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Original Issue


"I am a sportif," says Artist Armand Pierre Arman—a onetime teacher of judo, a Ping-Pong enthusiast and, he claims, the world's first garbologist. Arman is a self-confessed student of garbage, both aromatic and otherwise, a collector and rearranger of what the world, too quickly he believes, has cast aside. Sometimes he even anticipates its fickleness, as in the case of the football equipment pictured on these pages, preserved for eternity in polyester: 36 pairs of cleats (which he sliced up), 20 helmets, 200 mouthpieces and one set of shoulder pads.

For Arman, now 44, the road to garbologism passed through such familiar isms as post-impression and surreal. But when he began traveling, he made this not too startling observation, that the poorer societies produced little garbage. Back in his native France, where he lived until 1961, the contrast appeared clearer: virtually all products were systematically produced, accumulated, rejected and destroyed. And the cycle seemed to be getting quicker and quicker each year. Arman says: "I don't think it will ever change. I saw myself as a witness of our society, and all my work now concerns this statement."

Arman started to be "involved" in garbage, as he puts it, around 1960, the year he crammed a Paris art gallery full of lobster shells, lamb chop bones, orange peels and you name it, 42 cubic meters of his art. The show drew raves, and flies, but it ended abruptly when neighbors complained about the smell. Arman says, "I was a little bit in advance of my time."

A few years later Arman dynamited a brand-new MG. "Two charges in front," he says, "one in back, and boom, it's opened like a flower." It will never run again, of course, but it will never be sold for scrap iron either. So too with the trombone he cut up with hacksaws. A Paris museum owns it now. Then, in 1964, Arman completed his first real sports art when he welded a pile of dumbbells into a pyramid and named it Sonny Liston.

These days Arman lives and works in New York City, where he notices more and more empty yogurt cartons each year, but also that dust has almost disappeared because almost all vacuum cleaners have dust bags now. His studio is full of "clean garbage—frozen in plastic," but there is room at home for watching tennis and football on TV, for a Ping-Pong table, and for Arman and his wife to take private lessons in one of the Chinese martial arts. He says that sport and art are very much alike, that in both, talent counts for 5%, chance for 30%, and hard work for all the rest.