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Tom Sachs for President


by TAoN

Cover Photo: Presidential Vampire Booth, 2002

photo by ASK

tom sachs

TOM SACHS is a sculptor, probably best known for his elaborate recreations of various Modern icons, all of them masterpieces of engineering and design of one kind or another. In an early show he made Knoll office furniture out of phone books and duct tape; later, he recreated Le Corbusier’s 1952 Unité d’Habitation using only foamcore and a glue gun. Other projects have included his versions of various Cold War masterpieces, like the Apollo 11 Lunar Excursion Module, and the bridge of the battleship USS Enterprise. And because no engineering project is more complex and pervasive than the corporate ecosystem, he’s done versions of those, too, including a McDonald’s he built using plywood, glue, assorted kitchen appliances. He’s also done Hello Kitty and her friends in materials ranging from foamcore to bronze.

This summer, I had the pleasure of experiencing Tom Sachs’ most contemporary and iconic installations at a recent exhibition held at the Brooklyn Museum which ran from April 21- August 14, 2016.  In actuality, this particular exhibition “Boombox Retrospective” has covered ground from 1999-2016, including the recent Contemporary Austin Museum, Austin, Texas, from January 24th – April 19th 2015.

Tom Sachs Bodega
Boombox Retrospective Brooklyn Museum 2016

“I have been making boomboxes since childhood,” said Tom Sachs. “I hooked my Sony Walkman up to a set of mini speakers and velcroed them to a block of scrap plywood. It was a clusterfuck of wires. In 8th grade woodshop, I made a box for the whole mess out of pine. It had a knob to hang the headphones that was made out of a broomstick.”

tom sachs
Guru’s Yardstyle, 1999, mixed media


A relentlessly inventive sculptor, Tom Sachs and his studio are known for the fabrication of gadgets, hardware, and architectural constructions that have coalesced into playful and provocative objects and sculptural installations. Often incorporating, coopting, and subverting corporate and cultural icons – from Tiffany & Co. and Chanel to Hello Kitty and McDonald’s – Sachs pulls from his surroundings to find both inspiration for his works and the materials with which he constructs them, including plywood, foam core, batteries, duct tape, wires, hot glue, and solder, along with a disparate collection of mechanical detritus and other found objects.

Model One, 1999, mixed media
Defender, 2000, arcade game and mixed media

Most recently, his work has shifted to encompass more elaborate installations, as when he and his studio completely appropriated the idea of space exploration in Space Program: Mars (2012), a massive installation which transformed the New York Armory into a 55,000 square-foot demonstration of Sachs’s warped vision of a space mission to Mars – complete with his own imaginings of the equipment needed to live and work as part of such an interstellar mission and live performers who played the roles of scientists and explorers maneuvering within this imagined realm. As with his earlier production, the components of Sachs’s worlds are created through a process the artist categorizes as bricolage, or the use of everyday objects and things found in one’s direct surroundings to make art.

The foundation of this handmade aesthetic, however, lies in the rigor and fastidiousness with which the artist and his high- functioning studio construct both the objects themselves and the conceptual and intellectual benchmarks that guide Sachs’s life and practice. Sachs lives, manages his studio, and creates art with a playful subversion and punk- rock aesthetic married to a deep seriousness of intention and unwavering philosophy towards art and production.

Toyan’s, 2002, mixed media

“The sculptures in this exhibition represent a survey of boomboxes and sound systems that I’ve made since 1999,” Sachs added. “The accompanying catalog attempts to include each one but so many have been lost over the years, the components recycled into newer better systems. Each stereo has always been in support of an activity, event or ritual. From dance party, to road trip, to poche vide (a place to empty your pockets as you enter your home), to laboratory, to bachelor pad, to iPhone dock, sound systems have always been a part of my work and will be as long as I continue to love music.”

Brave, 2015, mixed media

Titled Boombox Retrospective 1999-2016, the project demonstrates the artist’s unique, imaginative, and rigorous DIY aesthetic and is comprised largely of works that riff on the idea of the “boombox,” the iconic emblem of 1980s hip-hop culture. A music lover and connoisseur himself, Sachs has recently constructed a series of ceramic boomboxes in a variety of sizes. As functional works of art, these boomboxes – along with other works on view in the exhibition – actually work and feature a collection of playlists curated by pop icons and friends of the artist.


To learn more about Tom Sachs and the “Boombox Retrospective” visit

by ASK

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