Arman (1928-2005)
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Arman (1928-2005)

Pompeii Concerto

Arman (1928-2005)
Pompeii Concerto
signed 'Arman 66' (lower right)
burnt violin in Plexiglas
27 x 11 5/8 x 3in. (68.5 x 29.5 x 7.5cm.)
Executed in 1966
Mr. and Mrs. George Staempfli, New York.
Mrs. Helen Chester Beatty, London.
Her sale, Sotheby's London, 17 October 1991, lot 51.
Locks Gallery, Philadelphia.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1994.
H. Martin, Arman, New York 1973, n. 108 (illustrated, p. 123 and incorrectly dated 1965).
P. Restany, 'A Rare Collection in Israel', in: Cimaise, revue de l'art actuel, no. 246, April-May 1997 (illustrated, unpaged).
Paris, Galerie Mathias Fels, Objects 1967, October - November 1967.
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Lot Essay

This work is registered in the Archives Denyse Durand-Ruel under no. 333 and will be included in the forthcoming Arman catalogue raisonné being prepared by Denyse Durand-Ruel, Paris.

Executed in 1966, Pompeii Concerto is iconic in its simplicity and in its pure Arman-ness. The burnt violin has been captured as though at the moment of explosion, showing Arman's joyful disregard of convention and also his sheer love of objects. The destruction of the violin is not an act of violence so much as an act of exploration. Arman is investigating, and forcing the viewer to reconsider the formal appearance of the violin as a subject. By presenting it in this way, he has enacted a Nouveau Réaliste act, yet at the same time it is as though he has dragged the painting techniques of the Cubists into reality-- through an act that is almost Dada. Is this extreme iconoclasm, the artist showing to what extent he has managed to surpass his predecessors, or is it homage?

Restany, who referred to Arman's process of 'caramelisation' when he saw the charred remains of the violin captured in Pompeii Concerto, noted not only its quality but also its importance as an early work when he wrote his 1997 essay on the Harlap collection. 'Caramelisation' is the perfect term, capturing as it does both the luscious viscous appearance of the resin and the sense of fire that is captured in stasis before us. It is this that makes the title all the more pertinent: just as the ashes of Vesuvius froze the city of Pompeii still in one ancient moment, so too Arman has frozen and indeed halted the destruction of this violin. The idea of 'caramelisation' also conveys a sense of sensual pleasure, which is all the more apt when confronted with Pompeii Concerto. It is precisely to the senses that this work plays: the sense of sight, naturally, but also in the jellified appearance, there is a tactile quality that likewise appeals almost to the taste-buds. Meanwhile, the destruction of the violin deliberately confounds the sense of hearing: either we are left with silence, the potential of the violin to create music, or we are left with the resounding crackle and boom of the fire and implied explosion-- either way, a deliberate assault on the ears.

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