Arman was one of the most successful and prolific artists of the French Nouveau Realism movement which was the European equivalent of Pop Art. “As a witness of my society, I have always been very much involved in the cycle of production, consumption, and destruction.” said the French-born American artist.
Early Life and Education
Armand Pierre Fernandez was born in Nice in 1928. He began to use the name Arman to sign his work in 1958, after a printer misspelled his name. Using just one name was a nod to van Gogh, whom he greatly admired. Arman’s father, Antonio Fernandez, was an antiques and furniture dealer, and an amateur photographer, painter, poet, and cellist. He nurtured his son’s artistic talent by teaching him to paint with oils. His father’s love of collecting also influenced Arman’s later work.
Arman received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and mathematics in 1946 and went on to study at the École Nationale des Arts Décoratifs in Nice and, in 1949, enrolled at the École du Louvre in Paris to study archaeology and oriental art. He also studied judo at the police academy in Nice, where he befriended artist Yves Klein and composer Claude Pascal. In 1951, Arman began teaching at the Bushido Kai Judo Club in Madrid. He also served in the French military as a medical orderly during the Indo-China War.
Arman’s style evolved from abstract painting to creating two-dimensional work using collected objects . The works that got Arman recognition from the art world, in the early 1960s, were his Accumulations and Poubelles (French for trash bin). Accumulations are collections of similar and identical object, arranged in polyester or Plexiglas cases. Poubelles are collections of trash, also displayed in cases. As the work progressed, many of his works became free-standing Accumulations and Poubelles which did not need to be encased.
In 1961, Arman’s work debuted in the United States. Both the artist and his work were well received. Andy Warhol collected Arman’s work and had him perform in his 1964 film, Dinner at Daley’s. During his early days in the States, Arman began to construct and deconstruct musical instruments. The theme of Arman’s work was the consequences of mass production and consumerism.
Arman had two daughters and a son with his first wife, French electronic music composer, Elaine Radigue. In 1971, Arman married Corice Canton with whom he had a son and a daughter.. The couple was married for thirty-five years, until Arman’s death in 2005. Canton was a strong supporter of her husband’s work and collections and has been a trustee of New York’s Museum for African Art since 1992. Arman also had a son, in 1989, with Carrole Cesar. Arman became a U.S. citizen in 1973.
Arman’s works can be found in major museums and private collections around the world, including the Tate, London, MoMA, the Met, the Smithsonian, the Boca Raton Museum of Art and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.