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Otto Piene

(1928 Bad Laasphe – 2014 Berlin, Germany)

Otto Piene was a German kinetic artist and co-founder of the ZERO avant-guard group. A pioneer of media art, Piene worked with light and motion to produce mesmerizing displays. At the core of his practice was the desire to study technological processes and harness them to create a sense of movement. “Light is my medium,” Piene declared.  

 

Born in 1928 in Bad Laasphe, Germany, he studied at the Academy of Art in Munich and later during the late 1950s at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf where he formed Group ZERO with Heinz Mack. Piene went on to become the first fellow of the MIT Centre for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) in 1968, which allowed him to work using sophisticated techniques and scientific partnership. Later, Piene went on to serve as the director of CAVS from 1974 to 1993.  

 

Throughout his career, Piene worked with numerous artists, scientists and engineers. Many of his public installations required various collaborations as their large physical scale. For example, his installation, Centerbeam (1977), involved twenty-two artists and a group of scientists and engineers, some of whom were based internationally.  

 

Piene died in 2014 of a heart attack in a taxi on the way to the opening of his Sky Art event at Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, Germany. 

 

Today, his works can be found in major collections around the world, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Centre George Pompidou in Paris.