(1902 – 1982), Cuba

Wifredo Lam Biography

Wifredo Lam (1902–1982) is one of the most distinguished and fascinating artists of the 20th century. He established a form of art that unites Western modernity with African symbols, as well as those from the Caribbean, and thus created his own unique language. Throughout his life Lam kept in touch with all the European avant-garde movements which primarily explored the unconscious in their art: Cubism, Surrealism and CoBrA. Lam was born in Cuba in 1902 as the eighth child of Chinese-born Lam-Yam and Ana Serafina Castilla, a Cuban with African and Spanish roots. In 1938 Lam arrived in Paris where he met Picasso, and through him his artist friends Braque, Matisse, Miro, Léger, Eluard and Leiris. Lam also met the Danish artist and co-founder of the CoBrA group, Asger Jorn, in Paris. Jorn, who had turned his hand to pottery, introduced him to the location Albissola Mare on the Ligurian coast in Italy, where Lam later purchased a house and studio overlooking the sea. However, his first efforts with what was for him a new artistic medium remained tentative. Albissola has been well-known since the first half of the 16th century for the manufacture of ceramics that have been traded all over the world. In the 1930s the futuristic movement reached Albissola, but only from the 1950s onwards did it become a meeting place for artists, intellectuals, writers and the most important personalities of the time.

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From 1958 onwards Lam and Jorn participated actively in the bustling local pottery scene. Lam was later appointed an honorary citizen of Albissola. Between numerous trips Lam returned there again and again, such as in 1975, after he had travelled with his family to the North Cape, Norway, India and Greece. Having arrived in Albissola, he turned his hand again to the manufacture of ceramics, this time spurred on by the creative freedom that the medium allowed him and by the fruitful collaboration with the studio Le Ceramiche San Giorgio. The manufacture of ceramics, the fusion of earth and fire, is one of the oldest creative practices of mankind. Wifredo Lam: 'Often I couldn’t sleep, waiting for the surprises of those unexpected tones.' Within three years he produced over 400 vases and other ceramic pieces, a selection of which was exhibited in the Museo della Ceramica in Albissola Mare in August 1975.

Today Wifredo Lam’s works appear worldwide in the most important museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, or in the Tate in London. In 2011 the Grand Palais in Paris hosted the group exhibition Césaire, Lam, Picasso, Nous nous sommes trouvés. Lam’s works will also feature in the forthcoming Triennial in Paris under the artistic direction of Okwui Enwezor. The exhibition, conceived with intensive work around Wifredo Lam’s remaining pieces, unites approximately 30 of today’s extraordinarily rare original ceramics chiefly from the period between 1975 and 1977.

Wifredo Lam Featured Artworks

Les Oiseaux Voilés by Wifredo Lam contemporary artwork painting
Wifredo Lam Les Oiseaux Voilés, 1945 Oil on canvas
110.8 x 125.7 cm
Pace Gallery
Hermès Trismégiste by Wifredo Lam contemporary artwork painting
Wifredo Lam Hermès Trismégiste, 1945 Oil on canvas
160 x 127 cm
Pace Gallery
Sans titre by Wifredo Lam contemporary artwork works on paper
Wifredo Lam Sans titre, c. 1969 Oil on canvas
145.5 x 198 cm
Galerie Gmurzynska Contact Gallery
Composition by Wifredo Lam contemporary artwork painting
Wifredo Lam Composition, 1976 Oil on canvas
60 x 50 cm
Galerie Gmurzynska Contact Gallery
Deux personnages by Wifredo Lam contemporary artwork painting
Wifredo Lam Deux personnages, 1945 Oil on paper mounted on canvas
97 x 73 cm
Galerie Gmurzynska Contact Gallery

Wifredo Lam Recent Exhibitions

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Wifredo Lam Represented By

Wifredo Lam In Ocula Magazine

Wifredo Lam In Related Press

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LOOSE CANON Related Press LOOSE CANON 21 October 2019, ARTFORUM

IN JUNE, NEW YORK'S MUSEUM OF MODERN ART WENT DARK to put the finishing touches on its contentious five-year expansion, which promised to put $450 million and 47,000 square feet of Diller Scofidio + R

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Wifredo Lam: Cuban Modernism Related Press Wifredo Lam: Cuban Modernism 28 October 2016, Aesthetica Magazine

Curated by Matthew Gale, Head of Displays, at Tate Modern, London, and Catherine David, General Curator at the Centre Pompidou / Musée national d’art moderne, Paris,  The EY Exhibition: Wifredo Lam is a major exhibition which explores and identifies with the cultural and political contexts of the Cuban artist. Running through into...

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Beyond the fairs: London's must-see exhibitions featuring black artists Related Press Beyond the fairs: London's must-see exhibitions featuring black artists 7 October 2016, culture type

London is the place to be this week with the 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair and Frieze London underway. The fourth edition of 1:54 is open Oct. 6-9 at Somerset House. According to the fair, 40 exhibitors are presenting more than 130 African and African diasporan artists, alongside a program of lectures, panel discussions, film screenings...

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Smashing stuff…London’s art world wakes up with a bang Related Press Smashing stuff…London’s art world wakes up with a bang 4 October 2016, Apollo Magazine

Tuesday kicked off with a toss up between the Tate’s Wifredo Lam survey (until 8 January 2017) and a book launch halfway up the Peckham multistorey car park that plays host to the perplexingly named Bold Tendencies  project. I chose the latter. Author Stephen Bayley had for whatever reason decided to baptise his book Death Drive with...

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