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Daniel Buren
HomeArtistsDaniel Buren

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Daniel Buren

Statement:daniel buren
"The idea was to see what the word 'function' means for art because I love the idea that you can do something for nothing, for no purpose except maybe your own pleasure. But after a time, art does have a function. Who can say that Cézanne has no use?"


Buren is known for using regular, contrasting maxi stripes of 8.7 cm to integrate the visual surface and architectural space, notably historical, landmark architecture. The stripes are a “visual instrument” that allow him to appropriate and transform space with paintings, sculptures and installations. As described by the Bortolami Dayan Gallery, he uses the generality of stripes “to create an art that defies a traditional definition of art as an object for aesthetic contemplation—[his work challenges] the conventional notions of where art can be seen and how it can be understood.”

Often referred to as ‘the stripe guy’ Buren also expresses his theme in paint, laser cut fabric, light boxes, transparent fabrics and ceramic cup sets. His stripes are displayed in private homes, public places and museums worldwide.


Collaboration with illy

List of Collections:


Early Works

Buren was born in 1938 in Boulogne-Billancourt, France, and studied painting at the École National des Métiers d’Art, Paris. Rejecting the classical teachings of the Paris school, he painted abstract shapes and lines. In 1965 – a year he spent in the Grapetree Bay Hotel on the Caribbean island of Saint Croix – he had abandoned traditional painting for the vertical stripes (8.7 cm wide, alternating between white and a color), which have become his signature. Denoting the trademark stripes as a visual instrument or ‘seeing tool’ he invites us to take up his critical standpoint challenging traditional ideas about art.

He simplified his imagery to vertical lines and focused on the canvas size and location. In 1966, he created abstract paintings and performed with artists Olivier Mosset, Michel Parmentier and Niele Toroni to fight the traditional practices of the Paris Art Establishment. Daniel Buren, without permission, put up 200 striped posters around Paris; in 1970, also unauthorized, he put up striped posters in 140 Metro stations. Thus distributing stripes to various places, he drew public attention. At his first solo exhibition in the Galleria Apollinaire in Milan in 1968, he blocked up its entrance with stripes, saying he “wanted to show the consequences of a specific work.

Expanding on this idea, in 1971 he created a 66 foot banner, Peinture-Sculpture, with white and blue stripes on both sides to be hung at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, to divide the Soloman R. Guggenheim Museum’s rotunda in New York in a big international group show, conceived to encourage artists to exploit the building's space. Other artists, including Dan Flavin and Donald Judd, protested that the banner blocked views across the rotunda, compromising their works. Buren, in turn, said Flavin's fluorescent lights colored his banner. The night before the opening the banner was removed, provoking a mini-scandal, which provided Mr. Buren, who cried censorship, with the institutional distress and personal notoriety that no doubt had been his goal in the first place. After 34 years, Daniel Buren came back to Guggenheim Museum with his new installation, its mirrored installation partly blocking but now also redoubling views of the rotunda, clearly alludes to this storm, an event that is possibly familiar to art historians, but that most people will have never heard of or will consider a tempest in a teapot at best.

In 1973, Buren suspended striped squares of canvas on a cable that ran from one end of the John Weber Gallery to the other, out the window to a building on the other side of West Broadway and back.


Major Installations and Exhibits

In 1986, he created his first permanent public work, Les Deux Plateaux (more commonly referred to as the "Colonnes de Buren" - "Buren's Columns"), for the Palais Royal Court, Paris. This controversial 10,000 square-foot sculpture of 260 black and white striped stumps integrates contemporary art with historic architecture.

colonnes de buren

This provoked an intense debate over the integration of contemporary art and historic buildings. Also in 1986 he received the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale; he has exhibited there ten times since. Following these achievements, he attained leading-French-artist status from President François Mitterrand.

In 1990, New Zealand honored him as a Living Treasure for their 150th anniversary and in 1991 he received the International Award for the Best Artist given in Stuttgart, Germany, followed by the Grand Prix National de Peinture in France, 1992.

Since the 1990s, Buren’s work has become more architectural. He creates new spaces within existing environments such as beaches (Le Vent soufle où il veut, 2009), city centers (A Colored Square in the Sky, 2007), public parks (La Cabane Éclatée aux 4 Salles, 2005) and entire museums (The Eye of the Storm, 2005).

The eye of the storm

 In 2007, the Japan Art Association awarded him the Praemium Imperiale for international distinction in the arts. He has exhibited world-wide in museums including the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Neues Museum, Nuremburg. He has produced over 80 public installations, including major sculptures for the Palais de Tokyo, the Parc du Château de Versailles and the Temple of Heaven, Beijing (De l'azur au Temple du Ciel - From the sky to Temple of Heaven) at Temple of Heaven in Beijing.

rainbow in the sky

In 2009, Buren created Rainbow in the Sky - thousands of colorful pennant flags hovering over a busy pedestrian square in Pasadena, California.

In 2011, he decided to cancel an exhibition at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing in "solidarity" with detained artist Ai Weiwei.


Later Life

Monumenta 2012, the hugely mediatized annual art project that’s in its fifth year dares an artist of international stature to “move into’’ the nave of one of the French capital’s most monumental buildings, Grand Palais, and own it. With a space measuring 13,500m2 and 45m high, it’s a dizzying feat for any artist, but especially for Buren.

grand palais

Last year’s leviathan-shaped gargantua by British artist Anish Kapoor is a hard act to follow, scraping the nave’s ceiling, and attracting more than 270,000 people in six and a half weeks.

Buren’s attempt sees myriad translucent circles in red, blue, green and yellow installed horizontally like a second human-scale roof, 2.5m high, supported by his signature 8cm bars, striped in black and white.The central part directly underneath the nave is empty, save for nine circular mirrors on the floor, shining up. 

“The spirit of this place is sun, is light, which cuts through the color in the circles ... You need to feel for the space you’re in ... The Grand Palais with the glass ceiling has such beautiful light, all the time — even on a rainy day,’’ Buren said.

Art critic Joost de Geest summed it up best: “Buren’s art is never immediately accessible, visible. You need to stroll around to feel it. The colored circles are very light, joyous, agreeable, but you need to discover them first. Imagine this — you can walk comfortably around the Grand Palais for the first time! I like that it’s on a small scale."


Upcoming/Current Performances

  • Until June 21, 2012 – Monumenta 2012 , Galeries nationales du Grand Plais , Paris , France.

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