Daniel Buren

Artist (1938)

Since the beginning of his career in the 1960s, Daniel Buren has sought to develop new methods aimed at redefining the visual experience.  First of all, he decided to get rid of any illusionist and expressive reference in painting and to take it back to a “zero degree”.  He then reduced the pictorial content to a repetition and an alternation of white and coloured vertical stripes, 8.7 cm. wide (the awning canvas which was the medium for his painting).  For more than 40 years, these stripes have involved Buren in an art praxis challenging the traditional limit allotted to painting and the exhibition venue.  Working exclusively in situ, through countless exhibitions throughout the world, he has revealed the huge visual potential of this invariable “tool”, adapted to the specific nature of each site, be it inside or out.  Because, he explains, “Whatever it may be architecture is in fact the background, the medium and the inevitable frame of any work”.  Be it the Pavillon de la Biennale de Venise in 1986, where the façade was covered with mirrors cut into strips, his 1989 work at the Contemporary Art Centre in Geneva, where the museum was itself wrapped (Une enveloppe peut en cacher une autre), the Cabanes éclatés/Exploded Cabins inaugurated in 1975, a watchman at the Eindhoven Museum wearing a striped waistcoat in 1981, or the arrangement in 1984 of the Place des Terreaux à Lyon, Buren develops an oeuvre which comes across like a “machine for magnifying our vision of reality” (Catherine Francblin) and transforming it.  As Hubert Damisch emphasized during a public discussion with Buren, the transformation of places into huge sculptures on the scale of the architecture can be understood as a definition of his work.  The spectacular interplay of references and distortion of Arguments topiques in 1991 at the CAPC in Bordeaux represented a special expression of this, as did his exhibition Le Musée qui n’existait pas/The Museum Which Did Not Exist held in 2002 at the Centre Pompidou in Paris.  He has defined his positions in a large number of writings, from Limites critiques in 1970 to the book Le Musée qui n’existait pas published in 2010.

Daniel Buren (Boulogne-Billancourt, 1938) embarked on his training in the painting and general decoration workshop at the Ecole des métiers d’arts in Paris (School of Arts and Crafts).  After coming to notice by winning the prize at the Biennale des Jeunes in 1965, he founded the B. M. P. T. group in 1966 with Olivier Mosset, Michel Parmentier and Niele Toroni. His first major exhibition Points de vue was held at the A. R. C. (Museum of Modern Art, Paris 1983) and ushered in an international career.  There have been several retrospective shows of his work, in particular at Stuttgart in 1990, and the CAPC in Bordeaux in 1991.  The many prizes he has won include the Lion d’Or for the best pavilion at the 1986 Venice Biennale, the Grand Prix National de Peinture in Paris in 1992, and the Premium Imperiale for painting at Tokyo in 2007.

Nadine Labedade

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