Tomás Saraceno: Cloud-Specific

September 9, 2011 - January 9, 2012
Kemper Art Museum, Garen Gallery

Argentine artist Tomás Saraceno is internationally recognized for his fantastic architectural proposals, pneumatic sculptures, and environmental installations. Tomás Saraceno will showcase newly commissioned works by Saraceno, including a selection of his latest inflatable sculptures, prototypes, and video work. This exhibition highlights the breadth of the artist’s experimental practice while advancing his longstanding exploration of an Air-Port-City (2001–present), a visionary project for a sustainable city in the sky consisting of a series of bubble-like cells fueled by solar energy. Based on extensive material investigations, Saraceno’s innovative prototypes developed for the exhibition visualize in small scale the possibility for future airborne experience.

Trained as an architect, Saraceno’s experimental practice expands the conventions of art, architecture, and science and their capacities to envision alternate ways of being and inhabiting the world. Like pioneering architects and artists before him—Buckminster Fuller, Archigram, Yona Friedman, Constant, Yves Klein, Gyula Kosice, and Antfarm, among others—Saraceno’s work involves conceptualizing modules for living that are capable of engendering significant social and political transformation. Drawing inspiration from structures found in nature—clouds, bubbles, spider webs—he produces spectacular installations that capture the imagination of experts and lay audiences alike while raising challenging questions about the sociopolitical conditions with which we live and our potential to change them. As the artist explains of his ongoing project, “Work on this structure tries to contest political, social, cultural, and military restrictions that are accepted today, in an effort to reestablish new concepts of synergy.”

The installation at the Kemper Art Museum will effectively transform the gallery into a laboratory space, reflecting both materially and theoretically the artist’s experimental ethos—a form of spatial practice driven by the belief that the most significant innovations emerge not from within singular disciplines but by working across realms of expertise. Saraceno’s interdisciplinary process has led him to successful collaborations with scientists at NASA as well as with a range of engineers, chemists, botanists, astrophysicists, and spider researchers, among others. The dialogues he enters into and the ideas sparked by his practice-based research are as much a part of the work as the finished art objects and installations he produces.

Tomas Saraceno is curated by Meredith Malone, associate curator. The exhibition opens September 9, 2011 and will remain on view through January 9, 2012.

Gallery brochure

Exhibition catalog

A fully illustrated catalog distributed by the University of Chicago Press will accompany the exhibition. Conceived as a documentation of the project as well as of the artist’s working process, the publication is coedited by Meredith Malone, exhibition curator, and Igor Marjanovic, Associate Professor of Architecture, Washington University in St. Louis. This will be among the first substantial publications devoted to Saraceno’s work to date.

Educator resources

The Museum's Education department connects special exhibitions with students of all levels through specialized tours, curriculum plans, hands-on activities, and more. Download the Educator's Guide for the exhibition for more details.


About the artist

Tomás Saraceno was born in Tucuman, Argentina, in 1973 and currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany. He trained as an architect at the Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires (1992-1999) and did postgraduate work in Art & Architecture at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Kunst, Frankfurt (2001-2003). In 2009 he won the Calder Prize, awarded biannually to honor a living artist who has completed innovative early work. Saraceno was artist-in-residence at the International Space Studies Program of NASA in summer 2009. Upcoming projects include major commissions at the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; K21, Dusseldorf; and the Boros Collection, Berlin. Saraceno has had recent solo exhibitions at the Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston (2010); Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm (2010) Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg (2009); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2009); Berkeley Art Museum, University of California (2007); and Portikus, Frankfurt (2006). Recent group exhibitions include Rethink: Contemporary Art & Climate Change, National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen (2009); Life Forms, Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm (2009); Radical Nature, Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet 1969-2009, Barbican Art Gallery, London (2009); Making Worlds, 53rd Venice Biennale (2009); Megastructure Reloaded, Berlin (2008); and Psycho Buildings: Architecture by Artists, Hayward Gallery, London (2008).

Exhibition support

Support for the exhibition is provided by I-CARES at Washington University in St. Louis; the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts; the Regional Arts Commission; James M. Kemper, Jr.; the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation; John and Anabeth Weil; the Hortense Lewin Art Fund; and members of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

Image credits

Tomás Saraceno, still from Space Elevator, 2009/2010. 1-channel video projection, 24 min. Courtesy of the artist.

Tomás Saraceno, Hydrogen Cloud Explosion, 2008. Elastic cords and acrylic glass, 67 x 55 x 35 7/16". Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

Tomás Saraceno, 14 Billions (working title), 2010. Black rope, black elastic cords, hooks, 1:17 scale Latrodectus mactans web. Installation view, Bonniers Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden, 2010. Courtesy of the artist, Andersen’s Contemporary, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, and pinksummer contemporary art.

Tomás Saraceno, Cloud City/Airport City, 2010. Paper model, 65 9/16 x 13 3/4 x 15 3/4". Courtesy of the artist.

Tomás Saraceno, 32SW Iridescent/Flying Garden/Airport City, 2007. Air pillows, elastic rope, webbing, iridescent foil, and pump system, 67" diameter. Courtesy of the artist, Andersen’s Contemporary, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, and pinksummer contemporary art.

Tomás Saraceno, Cloud City/Airport City, 2010. Cardboard model, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.