Tom Sachs is always up to something, and it usually involves trouble. Yet even when, in 1997, the artist and fashion satirist lampooned Prada with a miniature death camp made from one of the label's hat boxes, and a toilet from its shoe boxes, they brought him into the fold and even published his first monograph. Now Sachs is up to his elbows again, putting the finishing touches on two exhibits at Lever House and Sperone Westwater gallery, both opening May 8. Here, he takes five (questions) with Hint's Aric Chen...
For your Lever House installation, you're revisiting Hello Kitty in the form of a 21-foot-tall Hello Kitty wind-up in bronze, and her friends My Melody and Miffy. What's the grown man's fascination?
I've always loved Hello Kitty for her purity; she's a pure merchandising icon without a TV show, a comic book or anything else. She's just merchandise. As a kid, I'd always steal my sister's Hello Kitty miniature pencils and notebooks. But it's not just the purity of [Kitty's] concept, but also her design: Simple forms, primary colors, excellent plastic craftsmanship. Plus, she's cute. To me, making my work look beautiful is a priority.
Recently, you've also been interested in outer space. Are you taking Virgin Galactic if and when it launches?
I think Virgin Galactic's great and I'm really interested in it. But my only criticism is that it seems a waste to take a suborbital flight with the same takeoff and landing point. Why not get a trip to China out of it? In a way, I guess that makes it more like art, because you're not really getting anywhere; you're just doing it in the spirit of it.
Your work has a lot to do with consumerism. What's the most decadent thing in your life?
Sleeping in, freshly cut pineapple chunks…um, what else? Pineapple chunks is pretty major. Also, ceramic skateboard bearings.
Your "Animals" show at Sperone Westwater includes a cabinet with guns and the tools used to make them. Any live bullets? [For a 1999 show at Mary Boone gallery, Sachs famously (and illegally) displayed a bowl of live bullets that landed Boone in jail.]
No, I don't trust my agent to not get arrested anymore and I don't want to put anyone through that again. I learned my lesson.
What trouble are you up to next?
Well, come and see and find out! My show at Sperone has the best work we've ever done, the highest quality work. We've tried to funnel the economic energy of our time to produce work of complexity that consumes a lot of time and manpower in a way I wasn't able to do ten years ago. It's a lot richer than anything I've ever done.