Agnes Denes

Agnes Denes (*1931 in Budapest) lives and works in New York. A primary figure among the concept-based artists who emerged in the 1960s and 1970s, Agnes Denes is internationally known for works created in a wide range of mediums. Investigating science, philosophy, linguistics, psychology, poetry, history, and music, Denes’s artistic practice is distinctive in terms of its aesthetics and engagement with socio-political ideas. As a pioneer of environmental art, she created “Rice/Tree/Burial” in 1968 in Sullivan County, New York, acknowledged as the first site-specific piece with ecological concerns.

“Wheatfield – A Confrontation” is perhaps Agnes Denes’s best known work. It was created during a four-month period in 1982 when Denes, with the support of the Public Art Fund, planted a field of golden wheat on two acres of rubble-strewn landfill near Wall Street and the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan (now the site of Battery Park City and the World Financial Center). With the support of the Trussardi Foundation, Denes’s “Wheatfield” was replanted in 2015 on twelve acres of land in central Milan. Among her many other artistic achievements is “Tree Mountain – A Living Time Capsule”, a monumental earthwork, reclamation project and the first man-made virgin forest, situated in Ylöjärvi, in western Finland. The site was dedicated by the President of Finland upon its completion in 1996 and is legally protected for the next four hundred years. “The Living Pyramid”, a monumental sculptural work comprised of earth, wood, and plants, commissioned in 2015 by the Socrates Sculpture Park (Long Island, City, New York), was recreated in 2017 for Documenta 14 in Kassel. The artist is currently proposing “A Forest for New York”, envisioned to occupy the 120 acres of barren land that comprises the Edgemere landfill in Queens.

Agnes Denes is also known for her innovative use of metallic inks and other non-traditional materials in creating a prodigious body of exquisitely rendered drawings and prints that delineate her explorations in mathematics, philosophy, geography, science and other disciplines. Works by Agnes Denes are in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Kunsthalle Nürnberg and many other major institutions worldwide.

She has completed public and private commissions in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and the Middle East, and has received numerous honours and awards including four fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and four grants from the New York State Council on the Arts; the DAAD Fellowship, Berlin (1978); the American Academy of Arts and Letters Purchase Award (1985); M.I.T’s Eugene McDermott Achievement Award (1990); the Rome Prize (1998); the Watson Transdisciplinary Art Award from Carnegie Mellon University (1999); the Anonymous Was A Woman Award (2007); the Ambassador’s Award for Cultural Diplomacy for Strengthening the Friendship between the US and the Republic of Hungary through Excellence in Contemporary Art (2008) and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (2015). Denes holds honorary doctorates from Ripon College, Wisconsin and Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania and has had fellowships at the Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University and the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at M.I.T. She is the author of six books and has participated in more than 600 exhibitions at galleries and museums throughout the world including, among others, solo shows at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1974); ICA, London (1979); the Kunsthalle Nürnberg (1982); Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca (1992); Samek Art Gallery, Bucknell University, Lewisburg (2003); Ludwig Museum, Budapest (2008); the Santa Monica Museum of Art (2012); FirstSite, Colchester, UK (2013). Her work has also been featured in such international surveys as the Biennale of Sydney (1976); Documenta 6, Kassel (1977); the Venice Biennale (1978); and Documenta 14, Kassel and Athens (2017). A highly critically acclaimed, comprehensive survey including newly commissioned sculptures by Agnes Denes opened in October 2019 at The Shed, New York.

As of March 2020

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