Tom Sachs Tom Sachs

Tom Sachs

American
b. 1966
/

Overview

'I think that art is to industry as dreams are to reality.'

A relentlessly innovative and subversive sculptor, Tom Sachs is best known for his elaborate, bricolage recreations of masterpieces of engineering and design. Humble foam core and plywood replace the gleaming aluminium and polycarbonate of mass-produced items, fabricated with the combination of industrial vigour and handmade artistry that have become his trademark. The themes central to his universe focus on American culture and society, which he treats with a heavy dose of humour and irony. He playfully engages with the corporate ecosystem and the idea of 'brand image' by riffing on luxury consumer items and global brands, which are transformed through their inclusion in an art context. 

In the 1990s, Sachs spent days studying Piet Mondrian's paintings at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, using duct tape on plywood to recreate several of them. It was through these early explorations that he began to develop the ethos of his studio, reconstructing objects he desired with the materials that were available to him and intentionally revealing his process, with all its challenges and imperfections. Two distinct techniques in his practice are pyrography, which is the art of wood-burning, and marquetry, which is the inlaying of pre-prepared wooden pieces. His works are conspicuously handmade and heighten our awareness of production techniques, in a reversal of modernisation's trend towards cleaner, simpler and more perfect machine-made items.

A relentlessly innovative and subversive sculptor, Tom Sachs is best known for his elaborate, bricolage recreations of masterpieces of engineering and design. Humble foam core and plywood replace the gleaming aluminium and polycarbonate of mass-produced items, fabricated with the combination of industrial vigour and handmade artistry that have become his trademark. The themes central to his universe focus on American culture and society, which he treats with a heavy dose of humour and irony. He playfully engages with the corporate ecosystem and the idea of 'brand image' by riffing on luxury consumer items and global brands, which are transformed through their inclusion in an art context. 

In the 1990s, Sachs spent days studying Piet Mondrian's paintings at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, using duct tape on plywood to recreate several of them. It was through these early explorations that he began to develop the ethos of his studio, reconstructing objects he desired with the materials that were available to him and intentionally revealing his process, with all its challenges and imperfections. Two distinct techniques in his practice are pyrography, which is the art of wood-burning, and marquetry, which is the inlaying of pre-prepared wooden pieces. His works are conspicuously handmade and heighten our awareness of production techniques, in a reversal of modernisation's trend towards cleaner, simpler and more perfect machine-made items.

The artist has long been fascinated with space exploration, in particular the Apollo Program from the 1960s and 1970s, as well as NASA's ongoing role as an incubator for pioneering new technologies that later resurface in everyday life and consumer products. Sachs has realised an entire body of space-related works, including models of various spacecraft, shoes made from materials developed for use in space, and his immersive Space Programs to the Moon, Mars and Europa. As arts leader Deborah Cullinan observes, 'His work reminds us of the seduction and utopian idealism that permeated our culture in the postwar period of space exploration, which […] continues to imbue the NASA brand with romance and intrigue.'

Sachs was born in 1966 in New York, where he lives and works. He studied at the Architectural Association, London in 1987 and graduated from Bennington College, Vermont in 1989. In an early exhibition, he made Knoll office furniture from phone books and duct tape; later, he recreated Le Corbusier's 1952 Unité d'Habitation using only foam core and a glue gun. Major projects have included his versions of the Apollo 11 Lunar Excursion Module, the bridge of the battleship USS Enterprise, and a 1:1 model of a McDonald's Frying Station, now in the collection of the Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo. An important survey of his work was shown at the Astrup Fearnley in 2006, followed by solo exhibitions at the Fondazione Prada, Milan (2006); Space Program: Mars, Park Avenue Armory, New York (2012); Space Program: Europa, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2016); and Boombox Retrospective 1999–2016, Brooklyn Museum, New York (2016). In 2016–17, he created Tea Ceremony for the Noguchi Museum, New York and the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas – a distinctive reworking of chanoyu, a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, including the myriad elements essential to the ritual. His Swiss Passport Office, created for Thaddaeus Ropac, London in 2018, reflected contemporary concerns relating to Brexit, the Syrian crisis, Trump's immigration policies and global citizenship. A retrospective of his work was shown at SCHAUWERK Sindelfingen, Germany in 2019, followed by Space Program: Rare Earths at Deichtorhallen Hamburg in 2021.

Videos

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Artist Talk: Tom Sachs X ArtReview
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Tom Sachs Rituals
Rituals
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Tea with Julia featuring Tom Sachs (2020); Thaddaeus Ropac
Tom Sachs
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Tom Sachs American Handmade Paintings
American Handmade Paintings
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Tom Sachs Drawings From 2000-2010
Drawings From 2000-2010
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Group Exhibition Space Age
Space Age
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Group Exhibition 30 JAHRE / 30 YEARS
30 JAHRE / 30 YEARS
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Group Exhibition Disaster: The End of Days
Disaster: The End of Days

Exhibitions

Publications

Publications

Tom Sachs American Handmade Paintings

Tom Sachs

American Handmade Paintings
2014
Tom Sachs: American Handmade Paintings
€ 30.00
Tom Sachs Islandia

Tom Sachs

Islandia
2007
Tom Sachs: Islandia
€ 35.00

News and Press

News and Press

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Atmospheric image Atmospheric image
Atmospheric image Atmospheric image