom-made takeaway cups. In addition, it featured collectible and limited editions of the artist’s future relics.
Cover image – Quartz Eroded Bather (Vénus au Bain) 2022. Photo by Claire Dorn. Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin gallery
Unearthed Bronze Eroded Melpomene 2021 (YSP). Photo by Anthony Devlin, Getty images for Daniel Arsham
Bronze Eroded Venus of Aries (Large) 2022 (YSP). Photo by Anthony Devlin, Getty images for Daniel Arsham
Bronze Eroded Astronaut 2022 (YSP). Photo by Anthony Devlin, Getty images for Daniel Arsham
Courtesy of Shreeji