Initially an abstract painter, Arman became more interested in the ideas surrounding the emergence of Pop Art and in 1960 he formed, with his close friend Yves Klein, the Nouveau Réalisme group along with Raymond Hains, Jean Tinguely and Jacques village, latterly joined by Niki de Saint Phalle and Christo amongst others. Nouveau Réalisme represented France’s response to the American Pop Art movement and reassessed the concept of art and the artist for a 20th-century consumer society.
Fascinated with the New York art scene Arman began a part time residency there in 1961 eventually becoming an American citizen in 1973. Inspired by Pop and the Dada concept of the readymade he produced work which was a critique of consumerism, waste, and mass production. His Poubelles (trash cans) of collected refuse and Accumulations which were made up of large assemblages of mass produced objects including tools, toys and the ephemera of daily life, were often arranged in polyester castings or within Plexiglas cases to deliver a powerful and chilling rejection of modernization, the culture of mass consumption and the resulting waste when these objects are ultimately discarded. The Coupes and the Colères series focused on the act of destruction: obliterated objects such as musical instruments and clocks are sliced, burned, or smashed and arranged on canvas revealing the interior of the object to a hauntingly beautiful effect.
Arman created many large scale public art sculptures and his works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Tate Gallery, London and the Centre Pompidou, Paris, amongst others.