Violon Coupé en Longeur
- signed and dated 1962; signed and titled on the reverse
- sliced violin on painted wood panel
Acquired directly from the artist in 1962
Denyse Durand-Ruel, Arman: Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. II, Turin 1991, p. 151, no. 295, illustrated
Gunter Sachs, Mein Leben, Munich 2005, p. 85, illustrated in colour
In Paris in 1958, Gunter Sachs encountered Arman: this was to be the beginning of a friendship that lasted until the artist's death. Having just completed his university studies in Lausanne, Gunter Sachs spent the early 1960s in Paris forging friendships with the close knit group of pioneering Nouveau Réalistes. Alongside his friendship with Arman, Sachs also developed firm ties with the other significant proponents of the group: César, Yves Klein, and Jean Tinguely. They would lunch daily at Brasserie La Coupole in the 4th Arrondisement and engage in lively discussions and exchanges of opinion. In witnessing the very formation of Nouveau Réalisme in Paris and befriending the prominent notaries of Art Informel, Sachs was expertly guided as he began to cultivate his extraordinary collection; today this remarkable group of works truly encapsulates the artistic milieu in Paris during the early 1960s. Across the breadth of the works assembled, Sachs' discerning and eclectic taste for Klein Monochromes, Fontana Concetto Spaziales, kinetic sculptures by Tinguely, sculptures by César and beautiful Arman Coupes including Le Scorviole, Violon de Colère, Violon Rouge and Violon Coupé en Longeur, truly reflect the dichotomy within Paris at the time.
Executed in 1962, Violon Coupé en Longeur is an archetypal early example of Arman's Coupes. In the present work, a carved violin has been dissected to present a musical dance of rhythmic layers pinned trophy-like across a dark panel exposing its hidden reality and hollow mystery as an ode to Arman's rebellious will. In its deconstructed state the violin possesses an elegant, feminine silhouette that reminds us of its beauty despite its altered state of perpetual silence. A founding member of the Nouveau Réalists, Arman sought to find a pictorial language to portray his gestural abstraction using the act or happening as an integral element of his artistic practice.
It is little wonder that Arman, whose father played the cello and whose first wife was a composer was especially drawn to the violin for its intimate connection with harmony, and erotic connotations of its graceful, ageless, and physically perfect shape. Whereas Duchamp saw the contradiction between idea and form and made the utopian choice of casting his ballot in favour of the former, Arman more humbly accepts the destiny of reflecting the inconsistencies in the patterns of thought, feeling, and action that exist in the world around him. Through artist's intervention and simple acts, Arman would accumulate, cut, burn, destroy, and deconstruct objects allowing this creative process to give rise to new forms and novel ways to realise new found aesthetic objectives.
Arman formed the core of Gunter Sachs' Nouveau Réalisme collection. Sachs continued to collect his work throughout his life, recalling fondly in his autobiography the purchase of one memorable piece in particular. One afternoon in December as Gunter Sachs was driving between Gstaad and Schönried he chanced upon a small house concealed behind the trees with the signage Gallery of Modern Art. Naturally his curiosity led him to the door which he knocked and waited for the response which came in the form of an Italian maid who immediately recognised him and welcomed him by name. While the maid went to summon the proprietor Sachs found himself in a room surrounded by astonishing masterpieces including works by Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Arman and Victor Brauner. Rumour had it that the owner was known to invite and seduce artists who would stay on to produce work for her. They talked for over an hour and when he came to leave Sachs had bought a small Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Victor Brauner and a version of the Violin from Arman, all guaranteed by check from his Bank Rothschild, Rue Faubourg St. Honoré, Paris. On the following day Sachs's driver John was sent to collect the artworks. When Gunter Sachs returned from lunch to admire his most recent acquisitions he noticed that the Arman violin was missing to which John explained "Well I told her four ..., but Madam said there were only three." Gunter Sachs tried calling her throughout the afternoon, reaching her only in the late evening and was given some nonsense about the other three pictures. Enraged, he told her that she may well treat her artists like this but he would not be so easily scared, he threatened to have the check blocked and that he expected the Arman the following morning, to which she hung up mid-sentence. When Samir called the bank at 9.10am the next morning it had already been cashed. Consequently, opting with the old rule that possession is nine-tenths of the law, Sachs realised the only resort was to drive back with his Range Rover. When he arrived at the house the sweet Italian maid opened the door, he kissed her on the forehead, told her while striding boldly into the house that he was there to collect the painting, opened the door of his car, placed the Arman between the back-seat and the back of the front-seat, kissed the maid farewell on her forehead, started the motor, waved goodbye and drove off without a moment to loose. Back home he placed it next to the fireplace not entirely convinced it was the right thing to do and waited for a reaction. When this reaction never came, the Arman came to form an integral part of Sachs' Neauveau Réalistes collection.
Violon Coupé en Longeur presents the artist's lifelong concern with exterior realities and commitment to the modern age of industry, mass media and objectification. In this work, Arman precariously balances construction and destruction and it is through the violin, cut and reassembled, that the artist reveals different states of being and transforms an act of destruction into an act of creation. Simultaneously it is through this act of destruction that Arman celebrates the world of materials and allows us to see these worldly objects from a new perspective. By offering Violon Coupé en Longeur in its altered state, Arman presents the instrument with a beguiling new exuberance, strangely entertaining, at once poignancy and humour is implied though its silent song.