Daniel Arsham Looks to the Future’s Past

A studio visit with the acclaimed artist ahead of his new show, 3018

Daniel Arsham finds himself, and his work, at the intersection of many mediums—tactile art, architecture, performance and, with his newest show in particular, anthropology. Arsham’s upcoming exhibition, 3018 at Perrotin New York, recreates significant objects in popular culture with a dystopian filter. Features of the show include a 1981 Delorean, 1961 Ferrari 250GT and a cast of famous cartoon characters—among other relics from popular films and his childhood—made from volcanic ash, pyrite crystal, selenite and quartz.

Fictitious Vanity Fair cover. By Josh Rubin

The show’s title, a reference to life a hundred years from now, veils its components well. More literally, the figures he’s rendered for exhibition seem to have gathered dust—perhaps maybe their iconic stature can’t save them from the capriciousness of popular culture; perhaps their decayed state is indicative of the viewers and not the fault of its creator.

Courtesy of Daniel Arsham

“The show is a little bit of an overview so it includes three bodies of work that I would categorize as kind of architectural manipulation pieces. There’s a work in the show that looks like the word ‘Future’ pushed out of the surface of the wall—and obviously the title of the show is 3018,” he says. It’s just a start.

Ahead of the show’s opening, Arsham granted us access to his NYC studio where he conceptualized everything from his formula of materials to the available-for-purchase “Cracked Bear” sculpture.

by Josh Rubin

“A lot of the archaeological works are fictional projections of how these objects [of today] will degrade, erode in the future. But the works are made from crystal and other materials that we associate with growth,” Arsham says. “So there’s a little bit of a question with viewers as to whether the work’s falling apart or actually growing to some kind of completion.”

1961 Ferrari 250GT from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Courtesy of Arsham Studios

Illusion is a through line in 3018—and the work found in Arsham’s studio. The artifacts in both are so meticulously cast that their rigidity is incomprehensible to the eye and only apparent to the touch. Like drapery in ancient Greek sculptural works, cloaked characters and the aforementioned “Future” pressing its way out of the wall—of which there are a few others in the show—are recognizable but not visible; the method accentuates the depth of popular culture’s catalog.

by Josh Rubin

3018 acts as an index, with Arsham helming the curatorial duties. The obsessive quality in his work, and in ironing out the finer details of the upcoming show, is as fascinating as exhibited pieces. As Arsham cements his position in the art world, it’s almost fitting that this exhibition is one where he can break—quite literally—the rules a bit. His renders of magazine covers, for example, contain fictitious headlines about celebrities and friends perhaps as an imagination of the future he’d like to see or a relic of a revised past.

by Josh Rubin

“For me, being in the studio, there’s always been something that can never be shown to an audience—which is about process and about this idea of the physical transformation of something. And also the notion that an accident or an error can form the basis for something,” Arsham says. “A break, a crack–those types of elements. Those type of these things can never be repeated.”

by Josh Rubin

The “Cracked Bear”—a limited edition that is as much a product extension of the show as it is a separate, eternal entity—is a case study that focuses on this very idea that maybe something is coming together even when it’s breaking apart—that the cracks and the chips and the tears are added value. To this end, the bear has a solid, pristine blue surface when first unboxed and it’s up to the owner to crack its shell with whatever forceful emotion they deem fit. This is Arsham’s first truly interactive work.

Courtesy of Arsham Studios

“I’ve always loved how our works are packaged and crated and the labeling of them—all of that. I’ve started to integrate that into some of the works,” he says. “We have our own tape and our ‘take care’ labels and our own ‘fragile’ labels. It feels like a kind of universe of design and intention that has been considered heavily—even down to the packing peanuts. The throwaway stuff is part of the art,” he adds speaking of the custom ‘A’ shaped packing material. “And I guarantee people are going to be keeping those.”

Both in the studio and the exhibit, Arsham reveals so much that people will want to keep; though, they won’t be able to pin any of it to the past, present or future.

3018 opens 8 September and will be on exhibit until 21 October 2018 at Perrotin New York (130 Orchard Street). “Cracked Bear” is a limited edition product of Arsham Studio; it is an edition of 500 with a holographic label verifying its number and authenticity.