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40 years with Fernandez Arman

Regarded to be one of the most intriguing and important artists of modern time, the French born Fernandez Arman has become widely known for his spectacular sculptures and the continuous use of everyday mass-produced items. By many, he is referred to as the leading French counterpart to the American pop art culture that was sweeping through Europe during the 1960’s and he became associated with the modernist movement “Nouveau Réalisme”, or “New realism”, which emerged around 1960 in France as a response to the American trend. Today, works of Fernandez Arman has been exhibited in over five hundred one-man shows and his sculptures and paintings are to be seen in museums worldwide. Although he is considered to have been a very productive artist creating several different versions within the same theme, this auction Uppsala Auktionskammare has the pleasure of presenting an extraordinary large collection consisting of original and multiples made by Fernandez Arman during an intense period of 40 years.

Fernandez Arman, originally born Armand Pierre Fernandez, showed interest in art from an early age. His artistic learning was strongly encouraged by his father’s side of the family and he enrolled in Ecole Nationale d’Art Decoratif in Nice, but decided to drop out due to their traditional beliefs.  In 1947 he met Yves Klein for the first time, a contemporary artist who where to become one of his closest life-long friends and a great support in his strive to pursue a career in art. Yves Klein was also one of the artists who collaborated with Arman in the newly formed “Nouveau Réalisme” movement, a group of young artist that bared in common ”new perspective approaches of reality.” Arman and Yves Klein decided to sign their works by only their first name, inspired by Vincent van Gogh who only signed his pieces “Vincent”. However, it was not until 1958 that Arman adopted his name without the last letter due to a printer’s error in an exhibition catalogue for a group show at Galerie Iris Clert.

During this early period in his life, Arman concentrated his works on paintings and especially surrealistic motifs, perhaps not as far from his later works that one might assume. It was only after he had met Kurt Schwitters, famous for his collages and use of everyday headlines, that Arman started to experiment with sculptures. His first solo exhibition in 1956 included so-called “cachets”, a stamp-and-ink technique with rubber stamps, which clearly marked the beginning of a new phase within his artistry. Pointing back to the idea about the readymade formed by Marchel Duchamp; he thought that contemporary sculptures had to confront the commodity and that they should not be crafted by hand anymore but made out of mass-produced items. The repeated use of readymade identical products was further developed in the early 1960’s when he began to use trash and plexiglass formed into spectacular creations. One of the earliest pieces included in this auction is “Poubelle”, executed in 1964 and a great example of the artist’s ability to create art from tossed paper and familiar objects. His persistent use of trash was aiming to be an eye-opener to the amount of waste that mass-production generates when goods are being discarded and time passes, and also the thought that the waste of over-production might literally bury us someday. During the creation of “Poubelle” among other works of art, the artist was living in New York where he had moved together with his family in 1963. The metropolitan city fascinated him and he first moved to Hotel Chelsea and later on to Church Street. One of the highlights in the collection presented in this auction was made in Arman’s studio Hotel Chelsea in New York. “Vivaldi” is a unique piece consisting of a burnt violin embedded in resin which the artist made in 1966. He sold the piece to a friend and art collector from Sweden who has kept it until now.  Musical instruments were one of his most common subjects and in particular the violin played an important part in his production during the 1960’s, according to Arman among those instruments that held the strongest identity. “Vivaldi” is also an important expression of Arman’s interest in destruction of items.

The accumulation of items became significant for Arman’s production from an early stage and several examples are to be seen in this auction. He experimented with various items such as porcelain, colour tubes, paintbrushes and spoons – all reflections of the identical character of modern objects. As seen in several of the lots, he usually gathered the pieces together and displayed them in a glass-fronted case or embedded them in resin or plexiglass. The phenomena of repetition and mass production once again shift the focus from the individual object. “Macbeth II”, a monumental piece consisting of an accumulation of red paint bottles on plexiglass with running red colour over the glass, is included in this sale. Arman made the first “Macbeth” already in 1966, today regarded as one of the most important works of art within his production as it marks an early version of the larger works of accumulations. A later example of the accumulations is to be found in “Blue and silver”. Arman used identical colour tubes and attached them together on a painted canvas. The work of art is displayed in a plexiglass box and it was one of several unique pieces made by the artist in 2002. Versions of the colour tubes has been made in different sizes throughout his productive years, a smaller example is the multiple “Rainbow” that was edited by Michael Carlsson and Daniel Pinoy, Paris. Probably the most monumental among the works included in this rare collection is “Cascade de pinceaux”, a large canvas covered in colourful paintbrushes and with all the characteristics of the artist Fernandez Arman. A number of important sculptures from both his early career but also from his later period are presented in this sale. The violin was a subject he often returned to both in his accumulations and works in bronze and resin, for example seen in “Turning torso” from 2001. “Jazzy Jaguar” might be one of his most intriguing sculptures, depicting the mysterious wild animal crawling with a saxophone underneath in the formation of a second tale pointing straight up.

This sale offers a rare opportunity to acquire some of the most important works by Fernandez Arman, featuring forty years of a fascinating and storytelling artistic career.

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