Daniel Buren (born 25 March 1938) is a French conceptual artist.
Sometimes classified as a Minimalist, Buren is known best for using regular, contrasting colored stripes in an effort to integrate visual surface and architectural space, notably on historical, landmark architecture.
Among his chief concerns is the "scene of production" as a way of presenting art and highlighting facture (the process of 'making' rather than for example, mimesis or representation of anything but the work itself). The work is site-specific installation, having a relation to its setting in contrast to prevailing ideas of an autonomous work of art.
He graduated from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Métiers d'Art in Paris, in 1960. He began painting in the early 1960s. However, by 1965 – a year he spent in the Grapetree Bay Hotel on the Caribbean island of Saint Croix where he was contracted to make frescoes – he had abandoned traditional painting for the 8.7 cm-wide vertical stripes, which alternated between white and one color, which have become his signature. Working on-site, he strives to contextualise his artistic practice using the stripe – a popular French fabric motif – as a means of visually relating art to its situation, a form of language in space rather than a space in itself. Denoting the trademark stripes as a visual instrument or "seeing tool," he invites viewers to take up his critical standpoint challenging traditional ideas about art.
He began producing unsolicited public art works using striped awning canvas common in France: he started by setting up hundreds of striped posters, so-called affichages sauvages, around Paris and later in more than 100 Metro stations, drawing public attention through these unauthorised bandit-style acts. In June 1970 he put stripes on the front and back of Los Angeles bus benches without permission. In another controversial gesture he blocked the entrance of the gallery with stripes of his first solo exhibition. Expanding on this idea, in 1971 he created a six-foot banner, Peinture-Sculpture, to divide the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum's rotunda in New York. For his first New York City solo show in 1973, Buren suspended a set of nineteen black and white striped squares of canvas on a cable that ran from one end of the John Weber Gallery to the other, out the window to a building on the other side of West Broadway and back. Nine pieces were inside the gallery and nine outside; a middle piece, which connected the outside and the inside parts of the installation, was placed half-in and half-out in the opening where the window frame had been removed for the duration of the exhibition. In 1977 Buren cut up one of his artworks from 1969 and made a new work, designating that the sections should hang in the corners of a wall, whether that wall was empty, had doors or windows, or even had other artworks already hanging on it.
As a conceptual artist, Buren was regarded as visually and spatially audacious, objecting to traditional ways of presenting art through the museum-gallery system while at the same time growing in hot demand to show via the same system. In the late 1960s he connected to the ideas of space and presentation arising through deconstructionist philosophies that had as their background the May 1968 student demonstrations in France. Between 1966 and 1967, he joined forces with fellow artists Olivier Mosset, Michel Parmentier, and Niele Toroni to form the BMPT, whose intention was to reduce paintings to the most basic physical and visual elements through the systematic repetition of motifs.
Often referred to as "the stripe guy," Buren also expresses his theme in paint, laser cut fabric, light boxes, transparent fabrics and ceramic cup sets. His stripes are displayed in private homes, public places, and museums worldwide. Since the 1950s he has amassed some 400,000 of what he calls photos-souvenirs, documenting his work and travels around the globe.
From 1960 on, Buren designed a number of permanent site-specific installations in the United States, Belgium, France, and Germany. In 1986 he created a 3,000-square-meter sculpture in the great courtyard of the Palais Royal, in Paris: Les Deux Plateaux, more commonly referred to as the Colonnes de Buren ("Buren's Columns"). This provoked an intense debate over the integration of contemporary art and historic buildings. In 1993, Buren was commissioned to design the work in situ, Poser/Déposer/Exposer, for the Café Richelieu at the Louvre in collaboration with Jean-Pierre Raynaud.
Since the 1990s, Buren's work has become more architectural. He creates new spaces within existing environments such as city centers (A Colored Square in the Sky, 2007), public parks (La Cabane Éclatée aux 4 Salles, 2005), entire museums (The Eye of the Storm, 2005), and even beaches (Le Vent soufle où il veut, 2009). For Green and White Fence (1999/2001) Buren installed a functional fence sculpture, consisting of fence posts at four-meter intervals, painted green and white 87-millimeter stripes along a single ridge line: Since the first part's installation, the artist’s theme has been extended until, over time, it will become the only form of fence on Gibbs Farm in New Zealand. In 2004, for the occasion of the opening of the French cultural year in China, Buren exhibited in his in situ installation De l'azur au Temple du Ciel (From the sky to Temple of Heaven) at Temple of Heaven in Beijing. A Rainbow in the Sky (2009) consisted of thousands of colorful pennant flags hovering over a busy pedestrian square in Pasadena, California for two months.
Buren collaborated with Hermès on a number of occasions. The artist inaugurated Hermès' contemporary art gallery La Verrière in Brussels in 2000 by transforming its walls with bold graphics, colours and his trademark stripes, and later opened the Atelier Hermès in Dosan Park, Seoul with his Filtres colorés, coloured panels that diffused the light to dramatic effect. In 2010, he created "Photo souvenirs au carrè", a 365 limited-edition line of scarves decorated with silk-printed photographs.
In 2009 Buren collaborated with the collective Ensemble(s) La Ligne created by RCP Design Global agency, with, among others, Louis Dandrel and Roger Tallon to create Curseur (2009–2013). It is a work in situ – for Tours Tram – three black and white stripes vertically, which will join the same horizontal marking on the ground, both at right angles to the doors' opening. Trainsets shaped cursor with "mirror effect" identified in black and white stripes.
In 2014, the rooftop of Modernist architect Le Corbusier's Cité Radieuse building in Marseilles hosted an installation of mirrors and coloured glass by Buren. Défini, Fini, Infini (2014) was an installation for the Marseilles Modulor (MaMo), led by French designer Ora-Ïto, who in 2013 transformed the iconic rooftop into an international arts space.
From 1966 to '67, Buren and the other BMPT artists staged a series of performances they called manifestations, in which the group made or exhibited their work in public as a critical encounter with audiences.
Voile/Toile – Toile/Voile, a piece consisting of boat races followed by museum displays of sail-canvasses, was originally created for a regatta on the Wannsee, Berlin, in 1975 and later produced in Geneva (1979), Lucerne (1980), Villeneuve-d'Ascq (1983), Lyon-Villeurbanne (1998), Tel Aviv (1999), Sevilla (2004), and Grasmere (2005). This work always has two separate parts. In the first, nine Optimists are fitted with striped canvas sails (white with red, blue, yellow, green or brown stripes). The two white stripes at the edges are covered with white paint. The boats then race in a regatta. In the second part, after the race, the sails are exhibited in a museum in the city where the regatta was held. They are presented in the order they crossed the finishing line, from one to nine and from left to right, as befits the exhibition area. In 1973 and 1974 Daniel Buren, performs with Jannis Kounellis, Wolf Vostell and other artists in Berlin at the ADA – Aktionen der Avantgarde.
Initially presented in Genazzano in 1982, as part of a group project called La zattera di Babele ("The Raft of Babel"), Couleurs superposées (Layered colours) is an hour-long public performance, during which paper is pasted up and then torn down. For forty minutes, five actors paste striped colored paper on the wall, according to the artist's instructions. The white stripes must be exactly aligned. The spectators see colours and shapes appearing and disappearing as successive layers are added. Then for the remaining twenty minutes, the actors, still directed by the artist, tear off the freshly pasted papers to reveal fragments of the previous layers. The spectators watch the evolution of work on a picture that is never finished and whose successive stages are recorded only in their memory. After the performance, the piece is destroyed. The piece was later performed in Tokyo, Bern, Eindhoven, Venice, Villeneuve d'Ascq, New York (2005), and Paris (2005). In 2009, Buren directed Couleurs superposées at the Opéra-Théâtre de Metz Métropole on the occasion of the opening of the Centre Pompidou-Metz.
That writing is an important activity for Buren is made particularly clear in his collected texts Les Écrits, published in 1991 and then in 2012.
Buren had his first important solo exhibition at the Galleria Apollinaire in Milan in 1968, where he blocked the only entrance to the gallery, a glass door, with a striped support. He has since presented his environmental installations worldwide. By the 1970s and 1980s he was exhibiting in Europe, America and Japan. Buren wished to take part in Harald Szeemann's exhibition "When Attitudes Become Form", in Bern in 1969, without being invited. Two of the contributing artists offered him space, but he instead set about covering billboards in the city with his stripes. He was arrested and had to leave Switzerland. In 1971, Buren devised a banner, 20 by 10 metres, with white and blue stripes on both sides to be hung at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in a big international group show, conceived to encourage artists to exploit the building's space. Other artists, including Dan Flavin and Donald Judd, protested that the banner blocked views across the rotunda, compromising their works. Buren, in turn, said Flavin's fluorescent lights colored his banner. The night before the opening, the banner was removed. Buren was later invited to participate in the Documentas 5 through 7 (1972–1982).
In 1986, when François Mitterrand was president of France, Buren attained leading artist status after he created Les Deux Plateaux (1985–86), a work in situ for the Cour d'honneur at the Palais Royal in Paris. That same year, he represented France at the Venice Biennale and won the Golden Lion Award for best pavilion. Buren had major solo exhibitions at the Touko Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, in 1989, at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 2002, at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2005, at Modern Art Oxford in 2006, and at the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden in 2011. In December 2006 Buren won the competition to make Arcos Rojos/Arku Gorriaka, a new major project for the iconic Puente de La Salve bridge next to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao while, in February 2007, the Musée Fabre in Montpellier re-opened with a new permanent commission. For the 52nd Venice Biennale, Buren created a new site-specific work for the Giardini of the Italian Pavilion, and was curator of Sophie Calle's contribution to the French Pavilion. In 2011, he decided to cancel an exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing in "solidarity" with detained artist Ai Weiwei. The fifth artist ever to fill the space of the Grand Palais on the occasion of the Monumenta exhibition, Buren conceived Excentrique(s) in 2012, a giant cluster of colored, transparent plastic discs, which overlap to form a colourful canopy.
1968 / 1969 / 1971 / 1976
1972 / 1977 / 1982
1972 / 1974 / 1976 / 1978 / 1980 / 1984 / 1986 / 1993 / 1997 / 2003 / 2007
1973 / 2006
1975 / 1979 / 1980 / 1983 / 1998 / 1999 / 2004 / 2005
1982 / 1983 / 1984 / 1985 / 2000 / 2005
Golden Lion for best pavilion at the 42nd Biennale in Venice
Buren's works are part of several major public collections such as Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp; Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Tate Modern, London; the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Museo Guggenheim de Arte Moderno y Contemporaneo, Bilbao, and Moderna Museet, Stockholm.
In 1990, New Zealand honored him as a Living Treasure for their 150th anniversary and in 1991 he received the International Award for the Best Artist given in Stuttgart, Germany, followed by the Grand Prix National de Peinture in France, 1992. In 2007 Buren was awarded the Praemium Imperiale. He was one of the five artists shortlisted for the Angel of the South project in January 2008.
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