Art and Plastics

29. Oct 2021 | Art

A common, paraphrased definition of art is: “Art is anything you can argue about.” But there is hardly any dispute about the fact that there is a close connection between art and plastics. Polymers of all kinds are too important for artists of any discipline.

Take paintings, for example:

A painted work of art without color is impossible. For a long time, the colors needed were obtained from natural materials. Purple, a shade of red, was obtained from sea snails. Synthetic colors were added in the 20th century. One of the first to use synthetic paint was the famous painter Pablo Picasso. Among other things, the Spanish artist used synthetic paint for his 1934 work “Reading at a Table. One of the advantages for the artist: the synthetic paints dried faster.

100 Jahre Stage design Karoline Hinz EPS

Example performin arts:

Expandable polystyrene (EPS), also known as Styropor® and now 70 years on the market, is popular with theater and film artists because it is easy to shape and weighs little. It consists of 98 percent air. Advantages that German stage designer Karoline Hinz appreciates. She creates imaginative backgrounds from the material, bringing production sets to life. “The material has been established for many years as a material for entertaining, oversized installations and stage sets, as it is comparatively inexpensive and easy to work with. The lightness also makes it enormously easier to assemble and dismantle,” says the artist.

Take music, for example:

How many legendary solos by Charlie Watts or Ringo Starr would have been created without resilient drumheads made of polyester or nylon? And vinyl records, especially popular among music lovers, were the first to make this music big and popular with a broad mass of fans.

Ringo Star Drum Head Polyester Nylon
K67 car BMW und Bayer 1967

Take design, for example:

The variety with which the different types of plastic could be used offered designers in particular a great deal of freedom. The Bauhaus masters, who revolutionized the design world after the First World War from Weimar and Dessau with the new, often cheaper materials, became famous. Later, there were always groundbreaking designs: in 1962, the PANTON stacking chair was developed. A chair made of one piece and without back legs. At the end of the 1960s, this was produced in series for the first time – in polyurethane. And at the K67, the 1967 plastics fair, a car made entirely of plastic was developed by BMW and Bayer.

Triumph of modern art

Most recently, Christo’s covering of a Paris landmark caused a sensation and triggered visitor amazement: The Arc de Triomphe in Paris was wrapped with 25,000 square meters of fabric for the artwork “L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped.” For 16 days in September and October 2021, the lightweight plastic sheets ensured that the Arc de Triomphe became a unique giant sculpture that radiated sensuality and was virtually alive thanks to the wind.

There’s no question about it: the possibilities offered by plastics to modern art are far from exhausted!


L'Arc de Triomphe Wrapped Stoffbahnen Kunststoff 2