University_of California_San_Francisco_2011

University of California San Francisco, 2011 Photo: Kathryn Chiong © Lawrence Weiner Estate

Lawrence Weiner


Lawrence Weiner, photo by Matthew Tamaro


b. 1942, New York
d. 2021, New York

Lawrence Weiner is known for his philosophically minded works that propose new ways of making and experiencing art.

A major figure in the development of the Conceptual art movement, Weiner was deeply interested in communication and reception. His art, which has been installed in public and institutional spaces around the world, is marked by its inherent generosity and fluidity. In addition to his sculptures, Weiner produced music, films, and videos, as well as artist books and editions, throughout his career.

Lawrence Weiner (b. 1942, New York; d. 2021, New York) was born in New York’s South Bronx, graduating from Stuyvesant High School at age 16 and briefly attending Hunter College before setting out on his own. Hitchhiking around the United States as a teenager, Weiner left small sculptures on the roads he traveled. It was during this period of his life, in 1960, when he created what he would later consider his first official artwork: Cratering Piece, in which he set off explosives in a state park in Mill Valley, California, forging new, sculptural crevices within the landscape.

While still in high school in New York, Weiner became a frequent participant in civil rights and anti-nuclear protests, events that would later shape his understanding of art as it relates to social responsibility. For Weiner, art making was about finding the “right question” rather than the “right answer.”

Weiner drew inspiration from the city where he lived and worked all his life. “I didn’t have the advantage of a middle-class perspective,” he once said of his childhood in the South Bronx. “Art was something else; art was the notations on the wall, or the messages left by other people. I grew up in a city where I had read the walls; I still read the walls. I love to put work of mine out on the walls and let people read it. Some will remember it and then somebody else comes along and puts something else over it. It becomes archaeology rather than history.”

In the early years of his career, Weiner participated in some of the most storied exhibitions of the postwar era—major thematic group shows that helped define the Conceptualism movement—including Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form, at the Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland in 1969; Using Walls (Indoors), a 1970 exhibition at the Jewish Museum, New York; and Documenta 5, in Kassel, Germany in 1972. By the 1990s, Weiner was mounting solo exhibitions at institutions around the world, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C.; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany; the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Bourdeaux; the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; and the Institute of Contemporary Art in London. The first retrospective of Weiner’s work in the United States was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2007.

Weiner’s commissions and public projects are an integral part of his work and were exhibited internationally throughout his career. His large-scale interventions have been presented on the exterior of a former Nazi munitions tower in Vienna, which from the early 1990s until 2016 featured SMASHED TO PIECES (IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT) (1991) in both English and German. For the Public Art Fund in collaboration with Con Edison, Weiner cast IN DIRECT LINE WITH ANOTHER & THE NEXT (2000) into 19 functional New York City manhole covers, and ALL THE STARS IN THE SKY HAVE THE SAME FACE (2020–21) was presented in English, Arabic, and Hebrew across the façade of the Jewish Museum in New York.

Weiner’s work can be found in major public collections worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.


PLACED ON THE TIP OF A WAVE, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, 2009 © Lawrence Weiner Estate

7_NYC_Manhole_Covers_ New_York_Public_Art_Fund_New_York_2001

NYC Manhole Covers, New York Public Art Fund, Con Edison, New York, 2001 © Lawrence Weiner Estate


Wherewithal Kunsthaus, Bregenz, 2016. Photo: Udo Mittelberger © Lawrence Weiner Estate


Rose F. Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, Boston, 2015. Photo: Geoff Hargadon © Lawrence Weiner Estate


WITHIN A REALM OF DISTANCE, Blenheim Art Foundation, Woodstock, Fragment, 2015. Photo: Hugo Glendinning © Lawrence Weiner Estate

10_The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, 2018

The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, 2018 © Lawrence Weiner Estate


The Jewish Museum, New York, 2020. Photo: Liz Ligon © Lawrence Weiner Estate