This February, the Israeli architect, artist, and designer Ron Arad will join New York’s Paul Kasmin Gallery with a debut exhibition that will showcase his riffs on the Fiat 500.
After 10 years at Friedman Benda, Arad came to Kasmin looking for a new gallery following Barry Friedman’s retirement last year. He was drawn to Kasmin, he said, in part because the dealer wouldn’t pigeonhole him.
“Frank Gehry had to stop making furniture to be taken seriously as an architect,” Arad said in an interview. “I don’t want not to do furniture so that people better understand my art.”
People will make of it what they will. By way of example, Arad described a curved metal ping-pong table he designed and showed at the Royal Academy in London. “It slows down the game,” he said. “Once you play on my table you don’t want to play on anything else.” Francesco Clemente’s apparently addicted to it and at the Royal Academy opening Sir Anthony Caro complimented Arad on the “marvelous sculpture.”
“I just said, ‘Thank you, Sir Anthony!’” Arad recalled.
The story of the Fiat series is tied to Arad’s career and demonstrates how he works. Design Museum Holon in Israel, which Arad designed, wanted to give him a retrospective, an idea he nixed. Instead he wanted to distill “the artisan style of my working life.”
Long interested in the Fiat, Arad decided to crush the cars, not in a John Chamberlain way, but so that he could hang them on the walls of Paul Kasmin Gallery “like pressed flowers.” This ambitious installation recalls Arad’s 2009 retrospective at MoMA, in which objects from his 25-year career were placed in a gallery in sleek metal racks stretching from floor to ceiling.
The crushed cars had appeared in a 2013 exhibition at the Design Museum Holon, alongside Arad’s furniture and design works. Crushing them proved difficult (and, for some undisclosed reason, illegal) and eventually Arad resorted to an industrial press. But the way the cars flattened made him think about their design, so he also rebuilt one using steel rods. He calls it Roddy Giacosa (2013), after Dante Giacosa, who designed the car.
Then Arad wanted to crush that one too, or was at least curious what it would look like in that form. He reached out to Framestore, the computer-graphics company that did the effects for the film Gravity. They created videos of Roddy falling from a great height and shattering, and helped Arad crush CGI Fiats. The resulting video looks so realistic that people who see it often ask Arad if he somehow used a near-invisible press made of glass to shoot the footage.
All these works will likely end up at Kasmin (though, naturally, Arad is still mulling over the installation). The crushed Fiats sell for six figures, not that that’s a concern of his.
“You make something and it will find a home,” Arad said.
A version of this story originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of ARTnews on page 32 under the title “Always Crashing in the Same Car.”