Tom Sachs   
Untitled (arms and Armor from New York Gladiators), 1995, plastic, clothes, hanger and found clothes (in three parts)

Born 1966 New York City (USA)
Lives and works in New York City (USA)

In his work Untitled (arms and Armor from New York Gladiators) Tom Sachs “hobbles together” a suit of armour resembling samurai armour, using construction site cast-offs. Sachs combines scrap metal, asphalt and the construction-site noise of a large city with echoes of the long since disappeared martial culture of the Far East and its venerable code of honour. As a metaphor for the “melting pot”, the New Yorker creates a picture of a lonely urban warrior who is internally riven and complex, opening up worlds of philosophical deliberation that collide with the reality of life in the city. The armour is at once striking and simplistic. The suit was tested in battle when artist Dirk Westphal had “urban gladiators” from the art scene face off against each other in 1999. The combatants fought with abandon and even had spectators firing them on and betting on the outcome. In this piece, Tom Sachs manages to combine entertainment with spheres of the blue-collar milieu and an unusual spin on contemporary art. At the same time, he elevates the essence of the construction site and the rawness, the combativeness, to the cultural level while playfully questioning concepts of art and society, morality and honour, earnestness and play. Various layers of interpretation suggest themselves without becoming fully tangible. Tom Sachs is regarded as an artist who imagines his objects and sculptures like an engineer and teases them into existence like an inventor. His fantastical creations are often re-enactments and re-imaginings of everyday objects, McDonalds branches, Hello Kitty figurines and NASA rockets shaped by his characteristic DIY style and robust material mix. His “remixes” are also renowned in the fashion industry and the artist works with various fashion labels.

Text: Mirka Gewinner