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Albert Oehlen: portrait

The artist

Albert Oehlen

b. Krefeld, Germany, 1954

Albert Oehlen was born in Krefeld, Germany, in 1954. In Hamburg, he attended the Hochschule für Bildende Künste, where he studied Fine Arts from 1977 until 1981, and where Sigmar Polke was his professor.

His first individual exhibition was held at Max Hetzler (Stuttgart) in 1981, under the title Bevor ihr malt, mach ich das lieber. In Oehlen’s works from this period, dark brown tones predominate, and his paintings represent interior spaces, cellars, apartments, and museums, always deserted.

During the 80s, he began combining abstract and figurative elements, a trend that would culminate in his abstract paintings.

In 1982, he began working with collage.

In 1988, he moved to Andalusia for a year with his artist friend Martin Kippenberger, and then to Madrid. During this stage, he made his first drawings and paintings of trees.

In 1990, during his stay in Los Angeles, he purchased a computer and began making drawings that, in 1992, would lead to his Computer Paintings, a series that he ended in 2008. 

In 1997, he began his grey paintings (a series that ended in 2008).

Between 2000 and 2009, he was a painting professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.

In 2007, he began a new series of paintings, using advertising posters.

After his visit to the exhibition Action Painting, held at the Fondation Beyeler de Riehen (Basel) in 2008, he began painting directly with his fingers (Fingermalerei).

Today, he is still working on a series of paintings of trees that he had begun in 1989, as well as large-format collages.

Albert Oehlen has exhibited in institutions and galleries of international renown, both in Europe and in the US A. His most recent exhibitions were held at Kunsthalle Vierseithof, Germany (2000); Kestner–Gesellschaft, Germany (2001); Musée d’Art moderne et contemporain of Strasbourg, France (2002); Salzburger Kunstverein, Austria (2004); Domus Artium, Salamanca (2002), and Musée Cantonale des Beaux Arts, Switzerland (2004) —traveling; Secession, Viena (2004); FRAC Auvergne—Ecuries de Chazerat, Clermont–Ferrand, France (2005); Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (2005)—the artist’s first large monographic exhibition in the USA; Whitechapel Gallery, London (2006); Museo di Capodimonte, Italy (2009); Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2009); Emil Schumacher Museum, Germany (2010); Sammlung Grässlin, Germany (2010); Carré Musée d’art contemporain de Nîmes, France (2011); Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany (2012); Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna (2013); Museum Wiesbaden, Germany (2014); New Museum, New York (2015); Kunsthalle Zürich (2015); The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland (2016); and now the current exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (2016). The artist’s work was also included in the Venice Biennial of 2013.


 Albert Oehlen lives and works between Switzerland and Spain.

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