Daniel Buren is born in 1938 in Boulogne-sur-Seine. He studies until 1960 at the École Nationale Supérieure des Métiers d’Art in Paris. Buren’s debut in the art world begins in the context of the artist group BMPT, that is comprised of members besides Buren such as Olivier Mosset, Michel Parmentier and Niele Toroni. Their group exhibition in 1967 provokes a fundamental dispute over the means of art and the basic structures of painting. The artists confront he viewer with evenly patterned canvas surfaces, which reject any traditional painterly aspects – such as significance of motif, object illusionism, rational or abstract gestures.
According to the artist himself, he already used the industrially produced strips of material that will continue to appear in Buren’s artistic works in 1965. For his mostly time limited installations Buren selects alternating strips in white and in color and a regular width of 8.7 cm. The strips accentuate the place where they are shown and thus also document Buren’s increasingly anonymous notions of the picture, such as in his »Exit from Painting«. With the complete rejection of pictorial autonomityhe not only brings the expectations of the public but also the conditions of the art world to the fore.
The museum as the site for cultural selection mechanisms, orders of hierarchy and public art policy maintains special importance in Buren’s work. He places the museum in question in 1968 with the aide of his construction of strips that he displays with a subversive gesture in public places. The strips without writing mutate to wall-hangings or molding ornaments for public buildings and monuments, obscuring posters or becoming themselves an advertising slogan, which Buren allows to be carried through the streets. Art and everyday experience mix: Buren shows his striped paper strips at the same time in galleries and in exhibition rooms. The strips become markers for Buren’s »visual tool (outil visuel)«, which he also thoroughly details in theoretical texts as an instrument of museum criticism.
A conceptual transformation in Buren’s work takes place through his first important museum exhibition in 1971, which was displayed under the title Manifestation in Mönchengladbach and then shown in thirteen other German cities. For the first time his works could be experienced as process in the context of a defined museum space – in Mönchengladbach in addition to staging the trips on bus-lines they were also displayed on the molding of the exhibition rooms. Buren confront his viewers for the first time directly with an accompanying book and theoretical reflections. This dispute over the conditions of the museum and the exhibition space continues in the following years, as for example in Documenta 5 in 1972.
In the 1980s Buren shifts his interest increasingly to general critical positions on perception, which brings painterly categories such as color, format and space perception to the fore. Spatial visual experiences play a special role, especially at his first big one-man show Points de Vue ou le Corridorscope at the Musée de la Ville de Paris in 1983. Further works follow, the so-called Cabanes éclatées, the complex space-in-space stagings with the use of dressed slat constructions and mirror surfaces.
Finally, Buren’s location and place constructions, such as his well-known work, Les deux plateaux, from1985/86 in the Cour d’honneur in the Palais Royal in Paris, constitute a further stage in his work. In 2002 the continued presence of his works in international individual and group shows since the 1960s find its continuation in a grand retrospective in Centre Pompidou.
Daniel Buren lives in Paris.
Pilgram, Markus: Kritik und Wahrnehmung im Werk von Daniel Buren, Berlin 2005
Daniel Buren. Erscheinen, Scheinen, Verschwinden: Ausst.-Kat., Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf 1996
Buren, Daniel: Achtung! Texte 1967 — 1991, hg. v. Gerti Fietzek und Gudrun Inboden, Dresden u.a. 1995
Daniel Buren: Ausst.-Kat. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, hg. v. Gudrun Inboden, Stuttgart 1990
Daniel Buren, so ist es u. anders: Ausst.-Kat. Kunsthalle Bern, hg. v. Jean-Hubert Martin u. Rudi Fuchs, Bern, 1983
Buchloh, Benjamin (Hg.): Daniel Buren. Les couleurs: sculpture. Les formes: peinture, Halifax 1981