The Amazing Spider-Artist

by John Downey '23 on February 18, 2022
A&E Co-Editor


The Amazing Spider-Artist

Tomás Saraceno Combines Passions for Art, Spiders, and More in New Exhibit

Claudia Fennell ’24

Tomás Saranceno is trailblazing through the art world with his unique, futuristic art. Inspired by his passion for a need for environmental reform, his work reflects the dilapidated environment that his Berlin studio is located in. Saranceno is now gaining popularity for his public art installations, such as his transparent bubbles and enormous spider-web-like sculpture creations.

  Born in San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina in 1973, the 48-year-old artist studied architecture at Universidad Nacional de Buenos Aires in the late ’90s. After finishing his undergraduate education, he went to Europe to complete his postgraduate studies at the German art school Städelschule. Once Saranceno finished his schooling, he began to undertake his goal of creating culturally relevant art.

  In 2012, he bought a studio in Berlin. It was a crumbling brick building sitting on land that had been used for industrial purposes for over a hundred years, causing the property itself and the land surrounding it to become toxic. As the New York Times reports, Saranceno remembers being warned when buying his studio, “Please don’t plant apple trees near the street…people will eat an apple and be poisoned.” Surrounded by this toxic wasteland, Saranceno became inspired to create artwork that reflected his environment. 

Notably, aside from creating such art, Saranceno has produced scholarly research about his two main areas of interest: spiders and solar-powered balloons. His research, combined with his interest in art, has allowed him to combine art, architecture, physics and other aspects of the natural world, and engineering to create his masterpieces.

  Saranceno’s largest U.S. exhibition to date will be on display at The Shed, a New York City museum located at The Bloomberg Building on 30th Street. According to their website, “The Shed is a new cultural institution of and for the 21st century…[it] was designed to break with the traditions that separate art forms and audiences.” The museum describes Saranceno’s work as a large-scale exhibition that offers viewers a sensory experience. 

Saranceno’s art installation is centered around the concept of spiderwebs and allows the viewers to partake in the experience of being one with a spiderweb. It is titled “Free the Air” and is composed of two spider-web-like creations made out of metal. The piece is suspended in a balloon,a nod to Saranceno’s other major passion aside from spiders and art. 

The installation is also massive in size: its balloon has a diameter of 95 feet and fills the entirety of The Shed’s 17,000-square-foot courtyard. One of the webs lies 40 feet from the ground, and the other web lies 12 feet off the ground. The total diameter of these pieces is 48 feet. 

45 people at a time are allowed to be admitted to experience the piece, and each person is allotted an eight-minute time slot to remain within it and observe it. The installation allows viewers to lie on its nets as its lights dim, which, as Saranceno explains, is intended to show viewers what the world would look like from the perspective of a spider, a creature with lackluster vision.

Needless to say, this installation offers viewers a unique experience, unlike anything they could find at other museums. Saranceno’s work will be on display at The Shed from Feb. 11 to April 17.