Triptych: A work in Situ: Daniel Buren

  • Introduction

    Daniel Buren, one of the best-known and influential conceptual artists, an analytical painter, and early practitioner of what would come to be known as institutional critique, for his new project at Galerie Thomas Schulte has transformed the gallery’s large and prominently visible window on the corner of Leipziger Straße and Charlottenstraße for the creation of Triptych: a work in situ.


    Buren started his career in Paris in the mid-sixties as part of the Swiss and French artist group BMPT, an abbreviation of the initials of four fellow painters, namely Daniel Buren, Olivier Mosset, Michel Parmentier, and Niele Toroni. Together they set out to challenge the established methods of art production and the authorial, prerogative, and institutionalising role of the Paris salons, and to theorise a new social and political function for art and artists. BMPT sought to create art that was both simple and self-evident, that suppressed subjectivity and expressivity, and that would exist solely as visual and material fact. To that end, each of the four artists chose a simple geometric shape: Olivier Mosset chose circles, Michel Parmentier horizontal stripes, and Niele Toroni small squares. Daniel Buren chose to work with vertical 8.7 cm wide stripes, which he found in the mass-produced fabric for common awnings. Initially using them like regular canvas on stretchers, since the seventies Buren has applied his now iconic stripes to staircases, floors, walls, doors, windows, facades, and they have also appeared on billboards, monuments, banners, sails, escalators, and fences in public urban space.


    Buren uses his colourful stripes and architectural interventions as “visual tools”, to draw the attention away from “art as object” to instead highlight the specific architectural characteristics of museums and galleries and by extension their defining network of social, cultural, economic relationships. Challenging the supposed neutrality of art institutions, the stripes and simple geometric shapes themselves are chosen for their neutralising effect: As universal patterns, abstract, anonymous, banal, and non-referential, which can be imagined in infinite continuation and as both backdrop or framing device for art objects and architecture, they serve as a political intervention dissolving existing distinctions between inside and outside, private and public.


    As part of the artist’s resistance towards the documentation, conservation, canonisation, storage, and collection of his work, Buren from very early on insisted on the distinction between the actual work in situ and the documenting photographs. All photographic evidence of the work hence has to be subtitled and identified as “photo-souvenir” in order to emphasise the difference from the work itself and to restrict and diminish the significance and influence of the photographic image.


    Daniel Buren’s work can be found in private and public collections all over the world. There are more than 80 permanent installations worldwide. Buren between 1972 and 1982 has participated in three editions of Documenta. He has exhibited at the Venice Biennale more than 10 times and was awarded the Golden Lion for his French Pavilion in 1986. In 2007 he received the Praemium Imperiale for Painting from Japan. He has been the subject of retrospectives at the Centre Pompidou, Paris in 2002 and at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York in 2005.

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