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b. 1954, Germany

Kiki Smith Biography

Kiki Smith was born in 1954 in Nuremberg, Germany, the daughter of sculptor Tony Smith. Brought up in South Orange, New Jersey, she enrolled at Hartford Art School in Connecticut in 1974 but dropped out eighteen months later. Settling in New York in 1976, Smith earned her living over the next few years doing odd jobs. Around 1978, she joined Collaborative Projects, Inc. (Colab), an artists’ collective devoted to making art accessible through exhibitions outside commercial gallery settings. It was during this period that she made her first artworks, monotypes of everyday objects. Virtually self-taught, Smith describes herself as “a thing-maker.”

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With the death of her father in 1980, Smith turned her attention to themes of mortality and decay, focusing on human corporeality. Hand in Jar (1983) consists of a latex hand covered in algae and submerged in a mason jar filled with water. Its clinical realism calls to mind a pathology lab or a dissecting studio. In 1985, propelled by an interest in obtaining practical knowledge about the body, Smith studied to become an emergency medical technician. The impact of this experience on her work was immediate and profound. Possession Is Nine-Tenths of the Law (1985) is a series of nine screenprints and monotypes of deadpan views of various internal organs. Its legalistic title alludes to the artist’s nascent feminist concerns regarding the body, particularly the female body, as a battleground for social and political ideologies. Smith offered similarly clinical treatments of human organs in her sculptures of the period, including Glass Stomach (1985), Untitled (Heart) (1986), and Second Choice (1987), a bowl of castoff lungs, liver, heart, and spleen.

Text courtesy Krakow Witkin Gallery.

Kiki Smith Featured Artworks

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Homecoming by Kiki Smith contemporary artwork
Kiki SmithHomecoming, 2008Intaglio with handcoloring
21 x 28 inches
Krakow Witkin Gallery Contact Gallery
Standing Still by Kiki Smith contemporary artwork
Kiki SmithStanding Still, 2001Ink on Nepali paper
190 x 73 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris Contact Gallery
Red Cap by Kiki Smith contemporary artwork
Kiki SmithRed Cap, 2001Lithograph with hand applied colored pencil on paper with deckled edge
20 1/4 x 20 inches
Krakow Witkin Gallery Contact Gallery
Intestine by Kiki Smith contemporary artwork
Kiki SmithIntestine, 1988Gouache on black paper
66 x 51 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris Contact Gallery
Earth by Kiki Smith contemporary artwork
Kiki SmithEarth, 2012Cotton Jacquard tapestry
287 x 190.5 cm
Pace Gallery
Still by Kiki Smith contemporary artwork
Kiki SmithStill, 2012Bronze
31.8 x 35.6 cm
Pace Gallery
Phantom by Kiki Smith contemporary artwork
Kiki SmithPhantom, 2016Bronze
46.7 x 62.2 x 15.2 cm
Pace Gallery
Everywhere by Kiki Smith contemporary artwork
Kiki SmithEverywhere, 2017Ink and leaf on Nepalese paper
183 x 142.2 cm
Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke Contact Gallery

Kiki Smith Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Kiki Smith, Solo Exhibition at Krakow Witkin Gallery, Boston
Closed
8 October–11 November 2020 Kiki Smith Solo Exhibition Krakow Witkin GalleryBoston
Contemporary art exhibition, Kiki Smith, Light at Pace Gallery, Geneva
Closed
9 September–31 October 2020 Kiki Smith Light Pace GalleryGeneva
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Small Format at Pace Gallery, New York
Closed
13 February–19 March 2020 Group Exhibition Small Format Pace GalleryNew York

Kiki Smith Represented By

Pace Gallery contemporary art gallery in New York, USA Pace Gallery Seoul, New York, London, Geneva, Palo Alto, Hong Kong, Beijing

Kiki Smith In Ocula Magazine

Biennale of Sydney Asks, What if Rivers Could Talk? Ocula News Biennale of Sydney Asks, What if Rivers Could Talk? Sydney, 13 April 2021

Fifty-nine participants have been named for the event, which takes inspiration from the legal personhood granted to rivers, parks, and mountains in recent years.

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Armory Week Lowdown: Shows to See Ocula Feature Armory Week Lowdown: Shows to See By Sharmistha Ray, New York

The Armory Show opens to the public on 7 March (running to 10 March 2019)—just about a week after the fair relocated a portion of its 194 exhibitors due to structural issues found in Pier 92, forcing its sister fair Volta to cancel its 2019 show so that Armory could occupy its Pier 90 venue. Despite the upheaval, New York 's art week is...

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The Lowdown: shows to see during Frieze week Ocula Feature The Lowdown: shows to see during Frieze week By Robert Ayers, New York

With Frieze New York returning to Randall's Island Park from 4 to 6 May 2018, Ocula is on hand to offer a selection of exhibitions around the city, from Bushwick and the LES to Chelsea, Midtown and the Upper East Side. Exhibition view: Before the Fall: German and Austrian Art of the 1930s, Neue Galerie New York (8 March–28 May 2018)....

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Kiki Smith In Related Press

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The Must-See Exhibitions in Paris During FIAC Related Press The Must-See Exhibitions in Paris During FIAC 16 October 2019, Frieze Magazine

Known for her politically charged works that explore themes like exile, mass-migration and displacement, British-Palestinian artist Mona Hatoum is experiencing renewed and timely interest today, particularly since her remarkable show at the Tate Modern in 2016.

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Kiki Smith and the Pursuit of Beauty in a Notably Unbeautiful Age Related Press Kiki Smith and the Pursuit of Beauty in a Notably Unbeautiful Age 26 November 2018, New York Times

STROLLING WITH THE ARTIST Kiki Smith down the not-entirely-gentrified East Village block where she lives and works, in a townhouse with a cherry-red door, can take a remarkably long time. It's not that she isn't nimble — at 64, she has energy to match her famously prodigious output, able to navigate in a billowing black cotton shift around...

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Feminist artist Kiki Smith: 'Getting older, certain things quiet' Related Press Feminist artist Kiki Smith: 'Getting older, certain things quiet' 30 August 2018, The Sydney Morning Herald

The female body. Its bones and limbs, its emotions, its animal instinct, its bodily functions, its secrets and anxieties, its sexuality, its illnesses and pain. There is no part of it that has been left unexplored by the fearless American artist Kiki Smith, a pioneer of contemporary feminist art who has grappled with female beauty, shame...

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Kiki Smith Takes Over the Eldridge Street Synagogue with 50 Artworks Related Press Kiki Smith Takes Over the Eldridge Street Synagogue with 50 Artworks 5 June 2018, Hyperallergic

Before the restoration of the Eldridge Street Synagogue, birds flew in through holes in the roof. The animals roosted in the 19th-century structure that was once a haven for Eastern European Jews on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, but it had fallen into a decline because of a shrinking membership and its leaking sanctuary was closed off half a...

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