Tom Sachs self

Tom Sachs

August 21, 2014

Tom Sachs is an American contemporary artist and sculptor best known for his elaborate recreations of various Modern icons, all of them masterpieces of engineering and design of one kind or another. Sachs re-envisions modern iconography, popular and industrial inventions of the 20th century. This contemporary revision of the nativity scene received great attention  and demonstrated Sachs' interest in the phenomena of consumerism, branding, and the cultural fetishization of products.

Born in 1966 in New York, he studied architecture at London's Architectural Association School of Architecture. Around 1990 he found a studio in the disappearing machinery district downtown. His studio, Allied Cultural Prosthetics, took its name from the previous tenant—Allied Machine Exchange—implying that contemporary culture had become nothing but a prosthetic for real culture.

In an early show he made Knoll office furniture out of phone books and duct tape; later, he recreated Le Corbusier's 1952 Unité d'Habitation using only foamcore and a glue gun. Other projects have included his versions of various Cold War masterpieces, like the Apollo 11 Lunar Excursion Module, and the bridge of the battleship USS Enterprise. And because no engineering project is more complex and pervasive than the corporate ecosystem, he's done versions of those, too, including a McDonald's he built using plywood, glue, assorted kitchen appliances. He's also done Hello Kitty and her friends in materials ranging from foamcore to bronze.

In fact, Tom Sachs doesn’t refrain from taking major luxury brands and ripping them out of their contexts. The themes central to his universe focus on American culture and society, which he treats with a heavy dose of humor and sarcasm. Attentive to detail and the finished result, he executes his work using both high and low materials. Most often, his models are created out of foam board, and some of his sculptures are cast in bronze.

A lot has been made of the conceptual underpinnings of these sculptures: how Sachs' sampling capitalist culture, remixing, dubbing and spitting it back out again, so that the results are transformed and transforming. All the steps that led up to the end result are always on display. On a practical level, this means that all seams, joints, screws or for that matter anything holding stuff together, like foamcore and plywood, are left exposed. Nothing is erased, sanded away, or rendered invisible. On a more philosophical level, this means that nothing Sachs makes is ever finished. Like any good engineering project, everything can always be stripped down, stripped out, redesigned and improved.

Tom Sachs lives and works in New York.