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Space Program: Rare Earths by Tom Sachs

From 19 September 2021 to 10 April 2022, the Deichtorhallen Hamburg, together with the American artist Tom Sachs and his team of sculptors and astronauts, will embark on an interstellar mission, the "Space Program: Rare Earths".

Tom Sachs: Mobile Quarantine Facility (MQF), 2011
1972 Winnebago Brave, Mixed Media, 216H x 90W x 229D inches
Photo: Genevieve Hanson © Tom Sachs


On 3,000 square metres of exhibition space, Tom Sachs will transform the Hall for Contemporary Art into an interactive space landscape with new and existing bricolage works. To kick off the exhibition on 18 September 2021, Sachs and his team will activate the sculptural Gesamtkunstwerk through a so-called "marathon demonstration" and perform a full space mission according to the strictest space protocol.

Tom Sachs: Vader Fridge, 2009
Budweiser, Steel, Mixed Media, 82 H x 29 W x 26 D inches
Photo: Genevieve Hanson © Tom Sachs

In "Space Programme: Rare Earths", Sachs' astronauts head for the brightest and closest asteroid to Earth, Vesta, with the aim of mining the protoplanet's mineral rare earths to satisfy mankind's unbridled hunger for technology. Sachs and his crew have everything essential for survival on board for this mission - constructed from plywood, foam boards, screws, hot glue and various other utensils.

Tom Sachs: Mission Control Center (MCC), 2007-2016
Space Program: Mars - Park Avenue Armory, New York, 2012
Mixed Media, 117.3 H x 193.125 W x 59.875 D inches
Photo: Genevieve Hanson © Tom Sachs


During the six-month exhibition period (until 10 April 2022), the Hamburg exhibition offers areas where visitors can participate interactively. Visitors will be able to undergo an "indoctrination process" in which they will be asked specific tasks and questions. After successfully completing the "indoctrination", visitors become part of the Tom Sachs team, receive an ID and the right to participate in the installation. They learn about iconic elements of past missions, including the Landing Excursion Module (LEM) and Mission Control Centre. "Indoctrinated" visitors are encouraged to also engage in the ritual of "transubstantiation" (Latin for transformation of essence): By parting with their mobile phones, visitors make an important contribution to Sachs' fieldwork on the mental interconnectedness of humanity and its addiction to technology. In "Space Program: Rare Earths", numerous new works by Sachs can be seen: "Transubstantiation" (2020/21), "Vehicle Assembly Building" (2021) and an MRI device in which a virtual journey can be taken.

Tom Sachs: Mary’s Suit , 2019
Mixed Media, 142.5H x 70W x 70D inches
Photo: Genevieve Hanson © Tom Sachs

Tom Sachs on the mission of the "Space Program: Rare Earths": "We are not going to other worlds because we have broken this planet and are looking for a new home, but to replenish and better understand our resources here on Earth. We are all telepathically connected through our mobile devices. These devices work with the help of rare earth elements. We produce more phones than the resources of planet Earth can supply. Vesta, with its differentiated core, offers unique opportunities for mining precious metals: Gold, platinum and palladium - raw materials we need to meet our needs."

Tom Sachs: Landing Excursion Module (LEM), 2007
Space Program: Mars - Park Avenue Armory, New York, 2012
Mixed Media, 277H x 263W x 263D inches
Photo: Genevieve Hanson © Tom Sachs

All four space excursions - the one to the moon at the Gagosian Gallery (2007), the Mars mission at the Park Avenue Armory (2012), the one to Jupiter's moon Europa at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (2016), and the upcoming one to the asteroid Vesta - are infused with scientific inquiring minds and the practice of bricolage in equal measure.

Tom Sachs: NASA, Meatball Logo, 8’ Color, 2007
Mixed Media, 96H x 115W x 2.5D inches
Photo: Genevieve Hanson © Tom Sachs

Especially in our age of instant gratification, where everything is available at any time, Sachs focuses on establishing human traces of craft and construction as a trademark. He alludes to today's consumer behaviour, production methods and the short lifespan of the things we buy, and equally questions aspects of modern creativity and artistic production. The works are created together with his ten-person studio team, which functions similarly to a religious community, but whose reverence is for plywood, the hot glue gun and the ethos of transparency.

Tom Sachs: Indoctrination Center (Materials Library) , 2012
Mixed Media, 82H x 80W x 27.25D inches
Photo: Genevieve Hanson © Tom Sachs


Tom Sachs' genre-busting mixed-media sculptures made from everyday materials, often replicas of modern brand icons, as in NASA's Space Program, represent a reversal of the trend of increasingly modern products with their perfection and flawlessness, establishing a unique DIY aesthetic. Sachs' sculptures are strikingly handmade, lovingly assembled from plywood, resin, steel or ceramic. The scars and imperfections in the sculptures tell the story of their creation, breaking away from the notion of miraculous artistic creation.

Tom Sachs lives and works in New York. He has had major solo exhibitions at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin and SITE Santa Fe (1999), the Fondazione Prada in Milan (2006), the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Connecticut (2009), the Park Avenue Armory in New York (2012), Contemporary Austin (2015), the Brooklyn Museum (2016), the Noguchi Museum in New York (2016) and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas (2017).

His works are in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo.

September 19, 2021 – April 10,  2022
Deichtorstr. 1-2, 20095 Hamburg

On 18 September 2021 from 10am-2pm, "Space Program: Rare Earths" by Tom Sachs will open at the Halle für Aktuelle Kunst of the Deichtorhallen Hamburg with a Space Mission to the asteroid 4-Vesta. To attend this 12-hour marathon activation with Tom Sachs and his studio team, tickets can be purchased via www.deichtorhallen.de (12 euros, reduced 7 euros).

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