Otto Piene

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Otto Piene (1928-2014) was born in Laasphe, Westphalia, Germany and lived and worked in Düsseldorf, Cambridge and Groton, Massachusetts. Piene was one of the founding members of the ZERO group (1957-1966) along with Heinz Mack, and later Günther Uecker. From 1948 to 1953, he attended the Blocherer Art School and studied painting at the Academy of Art in Munich and the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. Piene graduated with a philosophy degree from the University of Cologne in 1957. After serving as a Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in 1964, Piene became the first Fellow of the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) from 1968 to 1971, during which he coined the term “Sky Art” for large outdoor sky/light projects, such as Olympic Rainbow for the 1972 Munich Olympics. In the same year, Piene became Professor of Environmental Art at MIT, and from 1974 to 1994, he was director of the CAVS. Solo exhibitions include retrospectives at the Kunstmuseum im Ehrenhof, Düsseldorf (1996); the Prague City Gallery (2002), and the Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund (2008-2009). The artist had a show of Light Ballet and Fire Paintings at Sperone Westwater in 2010, followed by a retrospective of painting, sculpture and installation in 2016. Recent museum solo shows include the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge (2011), ZKM 1 Museum Für Neue Kunst, Karlsruhe (2013), Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf (graphic work) (2013), Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2014), Langen Foundation, Neuss (2014) and LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Münster (2015). In 2014, the Guggenheim Museum in New York opened a large-scale historical survey of the work of the ZERO group, showcasing a diverse selection of Piene’s work. In 2015, a touring exhibition of ZERO artworks was presented at the Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin and traveled to the Stedlijk Museum, Amsterdam. Another major exhibition of the ZERO group was held at the S.U. Sakıp Sabancı Museum (2015-2016). Piene’s work is in many important public collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin; the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN.

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Otto Piene
Red Sky, 1967
pigment and soot on paper
18 7/8 x 26 7/8 inches (47,9 x 68,3 cm)
22 1/2 x 30 3/4 inches (57,2 x 78 cm) frame
SW 09230
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
Kilauea, 1975
oil and fire on canvas
32 x 40 inches (81,2 x 101,6 cm)
33 1/8 x 41 1/8 inches (84,1 x 104,4 cm) frame
SW 13367

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Otto Piene
La force pure III, 1959
oil on canvas
49 1/4 x 49 1/4 x 2 7/8  inches (125 x 125 x 7,3 cm)
Collection of Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou

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Otto Piene
Rasterbild, 1957-58
oil on canvas
38 3/4 x 27 5/8 inches (98,4 x 70,2 cm)
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
Untitled, 1957-58
oil on canvas
12 x 27 x 7/8 inches (30,4 x 69 x 2,2 cm)
15 3/4 x 30 5/8 x 2 inches (40 x 78 x 5,1 cm) frame
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
Zonen, 1957/1983/1987
oil on canvas
59 x 78 3/4 inches (150 x 200 cm)
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
Untitled (Raster-Rauchzeichnung), 1959
soot on paper
28 x 39 1/3 inches (71 x 100 cm)
31 3/4 x 42 3/4 inches (81 x 109 cm) frame
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
Lichtströmung, 1959
oil on canvas
26 5/8 x 37 3/4 inches (67,6 x 95,8 cm)
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
Untitled, 1957/61
oil on canvas
59 x 78 3/4 inches (150 x 200 cm)
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
Nachtsonne (The Moon Upon Which It Depends), 1964-1965
fire painting on canvas
59 x 78 3/4 inches (150 x 200 cm)
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
Untitled, 1960
pigment and soot on paper
22 x 15 inches (55,5 x 38 cm)
24 1/8 x 18 7/8 inches (61,3 x 48 cm) frame
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
Manufactured Sun, 1966
pigment and soot on paper
20 1/2 x 22 1/4 inches (52 x 56,5 cm)
26 1/2 x 28 1/2 inches (67,3 x 72,3 cm) frame
SW 13364

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Otto Piene
Untitled, 1967
fire gouache on board
26 3/4 x 37 5/8 inches (67,9 x 95,5 cm)
SW 13357

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Otto Piene
3 Black Flowers, 1967
pigment and soot on board
26 7/8 x 37 5/8 inches (68,3 x 95,6 cm)
30 3/4 x 41 3/8 inches (78 x 105 cm) frame
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
Feuerleiter, 1967
pigment and soot on paper
26 7/8 x 18 7/8 inches (68,3 x 47,9 cm)
30 3/4 x 22 3/4 inches (78 x 57,8 cm) frame
Collection of The Art Institute of Chicago

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Otto Piene
Fear Flower, 1967
pigment and soot on paper
26 3/4 x 18 3/4 inches (68 x 48 cm)
30 3/4 x 22 5/8 inches (78 x 57,5 cm) frame
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
Aurora, 1974
gouache and soot on paper
40 x 32 inches (101,6 x 81,3 cm)
44 1/8 x 36 inches (112 x 91,4 cm) frame
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
The Heat, 1974
fire gouache on board
32 x 40 inches (81,2 x 101,6 cm)
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
Don't Know, 1974
fire gouache on board
40 x 32 inches (102 x 81,3 cm)
43 7/8 x 35 7/8 (111,5 x 91,1 cm) frame
SW 12014

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Otto Piene
On the Mountain, 1974
fire gouache and hay on board
44 1/8 x 28 inches (112 x 71 cm) image
47 3/4 x 31 13/16 x 2 inches (121,3 x 81 x 5,1 cm) frame
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
Red Matters, 1975
oil and fire on canvas
48 x 48 inches (122 x 122 cm) image
53 1/16 x 53 1/16 x 3 1/2 (135 x 135 x 9 cm) frame
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
Lichtballett, 1961
mixed media
67 5/8 x 59 3/4 x 28 inches (172 x 152 x 71 cm)
Private Collection

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Otto Piene
Hängende Lichtkugel, 1972
mixed media
89 3/8 x 27 1/2 inches (227 x 70 cm)
Collection of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

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Otto Piene
Black Light Ballet Drum, 1967
wood, metal, glass, motor, electric light
19 1/2 x 59 inches (49, 5 x 150 cm) diameter
SW 13226

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Otto Piene
Lichtkugel, 1971-72
metal, motor, electric light, hanging chain
19 5/8 inches (50 cm) diameter
hanging chain: 27 1/2 x 23 5/8 x 23 5/8 inches  (70 x 60 x 60 cm)
SW 13225

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Otto Piene
Electric Anaconda, 1965
brass globes, flat black paint, glow lamps
66 1/2 x 16 x 16 inches (169 x 40,6 x 40,6 cm)
SW 08356

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Otto Piene
Interferenz, 1957/1991
oil and fire on board
32 1/8 x 43 5/8 inches (81,6 x 110,8 cm) frame
SW 08365

Artist exhibitions

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Otto Piene
Sundew and Selected Works 1957–2014
28 January – 12 March 2016
Sperone Westwater, New York
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Space and Matter
29 June – 31 July 2015
Sperone Westwater, New York
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Otto Piene
Light Ballet and Fire Paintings, 1957 -1967
6 April - 22 May 2010
Sperone Westwater, New York
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ZERO in New York
6 November - 20 December 2008
Sperone Westwater, New York

Artist publications

Artist press