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French president pays homage to Franco-American sculptor Arman

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PARIS, Oct 23 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac paid homage Sunday to the French-born American sculptor Arman, who died of cancer on Saturday in New York aged 76, describing him as "a major figure of contemporary art".

Arman was an "untiring creator of new forms from the rejects of modernity" whose work had become "emblematic of our age", the president said in a statement.

Arman is best known for his large "assemblages", that used junk materials, such as the gigantic sculpture "Long Term Parking" which is housed at the Cartier Museum.

The sculpture, encompassing 60 automobiles embedded in concrete, is the sculpture containing the largest number of whole cars in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

"Arman was a universal spirit, always in motion, with a passion for life, an amateur of sport as of opera, curious about civilisations and early peoples, whose creations he collected with enthusiasm and wisdom," Chirac said, expressing his condolences to the artist's family.

Nicolas Bourriaud, co-director of the Tokyo Palace, a contemporary art centre, said Sunday that Arman was an "extremely radical artist, ahead of his time".

"He was one of the first to become aware of the nature of the industrial society, it was he who went the furthest in his treatment and research of the beauty of industrial junk," Bourriaud told French radio.

Bourriaud referred to Arman's exposition "Full" created in 1959, in which he completely filled a gallery with a tangled pile of rubbish.

The sculptor, who was born in the southern French city of Nice in 1928 as Armand Pierre Fernandez, was widely considered one of the leading exponents of "Nouveau realisme", or New Realism.

In 1973 he changed his name to Armand Pierre Arman and held dual French and American nationality.

He was greatly influenced by Japanese art and culture, particularly the philosophy of Zen Buddhism.



COPYRIGHT 2005 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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