Obsession is what it comes down to. It is difficult to think without obsession, and it is impossible to create something without a foundation that is rigorous, incontrovertible, and, in fact, to some degree repetitive. Repetition is the ritual of obsession. Repetition is a way to jumpstart the indecision of beginning. To persevere and to begin over and over again is to continue the obsession with work. Work comes out of work. In order to work you must already be working.
One of the most significant artists of his generation, he has produced large-scale, site-specific sculptures for architectural, urban, and landscape settings spanning the globe, from Iceland to New Zealand.
Born in 1938 in San Francisco, Richard Serra lives and works in New York and on the North Fork of Long Island. Serra attended the University of California, Berkeley before transferring to the University of California, Santa Barbara graduating with a BA in English literature; he then studied painting at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut completing both a BFA and MFA. He began showing with Leo Castelli in 1968, and his first solo exhibition in New York was held at the Leo Castelli Warehouse the following year. His first solo museum exhibition was held at the Pasadena Art Museum, California, in 1970.
Serra’s sculptures and drawings have been celebrated with two retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, twenty years apart: Richard Serra/Sculpture (1986) and Richard Serra Sculpture: Forty Years (2007). He has had solo exhibitions at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1977–78); Kunsthalle Tübingen, Germany (1978); Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany (1978); Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands (1980, 2014, and 2017); Centre Pompidou, Paris (1983–84); Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, Germany (1985); Louisiana Museum, Humlebæk, Denmark (1986); Westfälisches Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte, Münster, Germany (1987); Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich (1987); Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands (1988); Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, Netherlands (1990); Kunsthaus Zürich (1990); CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain, Bordeaux, France (1990); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (1992); Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany (1992); Dia Center for the Arts, New York (1997); Centro de Arte Hélio Oiticica, Rio de Janeiro (1997–98); Trajan’s Market, Rome (1999–2000); Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis (2003); and Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Naples, Italy (2004).
In 2005 The Matter of Time (1994–2005), a series of eight large-scale works, was installed permanently at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain. For Monumenta 2008, the major site-specific installation Promenade was shown at the Grand Palais, Paris. Three years later the large-scale, site-specific sculpture 7 was permanently installed opposite the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. A major traveling retrospective dedicated to Serra’s drawings was presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Menil Collection, Houston (the organizing venue), from 2011 to 2012.
In 2014 the Qatar Museums Authority presented a two-venue retrospective survey of Serra’s work, and East-West/West-East (2014) was permanently installed in the Brouq Nature Reserve, Zekreet, Qatar. In 2017 the Museum Wiesbaden, Germany, presented Richard Serra: Props, Films, Early Works; an overview of Serra’s work in film and video was shown at the Kunstmuseum Basel; and recent drawings were featured at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.
Serra has participated in numerous major international exhibitions, including Documenta (1972, 1977, 1982, and 1987), and the Biennale di Venezia (1980, 1984, 2001, and 2013), and his work has been included in many Whitney Annuals and Biennials (1968, 1970, 1973, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1995, and 2006). He is the recipient of the Leone d’Oro for lifetime achievement, Biennale di Venezia, Venice (2001); Orden Pour le Mérite für Wissenschaften und Künste, Federal Republic of Germany (2002); Orden de las Artes y las Letras de España, Spain (2008); President’s Medal, Architectural League of New York (2014); Chevalier de l’Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, Republic of France (2015); and J. Paul Getty Medal (2018).
Since 1983 Gagosian has presented more than thirty solo exhibitions of Serra’s work in the US and Europe.
Extended through January 11, 2020
September 17, 2019–January 11, 2020
555 West 24th Street, New York
Extended through April 13, 2017
NJ-2, Rounds: Equal Weight, Unequal Measure, Rotate
October 1, 2016–April 13, 2017
Britannia Street, London
From Richard Serra: Trevor Noah’s Message Against Racial Injustice
In response to enduring racial injustices and the recent widespread civil unrest, Richard Serra urges people to watch this video commentary by Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show.
The Art of Perception: Richard Serra’s Films
For eleven years, from 1968 to 1979, Richard Serra created a collection of films and videos that felt out the uncharted phenomenological boundaries of the medium. Carlos Valladares explores a selection of these works.
Gagosian Quarterly Fall 2019
The Fall 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a detail from Sinking (2019) by Nathaniel Mary Quinn on its cover.
Intimate Grandeur: Glenstone Museum
Paul Goldberger tracks the evolution of Mitchell and Emily Rales’s Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Maryland. Set amid 230 acres of pristine landscape and housing a world-class collection of modern and contemporary art, this graceful complex of pavilions, designed by architects Thomas Phifer and Partners, opened to the public in the fall of 2018.
Quartet for the End of Time
in Richard Serra’s “Transmitter”
Sunday, May 8, 2022, 4pm
Gagosian, Le Bourget
Join Gagosian and Bold Tendencies, a nonprofit organization that commissions artists to produce site-specific projects and present performances, for a live concert of Olivier Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time). Written in 1941 during the French composer’s imprisonment in a German labor camp, the powerful piece comprises eight movements for clarinet, violin, cello and piano. It will be performed by musicians Nicolas Baldeyrou, Mario Brunello, Alina Ibragimova, and Samson Tsoy both within and beside Richard Serra’s sculpture Transmitter (2020), creating a dialogue between sound, material, and space. To attend the event, register at eventbrite.com.
Richard Serra, Transmitter, 2020 © 2022 Richard Serra/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Thomas Lannes
The Met 150
Limited-Edition Print Portfolio
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, has released The Met 150, a limited-edition print portfolio featuring works by twelve contemporary artists from around the world who have a strong history and connection with the museum, including Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, and Sarah Sze. Commissioned in celebration of the museum’s 150th anniversary in 2020, the portfolios are produced in an edition of sixty by the renowned artists’ workshop Gemini G.E.L in Los Angeles. The twelve signed prints are housed together in a red linen clamshell box and are accompanied by essays written by the Met director Max Hollein and Sharon Coplan Hurowitz, co-publisher. Proceeds from sales support the museum. To purchase a portfolio, contact the Mezzanine Gallery at the Met Store at + 1 212 650 2908.
Ed Ruscha, Boom Town, 2021 © Ed Ruscha
The Films and Videos of Richard Serra
January 5, 7, 8, and 9, 2022
Centre Pompidou, Paris
In conjunction with the installation of Richard Serra’s sculpture Transmitter (2020) at Gagosian, Le Bourget, the gallery and Centre Pompidou, Paris, will present a four-day retrospective of the artist’s films and videos, drawn from the collections of the Centre Pompidou; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and Anthology Film Archives, New York. This is the first time that all of Serra’s film and video work will be shown together in Europe. Each of the six screenings will be introduced by an esteemed curator or scholar, including Eric de Bruyn, Enrico Camporesi, Søren Grammel, Marcella Lista, Philippe-Alain Michaud, and Marie Muracciole. The event is free and open to the public.
Richard Serra, Hand Catching Lead, 1968 (still), Museum of Modern Art, New York © 2022 Richard Serra/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Through September 6, 2022
Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain
This exhibition, whose subtitle translates to Drawings, places in dialogue drawings by Georges Seurat (1859–1891) and Richard Serra. Though both artists are better known for their work in other mediums (painting and sculpture, respectively), for both the practice of drawing constitutes an end in itself, and an arena in which to explore materiality—working in tones ranging from the opaquest black to the most transparent light.
Richard Serra, Ramble 4-26, 2015 © Richard Serra/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Rob McKeever
Animal habitats live and stuffed. . . Roma, La Salita, 1966
Through October 9, 2022
MACRO–Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma, Rome
This installation aims to reconstruct—through photographic and archival documents and a video drawn from a vintage newsreel—Richard Serra’s first solo exhibition, which opened on May 24, 1966, at Galleria La Salita in Rome. The year before, after attending the Yale School of Art, Serra moved to Florence. While in Italy, he embarked on a series of artistic experiments that equally questioned both an illusionistic approach to pictorial space and the use of the modernist grid. At the original exhibition Serra presented nineteen works—including cages containing live and stuffed animals—and a variety of assemblages. In the presentation at MACRO, images of and written testimonies about this legendary, yet largely unknown show are shown in parallel to conjure a pivotal moment in the history of art and of the exhibition as a medium.
Richard Serra, Zoo Cage III, 1966 (detail) © Richard Serra/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Galleria La Salita, Rome
Bilder der Ruhe
February 12–November 15, 2020
Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel
This exhibition, whose title translates to Silent Vision: Images of Calm and Quiet, features works of modern and contemporary art that deal with the subject of tranquility. Each room is dedicated to a specific aspect of calmness, inviting visitors to see and contemplate, as it were, stillness. Work by Alberto Giacometti, Roy Lichtenstein, Pablo Picasso, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, and Andy Warhol is included.
Pablo Picasso, Buste de femme de profil (Femme écrivant), 1932, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel © Succession Picasso/2020, ProLitteris, Zurich
Around Day’s End
Downtown New York, 1970–1986
September 3–November 1, 2020
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
This exhibition pays homage to Gordon Matta-Clark’s legendary Day’s End (1975) and features works by twenty-two artists who engaged with the Meatpacking District and West Side piers, among other downtown Manhattan locations, in the 1970s and early 1980s. The show also anticipates David Hammons’s monumental public artwork Day’s End, to be completed in December 2020 and located directly across from the Whitney in Hudson River Park. Work by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Richard Serra is included.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Plaid), 1982, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York