The fascination with the Classical antiquities never seems to cease to amaze the artists; it is a constant point of return and reexamination of the art history canons. However, aside from the significant cultural context they bear, the acknowledgment of these artifacts has to be appointed to a broader understanding of their socio-political implications. The antiquities are not just beautiful sculptures, vases and reliefs that belong to a certain epoch; they are signifiers of various changes happening throughout the centuries.
To articulate all the stated and examine the status of the Classical heritage in regards to contemporaneity, the American artist Daniel Arsham, known for his eroding, mostly white-colored readymades, produced a series of replicas of the iconic Antique sculptures, busts, and friezes that erode as well; these captivating works will be on display at Galerie Perrotin in Paris within an exhibition titled Paris, 3020.
During the past year, Daniel Arsham accessed the Réunion des Musées Nationaux – Grand Palais, a two hundred years old French molding atelier that reproduces masterpieces for few of Europe’s leading museums. There, the artist was able to use scans and molds of the most iconic works from the collections of Acropolis Museum in Athens, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, and the San Pietro in Vincoli as source material for his new series.
Arsham started devotedly exploring archaeology a decade ago while on a research trip to the South Pacific’s Easter Island. He was transfixed with an idea of exploring archeology as a fictionalized narrative of the past while using it as a tool for articulating both the past and the present.
Each sculpture in the Paris exhibition was cast in hydrostone (a process similar to wax casting) so that it can resemble the original piece as much as possible. Arsham used natural pigments such as blue calcite, volcanic ash, selenite, and rose quartz, the same ones used by classical sculptors, while the whole process is crowned with the artist’s signature crystallization method.
In the first exhibition room, the visitors are welcomed by two large-scale iconic female figures of the goddess Aphrodite and Lucilla, the daughter of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, followed by eroded versions of Michelangelo’s Moses and the Vénus de Milo in the second room. These two impressive sculptures are surrounded by various busts and other life-size sculptures.
On display are also a series of graphite process drawings that depict eroded icons of classical antiquity and refer to Arsham’s fine art background and the art historical tradition of sketching, creating a fictive narrative for works that were never meant to exist.
With this exhibition, Arsham also examines the role of the museums in moderating history, especially in the context of canonization and representation. Furthermore, the mentioned works will question the contemporary notion of timelessness.
Paris, 3020 will be on display at Galerie Perrotin in Paris from 11 January until 21 March 2020.
Featured image: Daniel Arsham - Rose Quartz Eroded Hamadryade, 2019. Pink selenite, quartz, hydrostone. 117 x 82 x 80 cm (46 1/16 x 32 5/16 x 31 1/2 inch). 187.00 kg. Photo: Claire Dorn © Courtesy the artist & Perrotin; Daniel Arsham standing in front of his sculpture Blue Calcite Eroded Venus of Milo. All images courtesy of the artist & Perrotin.