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German artist Otto Piene was born in Arnsberg, brought up during the Second World War in nearby Lübbecke, studied at the prestigious Dusseldorf and Munich academies of art and graduated in Philosophy at the University of Cologne.
Seeking to ‘remake’ art in Cold War Europe, alongside artist Heinz Mack, in 1957 Piene founded the pan-European - though Düsseldorf-based - ZERO group of artists whose devolved members included, for example, Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, Arman, Jean Tinguely, Yves Klein, Henk Peters and Armando. Working from the new ‘ground zero’ of art, Piene and his associates produced ZERO magazine and, with characteristic conceptual austerity, gained critical success over the following decade.
Exhibiting at Kassel’s Documenta (1959/1964/1971), Piene was first exhibited in the United States at the Howard Wise Gallery in New York City (1966) and was chosen to represented Germany at the Venice Biennale (1967/1971). During the 1960s he taught in the United States at the University of Pennsylvania and became in 1971 the first Fellow of the Massachussetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies (later becoming its director until 1993).
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