Painter, commercial artist, draughtsman, environmental artist, installation artist, light artist, sculptor, ceramicist, art educator, art theorist and college professor
Otto Piene was drafted as an anti-aircraft assistant in 1944 at the age of 16, and in 1945/46 he was captured as a British prisoner of war. In 1947 Piene graduated from high school and went to Munich in 1948, where he studied first at the Blocher School and later at the Academy of Fine Arts. In 1950 he continued his studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and, in 1953, studied philosophy at the University of Cologne. From 1951 on Piene taught at the Düsseldorf Fashion School, where he became the deputy director in 1959. In the same year, he had his first solo exhibition at Galerie Schmela in Düsseldorf and took part at the documenta 2. Together with Heinz Mack, Piene organised a series of exhibitions between 1957 and 1960, the so-called "evening exhibitions", in his own studio at Gladbacher Straße 69 in Düsseldorf. From 1958 Mack and Piene used the name "ZERO" for their events and as the title for the three issues of their magazine published in Düsseldorf. From 1961 on Günther Uecker also participated regularly in ZERO's exhibitions and performances. Between 1962 and 1966 the three artists were represented internationally in numerous exhibitions, including the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1962), the Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld (1963), the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag (1964), the Howard Wise Gallery in New York (1964), the Kestnergesellschaft in Hanover (1965), the Städtische Kunstsammlungen Bonn (1966) and the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (1966). In 1964 the ZERO artists were represented at documenta 3 and in 1970 at the 35th Venice Biennale. Individual shows of Piene's work have taken place in, among others: Galerie Ad Libitum, Antwerp (1961), Städtisches Museum Leverkusen Schloss Morsbroich (1962), Howard Wise Gallery, New York (1965), Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund (1967), Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu, Hawaii (1970), Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne (1973), Städtische Galerie und Kunstverein Erlangen (1974), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge/Mass. (1975), Fine Arts Center Art Gallery, New York (1980), Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf im Ehrenhof (1996), Stadtgalerie Prague (2002), Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund (2008/09), ZKM Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe (2013), Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (2014) and LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Münster (2015). Piene has also been featured in numerous group exhibitions, including "Westkunst. Zeitgenössische Kunst seit 1939", Rheinhallen, Cologne (1981), "German Art in the 20th Century Painting and Sculpture 1905−1985", Royal Academy of Arts, London (1985), São Paulo Biennale (1985), "1954−1985. Kunst in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland", Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1985/86), "Stationen der Moderne. Die bedeutenden Kunstausstellungen des 20. Jahrhunderts in Deutschland", Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (1988/89), "World Artists at the Millenium", United Nations, New York (1999), "Berlin − Moskau/Moskau − Berlin", Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin/Tretjakow-Galerie, Staatliches Historisches Museum, Moscow (2003/04), "Exit. Ausstieg aus dem Bild", ZKM Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe (2005), "Ghosts in the Machine", New Museum, New York (2012), and "ZERO. Let Us Explore the Stars", Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2015). Piene organised the first so-called "Sky Event" in 1968 as a "Light Line Experiment" over the Briggs Athletics Field of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). From 1969 on he used the work designation "Sky Art". From 1968 to 1971 he was Resident Fellow at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) and, after a one-year teaching assignment as Visiting Professor for Environmental Art at the Faculty of Architecture of the MIT, became Director of the CAVS in 1974. In 1977 he took part at the documenta 6 with the MIT project "Centerbeam". In 1987/88, together with Mel Alexenberg, he organised the exhibition "LightsOROT" for the Yeshiva University Museum in New York. In 1993/94 the emeritus status was confered on Piene as professor at MIT and director of the CAVS. He has received many awards for his artistic work, including the German Federal Cross of Merit (1986), an honorary doctorate from the University of Maryland (1994), the Sculpture Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1996) and the Max Beckmann Prize of the City of Frankfurt (2013).