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Daniel Buren

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As you wander the halls of the Center Pompidou in Paris, you may notice the bold black and white striped columns that seem to sprout from the floor and reach up several stories. These are the signature stripes of Daniel Buren, the pioneer of installation art in France. For over 50 years, Buren has been experimenting with art that transforms the experience of a space. His stripes have appeared on everything from canvas to metro trains, provoking you to see familiar surroundings in a new way.

Buren came of age as an artist in 1960s Paris, a time of upheaval that spurred him to challenge the traditional limits of painting. He began incorporating industrial materials into his art and moved into three-dimensional work that contained the surrounding architecture. Buren aimed to make art that was inextricable from the space itself. He removed his art from the gallery and installed it publicly in a radical move. 

Buren's stripes have become his trademark, a minimalist code representing his desire to reduce art to its essential elements. As you explore Buren's life work, you'll discover an artist who has spent decades exploring new ways to make you stop, look, and perceive the world anew.

Daniel Buren BIOGRAPHY

daniel buren
Image Credit: EL PAIS

Early Life and Education: Daniel Buren's Formative Years

When was Daniel Buren Born?

Daniel Buren was born in Boulogne-Billancourt, France, on March 25, 1938. 

As a child, Buren showed an aptitude for art. He began painting at the age of 12 and went on to study at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris from 1960 to 1965. During this time, Buren was exposed to various artistic styles and theories, including abstract art. He began to question traditional artistic practices in favour of more conceptual approaches.

In the mid-1960s, Buren started using pre-printed awning fabric with alternating white and coloured vertical stripes in his work. He began affixing the material to buildings, fences, and billboards to bring art into public spaces. Buren believed art should not be confined to museums and private collections but rather engage with a broad audience. His striped motifs soon became his signature, allowing endless variations and interpretations within his artistic practice.

Buren was associated with the BMPT group, short for Buren, Mosset, Parmentier, and Toroni, that promoted radical conceptual art. The group aimed to challenge notions of authorship and traditional means of art production. Buren continued experimenting with public art interventions, expanding into more sculptural installations and site-specific work. His art questioned the relationship between the artwork and the space in which it exists, often altering the audience's perception and experience of a location.

What is Daniel Buren known for?

daniel buren
Image Credit: MoMA

Daniel Buren has led an extraordinary life and career as a sculptor, reshaping the art world as we know it. His immense contributions to conceptual and installation art have inspired many artists across the globe. Though his radical ideas were controversial and polarizing early on, Buren stayed true to his artistic vision. 

His striking use of contrasting stripes in monumental architectural spaces challenged our notions of what constitutes a work of art. Buren's legacy lives on in the contemporary art scene today through the many artists following in his footsteps, using public spaces creatively to provoke thought and evoke emotion. 

Career highlights

daniel buren
Image Credit: MoMA

The Rise of Conceptual Art

As an avant-garde conceptual artist in 1960s Paris, Daniel Buren pioneered a radical new approach emphasizing ideas over esthetics. His abstract art broke from traditional forms of expression by using non-traditional and ephemeral materials to explore visual perception and the relationship between art and space.

In 1965, Buren began experimenting with pre-printed awning fabric, using 8.7 cm broad vertical stripes of alternating white and colour - a motif that became his visual signature. He chose a standardized, readymade material devoid of artistic touch to focus attention on the location and situation in which the work is presented. Buren's radical "degree zero of painting" rejected prevailing notions of art in favour of a conceptual approach centred on the relationship between the art object and the surrounding space.

Buren's Stripes Break Boundaries

Buren's stripe motifs grew increasingly large in scale through the 1970s as he moved into the public sphere, covering architectural facades, plazas, and landmarks across Europe. His expansive, site-specific installations merged art with architecture and completely transformed the way people experienced and interacted with public spaces. Buren's groundbreaking work established him as a pioneer of installation art and institutional critique.

By reducing painting to its most basic elements, Buren's stripes revealed art's ideological and economic underpinnings. His pioneering installations brought art out of the gallery and into the public sphere, highlighting how our art experience is shaped by the space in which it is presented. 

Buren's radical conceptual approach and use of non-traditional materials broke from the traditional function and form of art, paving the way for subsequent generations of installation and public artists. His influential and provocative work established conceptual art as a driving force that changed the course of late 20th-century art.

Daniel Buren List of Work

Image Credit: Galleries Now

Site-Specific Installations and Commissions: Taking Art Out of the Museum

Through these notable commissions, Buren established himself as a pioneer of installation art, using public spaces to create thought-provoking works on a grand scale.


Palais Royal, Paris

Buren was commissioned to create a permanent work for the Palais Royal in Paris. He installed 260 black and white striped columns throughout the gardens, disrupting the rigid symmetry and altering visitors’ perception of the space. The columns appear to be random in placement but were carefully arranged according to an underlying pattern. 


The Guggenheim, New York

Buren’s first major institutional show was at the Guggenheim Museum. He covered Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous spiral ramp with vertical black and white stripes, alternating the direction of the stripes to create an illusion of motion. The piece elicited polarized reactions and cemented Buren’s reputation as an irreverent conceptual artist.


Les Deux Plateaux

This piece is considered one of his most recognizable works. The 260 black and white columns of varying heights dot the palace courtyards in a disruptive pattern. The work has become an iconic example of Buren’s style.


The Guggenheim Bilbao

Buren contributed several permanent installations for the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao including “The Tenth Room”, “Around the Corner” and “Through the Looking Glass”. The pieces incorporate Buren’s signature stripes along walls, walkways and water features of the museum.


Center Pompidou Metz

The Center Pompidou Metz, an offshoot of the Center Pompidou in Paris, opened in 2010 with several major works by Buren integrated into its architecture. His striped sails shade the museum’s grand esplanade, while an open-air rotunda incorporates multi-colored glass panels


Major Exhibitions

Buren's striking striped canvases and architectural interventions have resonated with audiences and artists worldwide. His works can be found in major museums, including: 

  • Guggenheim Museum in New York,

  • Center Pompidou in Paris

  • Tate Modern in London 

Legacy and Influence: Buren's Impact on Contemporary Art

Daniel Buren has had an immense influence on contemporary art. His pioneering work with site-specific installations and use of contrasting stripes has inspired generations of artists.

Buren challenged traditional ideas about art, pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a work of art. His bold striped motifs led other artists to utilize pattern, colour, and shape in thought-provoking ways. His radical site-specific results demonstrated how art could interact with and activate a space rather than inhabit it.

Buren’s experimental and playful style inspired contemporary artists like Olafur Eliasson, AnishBuren, and Nathalie Djurberg. His bold use of colour and pattern can be seen in the work of artists like Yayoi Kusama

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