Daniel Arsham - White Selenite Spanning Corner, 2018

Daniel Arsham

United States 1980

Installation, Sculpture, Performance Art, Conceptual Art


Daniel Arsham
Daniel Arsham
United States
October 25, 2016

The elusive point where sculpture, architecture, and performance meet, the place American artist Daniel Arsham calls home, is capable of great inspiration and impression. Always at the edge of art and architecture, experimenting with various approaches and practice, this young colorblind artist has earned the praise of both ordinary museum-goers as well as extravagant show-business stars. His numerable collaborations include projects done with James Franco, Merce Cunningham, Heidi Slimane and Pharrell Williams. He has also received commissions from luxury fashion brands such as Calvin Klein and Louis Viton.

Daniel Arsham – from artist’s 2D projects

Arsham’s Interest In Architecture Sparked by a Hurricane

Daniel Arsham was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up in Miami. He graduated from the Cooper Union in New York. Interestingly, what first drew him to the subject of architecture was an incident of violent weather in his childhood. Witnessing his childhood home become the wreckage of a hurricane and seeing “what’s inside the walls” impressed upon him a fluid understanding of architecture. His installations play with the boundaries of space and time as the walls themselves become pieces of art, warping and disappearing, oozing over, under and hiding objects and bodies, as staircases lead nowhere and nature overpowers structures. Arsham seems to enjoy a paradoxical, sometimes dystopian, view of the past, present and future, placing us in the proverbial shoes of our ancestors as he encases everyday objects in volcanic ash, seemingly found at a future archeological excavation site. Another staple of his work is the play with negative space, objects seemingly there under a bed sheet or inside the wall, but actually hollow, only their resemblance painted by the solid sculpture of what is usually a soft and flowing fabric.

Arsham recieved the support of Emmanuel Perrotin with whom he continues to collaborate

Arsham's art has been on display in many a museum and gallery, from Paris to New York
Daniel Arsham – from artist’s 3D projects

Color Blindness as a Catalyst

The trait that sets this quirky artist apart is his color blindness. He can see approximately twenty percent of what a person can normally distinguish. Reflecting this is his art, nearly always lacking color, monochromatic at the most. A recurring symbol is the moon and her black-and-white dance. “In space, there is a lot of black.” – Arsham says. Looking at all of Arsham’s works, a distinct preference for white and gray tones can be noticed. Is he trying to relate his condition through his work? What is certain is that Daniel perceives the world differently than we do, a thing every artist aspires to, even if he wasn’t much aware of it in his early years. He considered his color-blindness a mere fact of life, a small nuisance, or not even a change at all, seeing as his parents never treated him very differently or put much emphasis on his condition. Even so, as an adult, he acknowledges the vast difference in perspectives of people, especially in the case of conditions such as these. He has experimented with correcting his vision through special optical lenses that refract light and allow colorblind people to see more differences between colors, inspiring him to use color for the first time in his 2016 solo exhibition at Galerie Perrotin in New York, titled Circa 2345. Using calcite crystal, a substance richly blue in color, Arsham cast today’s sports items into intensely colored sculptures, including an explorable cavern made entirely of sports balls. Even so, the exhibition hints at the author’s life without color, as no other colors are used but shades of blue and purple.

Inside the cavern

A museum made of balls; use of color news for Arsham
Daniel Arsham – Circa 2345, 2016 – Courtesy of Guillaume Ziccarelli

The Stars Love Him

Daniel got propelled into the world of jet-set when legendary American dance choreographer Merce Cunningham invited him to design the stage for the piece titled eyeSpace at the Miami Performing Arts Center, 2004. Cunningham had previously collaborated with the likes of Rauschenberg, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol, and Arsham was to be the youngest artist to collaborate with the choreographer. Even with no training or experience in stage design, he accepted the offer and went on to repeatedly design sets for Cunningham, including her last show before her death in 2009. With news of the collaboration reached other artists, they too began to seek out Daniel’s arts and design. What makes Arsham particularly popular among high-profile celebrities is the monochrome palette he uses, attributed to his colorblindness, and the sense of disembodied futurism his works entail. That aesthetic resonates with luxury streetwear aficionados, like Pharell Williams. He met Arsham at a dinner in Miami hosted by Galerie Perrotin, and the two became friends because of a shared fascination with each other’s art. Arsham has cast Williams’s first instrument, a Casio MT-500 keyboard, in volcanic ash, crystal, and steel. “Daniel is the master of illusion and science,” Mr. Williams said in an email. “The metaphors in his work read true to humans. It’s not based upon languages. It’s based upon human reaction and response to his work.”[1] Arsham himself modestly puts what he does as “taking everyday things and playing with expectations”.

In the search for the unknown within architecture

Snarkitecture tries to contact the future by using old items in new ways
Daniel Arsham – Drip Light, Snarkitecture, 2015

Snarkitecture, A Paradoxical Blend of Disciplines

Architecture is an ever-present subject throughout his work, an area Arsham likes to explore, bend the rules of and play with. Getting inspiration from everyday scenes, he makes architecture go places it is not supposed to go, confusing our expectations of space and form. Together with artist Alex Mustonen, Arsham established Snarkitecture – a collaboration and experimental practice creating works somewhere in-between art and architecture, trying to answer architecture’s unasked questions and investigate the unknown, resulting in spectacular effects as existing materials, programs and structures are manipulated and reinterpreted. By transforming the everyday into the extraordinary, Snarkitecture offers memorable moments of interaction to their audience. Exploring the boundaries of disciplines, the studio designs permanent, architectural scale projects and functional objects with new and imaginative purposes. The name Snarkitecture is drawn from Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of The Snark, a poem describing an “impossible voyage of an improbable crew to find an inconceivable creature.”[2]

In Daniel Arsham’s work, sculpture, architecture and performance blend, creating the surreal. Nothing is what it seems. Through sculpture, drawing, and performance, Arsham challenges our perceptions of physical space, as walls melt or stretch like a piece of fabric in front of our very eyes. Fascinated by the relationship between modern architecture and the natural environment, he looks for inspiration to create the impossible.

Daniel Arsham is represented by the Galerie Perrotin in Paris, Hong Kong and New York, as well as Gregg Shienbaum Fine Art Miami and OHWOW from Los Angeles.

Daniel Arsham lives and works in New York.


  1. Julia Chaplin, Why Celebrities Are So Into the Artist Daniel Arsham, New York Times [Jan 21, 2015]
  2. Snarkitecture, profile

Featured image: Daniel Arsham – White Selenite Spanning Corner, 2018. Selenite, hydrostone. 22 1/6 × 15 × 8 in. 56.3 × 38.1 × 20.3 cm. This is a unique work. Photo courtesy Perrotin
All images copyright of the artist

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016The Future Was ThennSCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GASolo
2016My First Show in Japan, Year 2044Nanzuka Gallery, Tokyo, JapanSolo
2016Moons and MusicEden Rock Gallery, St. Barths, French West IndiesSolo
2015Daniel ArshamGalerie Perrotin, New York NYnSolo
2015Daniel ArshamCAC, Cincinatti OHnSolo
2014Special projectPippy Houldsworth Gallery, London UKnGroup
2014Welcome to the FuturenLocust Projects, Miami FLSolo
2013FUTUREARCHIVE Galerie Perrotin, Hong KongSolo
2012YESTERDAYSFUTURESLouis Vuitton Singapore headquarters in conjunction with the Singapore Biennale- SOTASolo
2012RECOLLECTIONS Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London, UKSolo
2012TOMORROWSPAST Ron Mandos Gallery, Amsterdam, NetherlandsSolo
2012HomebodiesMuseum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, ILGroup
2012Reach RuinThe Fabric Workshop Museum, Philadelphia, PASolo
2011Project at The BoxPippy Houldsworth Gallery, London, UKSolo
2011StormGalerie Perrotin, Paris, FrancSolo
2011-Next Wave Art, curated by David Harper Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NYGroup
2011Célébrations, Rêve de natureMusée de Valence hors les murs, Valence, FranceGroup
2011I'm Over Here NowRichmond Center for the Visual Arts, Kalamazoo, MIGroup
2011-Set design for Curtain,a dance collaboration between Jonah Bokaer and David HallbergFestival d'Avignon, Sujets a Vif, Avignon, FranceSolo
2011The fall, the ball and the wallOHWOW Gallery, Los Angeles, CASolo
2011Commemorative MarkerMarlins Ballpark, Miami. In collaboration with SnarkitectureSolo
2011Set design for Merce Cunningham Dance Company's last performancesPark Avenue Armory, New York, NYSolo
2010DIG, in collaboration with OhWow and Galerie PerrotinStorefront for Art and Architecture, New York, NYSolo
2010Why Patterns, set design in collaboration with SnarkitectureJacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, MAGroup
2010It Ain’t Fair: MaterialismOhWow, Miami, FLGroup
2010Flash: Light, Festival of Ideas for the New CityNew Museum, New York, NYGroup
2010Ron Mandos GalleryArmory Show, New York, NYGroup
2010The Past is a Grotesque AnimalIn Extenso, Clermont-Ferrand, FranceGroup
2010RECESS, set design and performance, in collaboration with Jonah Bokaer Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, MAGroup
2010AlterGalerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Miami, FLSolo
2009Animal ArchitectureGalerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, FranceSolo
2009Avalanche, set design for Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s performancesAdrienne Arsht Center, Miami, FLSolo
2009-Ron Mandos Gallery’s boothArtbrussels, BelgiumSolo
2009Look AgainSoutheastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA), Winston Salem, NCGroup
2009The Maginot LineDavid Castillo Gallery, Miami, FLGroup
2009It Ain't Fair 2010, OhWow Gallery, Miami, FLGroup
2009Memories of the FutureSean Kelly Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2009REPLICA, set design and performanceMoCA, FLGroup
2009REPLICA, set design and performanceMusee d’Art Contemporain, Marseilles, FranceGroup
2009REPLICA, set design and performanceHellenic Festival, Athens, GreeceGroup
2009-Why Patterns, set design in collaboration with SnarkitectureRotterdamse Shouwberg, Rotterdam, NetherlandsGroup
2009Set design for Merce Cunningham Dance Company's Paris PerformancesParis, FranceSolo
2008ProjectionsCarré d'art de Nîmes, Nîmes, FranceGroup
2008Heaven2nd Athens Biennale, Athens, GreeceGroup
2008Painting the Glass House: Artists Revisit Modern Architecture, curated by Jessica Hough & Monica R. MontagutMills College Art Museum, Oakland, CAGroup
2008On From HereGuild and Greyshkul, New York, NYGroup
2008Luna ParkAlejandra von Hartz Gallery, Miami, FLGroup
2008Quand je serais grandGalerie Jeanroch Dard, Paris, FranceGroup
2008Wall Erosion ArchGalerie Emmanuel Perrotin’s booth, FIAC, Paris, FranceGroup
2008REPLICA, set design and performance IVAM in Frontiers of Time, curated by Bob Wilson, Valencia, SpainGroup
2008REPLICA, set design and performanceNew Museum, New York, NYGroup
2008Beacon/Miami at Bank of America towerMiami Art Museum, Miami, FLSolo
2007The UndoingGalerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Miami, FLSolo
2007Playground Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, FranceSolo
2007Something LightGalerie Ron Mandos, Amsterdam, NetherlandsSolo
2007The Fireplace projectEast Hampton, NYGroup
2007Thoughts on Democracy: Reintereriting Norman Rockwell's 'Four Freedoms' Posters The Wolfsonian-FIU, Miami Beach, FLGroup
2007Reunion, The Fireplace Project East Hampton, NYGroup
2007Painting the Glass House: Artists Revisit Modern Architecture, curated by Jessica Hough & Monica R. MontagutYale School for Architecture Gallery, New Haven, CTGroup
2007Painting the Glass House: Artists Revisit Modern Architecture, curated by Jessica Hough & Monica R. MontagutThe Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, CTGroup
2007PlaygroundGertrude Street, Melbourne, AustraliaSolo
2006Merce Cunningham: Dancing on the Cutting Edge Part IIMOCA at Goldman Warehouse, Miami, FLSolo
2006eyeSpace, first collaboration with Merce CunninghamThe Miami Performing Arts Center, FLSolo
2006Guild (curated by Daniel Arsham)Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Miami, FLGroup
2006Building SchmuildingGalerie Emmanuel Perroin, Miami, FLSolo
2005Solo show in the booth of Galerie Emmanuel PerrotinFrieze Art Fair, London, UKSolo
2005The Museum Of GlassSeattle, WA
2005Miami in TransitionMiami Art Museum, FLGroup
2005HomesickGalerie Emmanuel Perrotin, Paris, FranceSolo
2005Greater New YorkP.S.1 Museum of Contemporary Art, Long Island, NYGroup
2005WanderlustJulia Friedman Gallery, New York, NYGroup