French-born American artist Arman is known for his unique style of found-object sculpture. He is the co-founder of the Nouveau Réalisme movement that surfaced in 1960. This movement represented the response of France to Pop art what was sweeping in the United States and Europe. His junk art is a reflection of his rejected style of conventional painting. He made sculptures inspired by the concept of the readymade. He collected instruments, teapots, and forks after taking inspiration from the aesthetics and philosophies of Dadaism.
Arman was born as Armand Pierre Fernandez in Nice, France, on November 17, 1928, to Antonio Fernandez and Marie Jacquet. He began using the pseudonym Arman when the last letter of his name was omitted accidentally on a catalog cover in 1958, even though he already stopped using his surname long before in 1947.
Antonio Fernandez, his father, was an antiques and furniture dealer from Nice who moved his family from Algeria to southern France. Arman’s father was an amateur artist, weekend painter, cellist, and photographer. He exposed Arman to the world of painting and gave him his first art lessons. Arman also learned photography from his father. Antonio’s interest in collecting inspired Arman’s sculpture, especially the accumulation pieces.
In 1946, Arman received his degree in mathematics and philosophy. Soon after, he enrolled in Nice to study at the École Nationale des Arts Décoratifs. While studying judo at Nice police school in 1947, Arman met Claude Pascal and Yves Klein. The trio bonded while hitch-hiking around Europe.
Yves Klein become his life-long friend and co-founded the Nouveau Réalisme movement with him. Apart from painting, Arman and Klein were deeply involved in studying and practicing Rosicrucianism, Zen Buddhism, and Hinduism for the next many years.
After finishing his studies, Arman enrolled at the École du Louvre in Paris as a student, in 1949 where he studied Oriental art and archaeology. He started teaching in Madrid at the Bushido Kai Judo Club in 1951 along with Klein. He also served in the French army during the Indo-China War as a medical orderly.
Influence of Kurt Schwitters
In 1954, inspired by the works of German Dadaist Kurt Schwitters, Arman experimented with rubber stamps and created Cachets, his first major undertaking as an artist, which consisted of rubber stamp marks on fabric and paper. This series was featured in his first solo exhibition in 1956. The Cachets were a great success and changed his career. The Cachets led to the Allures d’Objects, which used solid objects including nails and chains. These objects were assembled together and then immersed in ink and printed. Some of them were created by crushing brittle objects, which inspired his next series, Rages. Pieces from this series are mostly composed of musical instruments that are broken and then mounted onto a flat smooth surface. This series was a tribute to the cultured tastes of Arman’s father.
Later Years and Death
Arman made his debut in the U.S. in 1961. He explored creation through destruction during this period. The Colères and the Coupes featured smashed, burned, or sliced objects assembled on canvas, mostly using musical instruments such as saxophones and violins artists.
Arman became fascinated with the U.S. art scene and took up part-time residency in New York in 1961. Upon becoming a citizen of the United States on January 31, 1973, he took the American civil name, “Armand Pierre Arman.” He continued using the pseudonym “Arman” to be his public persona.
Initially, Arman maintained an art studio in the Bowery in New York City and began his Combustiones series, accumulations of burnt objects, in 1963. Soon after, he began working on public sculptures known to be various expansions of the Accumulations such as jewelry, automobile parts, furniture, clocks, watches, tools, and musical instruments in different phases of segmentation.
In 1964, Andy Warhol filmed a documentary of a dinner performance by Fluxus artist Daniel Spoerri, in which Arman can also be seen. Throughout the film, Arman can be seen sitting in profile, seeming to be captivated in reading, unaware of the camera making only small gestures and rubbing his eyes.
Arman died from cancer at the age of 77 in New York in 2005. After his death, some of his ashes were buried at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
Arman’s first artistic explorations included cubist, figurative, and abstract paintings. However, after experiencing the Paris retrospective exhibition on the assemblage art in 1954 by the creative Dadaist Kurt Schwitters, Arman rejected traditional painting and sculpture to focus more on the object.
Object art, in essence, is any junk plastic art that is three-dimensional work made from materials or objects accumulated by the artist. It is then affixed, arranged, or constructed together in a meaningful or symbolic way.
Throughout his career, Arman accumulated things. His earliest expression of the act of accumulation was to collect garbage and displayed its accumulation. Arman exhibited his trash or garbage accumulation in the form of work he referred to as Poubelles (French for garbage can). His Poubelles were displayed in boxes made from either plexiglass or wood.
The Accumulations series worked off a similar concept and was one of Arman’s best-known series. These works were designs made up of a large assemblage of similar objects such as door handles, spoons, cogwheels, faucets, and combs. Arman collected an array of like objects that were still can be used as products, such as tubes of paint, rubber stamps, and clothes irons. He exhibited these accumulations as well his garbage accumulation encased in wooden boxes or Plexiglas. By the 1960s, he started collecting objects with a more aesthetic impact, including clothing, car parts, machine parts, musical instruments, drills, and axes. He assembled these objects into three-dimensional sculptures, and eventually, it became his signature style of assemblage.
Arman is well known for his accumulations and signature assemblages, but he worked through destruction. Arman intentionally burned or smashed objects and then arranged the broken pieces in abstract compositions and referred to this work of his as Colères, or “rages.” His Colères included musical instruments including violins, saxophones, and pianos, along with everyday objects like cameras, typewriters, and coffee mills. Arman also explored slicing as part of the destruction by cutting the objects into different sections. He would often slice objects and display them on the canvas.
In addition to accumulation, composition, and destruction of objects, Arman spent his career producing original sculptures. Once, he made a plaster mold of the naked body of his friend, Yves Klein, cast it in bronze, and painted it. Some of his musical instrument sculptures were sliced apart and displaced in pieces or made in multiples. Also, sometimes they are just made into furniture like a chair or a table base.
Furthermore, Arman is famous for his bronze sculptures, which speak about his fascination for music, rhythm, form, and his exploration of culture. One of his most recognizable works is the Arman Violins.
How much is my Arman sculpture worth?
Arman is the one of most prolific artists of the second half of the 20th century. He produced an enormous variety of different artworks, ranging from abstract paintings to prints, from his famous accumulations to bronze sculptures. Today, his works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Musée d’Art Moderne ed d’Art Contemporain in Nice, and the Tate Gallery in London, among others.
His work is popular among collectors and art enthusiasts, who happily pay up to six-figure amounts for his artwork. His works are consistently and reliably popular. His found objects are quite popular among art aficionados and have the highest value of his works. His famous bronze objects are also extremely popular and go for the most outside his found objects.
His accumulation work and other assemblages, including mixed media, resin, plexiglass, and more, increase in value as they increase in size.
Most of Arman’s works sell for $10,000 to $50,000.
Appraise and Sell Arman’s Work
If you have any piece of work from Arman, including his bronze sculptures, painting, Colères, Coupes, Poubelles, or any other work that you want to have sell or appraised, reach out to our experts at Revere Auctions.
You can contact us for a free auction estimate if you want to sell an Arman artwork. Our process is quite simple. Send us photos of the work and our experts will reach out to you to inform you of the amount at which the item is likely to be sold at the auction. We also offer appraisal services. If you need an appraisal for Arman’s work that you own, Revere Auctions offers a certified appraisal report covering insurance coverage, donations, and estate taxes. Our appraisals are compliant with Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice and are accepted by all the insurance companies and the IRS.