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In conversation with Daniel Arsham

“I make work for the current view.”

It doesn’t happen often than an artist opens two major shows in the same city at the same time. Unless your name is Daniel Arsham, that is. Currently showing at Galerie Ron Mandos and the Moco Museum, the American artist’s invasion of Amsterdam is in full swing. Glamcult caught up with Arsham at the opening of his must-see shows.

First of all, congratulations! How do Static Mythologies and Connecting Time relate to each other? Do we need to see one to understand the other?

Connecting Time is kind of an overview includes architectural anomaly works as well as the fictional archaeological series and given the location of the museum, I thought it was a good place to present a kind of overview. There’s also text included within the exhibition that kind of narrates viewers through the show. The show at Ron Mendos includes the Zen Garden, as well as some newer cast works not in the fictional archaeological series that depict forms—stuffed animals, children’s toys—wrapped in fabric and rope and then cast solid.

Fashion objects, from an issue of Dutch VOGUE to a New York Yankees cap, form an important part of your work, and to date you have collaborated with several fashion brands. How come? And what happens when such time- and trend-related objects become sculptures (of the imagined past)?

In creating these fictional archaeological pieces I wanted to work with printed matter books and magazines so I’ve made a number of them that depict not only fictional kind of archaeological subject matter, so that I’m able to create the subject matter within the books. It’s all made up; it’s all invented as well as the materiality of the pieces in volcanic ash, crystal and other materials that we associate with geology.

Speaking of fashion, we often see you dressed in mono white or mono black—a choice that persists throughout your work as well. Could you elaborate on the story/meaning behind this?

Within the studio, I’m usually wearing white or light colour which is a lot of the material we work with is light and colour so keeps me clean. I’m also colour-blind, which often prevents me from wearing bright colours and I generally stay away from that.

Static Mythologies sees one of your most famous works, ‘Lunar Garden’, make its Amsterdam debut. To us the work may look the same, but in another place/time/context, does it change (meaning) for you as an artist?

This was originally conceived and kind of a homage to the gardens that I’ve been to or that I’ve seen in Japan. The gardens are something that appear permanent that are always the same every time you go yet are remade each time, remade each day and something about that idea of permanence and ephemerality has always been interesting to me.

Your works and exhibitions are currently often description as ‘iconic’, which makes sense when they contain so many relics. However, how do you hope critics in the far future will describe them?

It is an interesting question as to how these works will be viewed in the future, 100 years from now, I think for any artist the best we can hope for is to influence and speak to the current moment in time given the social, political geographical climate, and all the issues that we deal with in our present day scenario and how people approach the work. I make work for the current view.

Words by Leendert Sonnevelt
All images courtesy of Galerie Ron Mandos, © Daniel Arsham