Space Invader

Artist Tom Sachs launches an intergalactic odyssey.


At 45, the artist Tom Sachs is a mischievous, unruly-haired kid who’s been known to bend the rules—in fact, live ammunition in his 1999 show at New York’s Mary Boone Gallery got the gallerist arrested and briefly detained. On May 16, Sachs will launch perhaps his most audacious project yet. “We’re in a space race with NASA to find life on Mars, and I think we’re going to find it first,” says Sachs, whose “Space Program: Mars,” a four-week intergalactic odyssey inside Manhattan’s Park Avenue Armory, will immerse visitors in his ingeniously handmade and functional installations—among them, a spaceship, a mission-control center, a Martian landscape, launch platforms, and exploratory vehicles. Over the course of this project (coproduced by the Armory and the arts organization Creative Time), Sachs and his 15 assistants will man regularly scheduled liftoffs and landings, traverse the Martian surface, and collect scientific samples.

Sachs made a name for himself building facsimiles of utilitarian objects—toilets and chain saws, for example—and emblazoning them with luxury logos such as Prada and Chanel. “NASA is the ultimate brand,” Sachs says. There will also be a teahouse in which visitors can contemplate heady ideas, as well as a Darth Vader beer dispenser to top off a day of exploring the red planet. Meanwhile, in a synergistic display of product placement, the crew will sport the Mars Yard Shoe, the Nike Trench, and the Mars Fly Jacket, part of a collection Sachs has created with Nike. NASA astronauts should only be so stylish.