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Daniel Buren

French Painter, Sculptor, Conceptual Artist

Daniel Buren Photo
Movements and Styles: Conceptual Art, Minimalism, Installation Art

Born: March 25, 1938 - Boulogne-Billancourt, France

"My painting, at the limit, can only signify itself... It is. So much so, and so well, that anyone can make it and claim it... Perhaps the only thing that one can do after having seen a canvas like ours is total revolution."

Summary of Daniel Buren

Daniel Buren has predominately been painting 8.7cm-wide vertical stripes for half a century. However, unlike those by many of his contemporaries, Buren's stripes are political. Pasted on top of adverts, plinths, and installed antagonistically in royal courtyards, his work remains critical of a world construed of images and hierarchies of power. He has taken abstract painting, Conceptualism and Minimalism out of the galleries that these movements are so dependent on, democratizing abstract modernist art practices, which, particularly in the 1960s, relied heavily on controlled, 'pure' museum encounters. He often works with other artists and architects in an unusual fashion - not collaborating with existing creative, but rather inserting his work into a relationship with established architectural spaces. In this way he asserts the idea that no artist works completely independently, but rather exists in defined geographies and histories.

Key Ideas

Daniel Buren valued repetition, abstraction, and even boredom and made work that was non-representational, and even anti-representational. He believes that viewers' encounters with forms, shapes, and color, could be more meaningful than encounters with naturalistic or semiotic images and aims to allow a freedom of interpretation and enjoyment in his works.
In French theorist Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle (1967) Debord writes that everyday social relations between people have been supplanted by relationships between images. This image-based life follows the regression of subjects under capitalism from being (humans) to having (commodities) to appearing (as representation). In his early work, Buren literally effaces images of commodities in advertising, by pasting over them with abstract (non-representational) stripes.
The imperative of 'art for art's sake' is central to Buren's practice. This idea states that art exists in and for itself and its viewers, and doesn't need to be made in the service of emotional, moral or didactically politically ideals.
Despite the above assertion, Buren's anti-establishment sensibilities found its way into his art, which often intentionally disrupts respected spaces, for example his gigantic hanging fabric in the middle of the Guggenheim's spiral, and his squat geometric striped columns in the courtyard of the Palais Royal in Paris.
Daniel Buren Photo

Daniel Buren is an artist who likes to keep his personal life private and insists on the separation between his autobiography and his work. Consequently, he shares very little about his private life and we know almost nothing about his childhood, except that he was born in Boulogne-Billancourt in France in 1938.

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