Born in Krefeld in 1954, Oehlen moved to Berlin in 1977, where he worked as a waiter and decorator with his friend, the artist Werner Büttner. He graduated from the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg, in 1978. Closely associated with the Cologne art scene, he was a member of the Lord Jim Lodge, along with Martin Kippenberger among others. His art is related to the Neue Wilde movement. He has more recently been described as a 'free radical'.
Influenced by other German painters such as Georg Baselitz, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, Oehlen focuses on the process of painting itself. During the 1980s he began combining abstract and figurative elements of painting in his works, as part of a reaction to the prevailing Neo-Expressionist aesthetic of the time. In his paintings of the late 1990s, each piece consists of smears and lines of paint Oehlen brushed and sprayed over collaged imagery that had been transferred to canvas by the type of gigantic inkjet printers used to manufacture billboards. In Oehlen's recent work, flat, figurative cut-outs-all the products of computer-aided design (CAD), and gestural strokes of oil paint trade places in the service of collage. In his recent Finger Paintings, color-blocked advertisements are an extension of the canvas, providing fragmented, readymade surfaces for Oehlen’s visceral markings, made with his hands, as well as brushes, rags, and spray-cans.
In 2013 ArtDaily described Oehlen as "one of the most influential, but also one of the most controversial of contemporary painters". His paintings are also frequently compared with David Salle's. However his work has not been met with universal approval. Philippe Dagen, writing in Le Monde about Oehlen's 2011 exhibition in Nîmes, concluded that he was "of only limited importance. With about 30 canvases he reveals his system with absolute, but unfortunately appalling, clarity." His paintings were devoid of "any form of expression or psychic density".
Oehlen has shown work internationally in many exhibitions including Grounswell at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2005), Provins – Legende at Museet for Samtidskunst in Roskilde, Denmark and Spiegelbilder 1982-1985 at Max Hetzler in Berlin (2005). In 2013 a restrospective of his entire oeuvre from the 1980s to 2005 consisting of over 80 works was held at MUMOK, Vienna.
Selected solo exhibitions
- Albert Oehlen, Carre d'Art, Nîmes 2011 
- Albert Oehlen, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris 2011
- Albert Oehlen, Thomas Dane Gallery, London 2011
- Albert Oehlen, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 2011
- Albert Oehlen- Fingermalerei, Emil Schumacher Museum, Hagen, Germany 2010
- Albert Oehlen, Alfonso Artiaco, Naples 2010
- Museo di Capodimonte, Naples (retrospective) 2009 
- Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris 2008
- Thomas Dane Gallery, London (catalogue) 2008
- Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin (catalogue) 2008
- Paintings 1988-2008, John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco 2008
- Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid 2008
- Drei Amigos!, Galerie Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt 2007
- Prints (with Christopher Wool), 1018 ART, New York 2007
- Albert Oehlen- I Will Always Champion Good Painting, Whitechapel Gallery, London 2006
- Painter of Light, Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York 2006
- Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 2006
- Albert Oehlen - I Will Always Champion Bad Painting, Arnolfini, Bristol 2006
- Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium 2006
- Albert Oehlen - New Paintings and Collages, Thomas Dane, London 2005
- I know whom you showed last summer, Museum of Modern Art, Miami 2005
- Albert Oehlen. Paintings 1980-1981, Skarstedt Fine Art, New York 2005
- FRAC Auvergne - Ecuries de Chazerat, Clermont-Ferrand, France (catalog) 2005
- Spiegelbilder 1982-1985, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 2005
- Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris 2005
- Albert Oehlen, Malerei 1980-2004, Selbstportrait mit 50millionenfacher Lichtgeschwindigkeit, Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Nuremberg 2005
- Selbstportrait mit 50millionenfacher Lichtgeschwindigkeit, Musée Cantonale des Beaux Arts, Lausanne (catalog) 2004
- Albert Oehlen, Malerei 1980-2004, Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin 2004
- Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York 2004
- Spezialbilder - Albert Oehlen / Jonathan Meese, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 2004
- Nolan/Eckman Gallery, New York, 2003
- Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg (catalogue) 2002
- Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris 2002
- Patrick Painter, Inc., Santa Monica 2002
- Pinturas y Dibujos 2002
- Terminale Erfrischung: Computercollagen und Malerei, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover (catalog) 2001
- Der Ritt der sieben Nutten - das war mein Jahrhundert (with Markus Oehlen), Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach (catalogue) 2000
- Höre auf zu arbeiten, die Erregung nimmt Dir die Kraft, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne 2000
- Albert Oehlen. Malerei, Kunsthalle Vierseithof, Luckenwalde (catalog) & Bernier / Eliades, Athens 2000
- refuse, light and a joke invented in drunkenness, Luhring Augustine, New York 1999
- Albert Oehlen. Malerei, Kunsthalle Vierseithof, Luckenwalde (catalogue) 1997
- IVAM Centre del Carme, Valencia (catalogue) 1996
- Abortion of the Cool, Gesellschaft für Gegenwartskunst, Augsburg (catalogue) 1995
- Oehlen Williams 95 (with Christopher Williams), Wexner Center for Arts, Columbus, Ohio (catalogue) 1995
- Recent Paintings, The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, Chicago 1995
- Realidad Abstracta (with Markus Oehlen), Universidad Internacional Menendez Pelayo, Santander (catalogue) 1990
- Linolschnitte, Forum Stadtpark, Graz (catalogue) 1989
- Abräumung - Prokrustische Malerei 1982 - 84, Kunsthalle Zürich, Zürich (catalogue) 1987
- Sammlung Falckenberg - Kulturstiftung Phoenix Art, Hamburg
- Kunstraum Grässlin, St. Georgen
- MUDAM-Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg
- ZKM Museum für Neue Kunst & Medienmuseum, Karlsruhe
- Neue Galeria Graz am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz
- Inhotim Centro de Arte Contemporânea, Brumadinho, Brazil
- Sammlung Essl-Kunsthaus, Klosterneuburg
- Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK), Frankfurt/Main
- Museet for Samtidskkunst, Roskilde, Denmark
- Daimler Contemporary, Berlin
- Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig- MUMOK, Vienna
- FRAC- Ile-de-France Le Plateau, Paris
- Städtisches Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach
- FNAC Fonds National d'Art Contemporain, Puteaux
- The Saatchi Gallery, London
- Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain (MAMCS), Strasbourg
- Tervi Flash Art Museum of Contemporary Art, Trevi
- CAC Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Malága, Malága
- Albert Oehlen at Gagosian Gallery
- Albert Oehlen exhibition catalogue to accompany his show at Thomas Dane Gallery, London in 2008
- (O'Brien, Glen) Interview Magazine article
- Oeheln – Patrick Painter
- Luhring Augustine Gallery.
- The Saatchi Gallery; About Albert Oehlen and his art Additional information on Albert Oehlen including artworks, text panels, articles, and full biography
- "Neue Wilde". Ketterer Kunst.[dead link]
- Sebastian Frenzel (January 1, 2010), „Stress findet statt ...“ Monopol Magazin.
- Albert Oehlen Skarstedt Gallery, New York.
- Albert Oehlen, Frühstück now (Self-Portrait) (1984) Christie's Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 1 July 2014, London.
- "Albert Oehlen". Ketterer Kunst.
- Glen O'Brien (28 April 2009) "Albert Oehlen" (interview), Interview Magazine. Retrieved 2013-09-26.
- Albert Oehlen: I Will Always Champion Good Painting, 7 July - 3 September 2006 Whitechapel Gallery, London.
- David Pagel (May 8, 1998), Art Review Los Angeles Times.
- Albert Oehlen, March 3 - April 7, 2012 Gagosian Gallery, New York.
- Albert Oehlen: New Paintings, June 6 - July 18, 2014 Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles.
- Compass in Hand: Selections from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection, April 22, 2009 – January 4, 2010 Museum of Modern Art, New York.
- Loa by Albert Oehlen, BBC - Your Paintings. Retrieved 2013-09-26.
- Carol Vogel (July 1, 2014), Bacon, and a Bed, Sell Well at Christie’s London Auction New York Times.
- "mumok presents first comprehensive overview in Austria of Albert Oehlen's work", ArtDaily.org, 16 June 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-26.
- Martha Schwendener (October 13, 2006), [%22RI%3A10%22%2C%22RI%3A16%22 ART IN REVIEW; Albert Oehlen New York Times.
- Philippe Dagen (9 August 2011) "Albert Oehlen – review", The Guardian (originally published in Le Monde). Retrieved 2013-09-26.
- "Museum of Contemporary Art, Roskilde, Denmark".
- "Exhibitions List". Thomas Dane Gallery. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
- "Collections List". Thomas Dane Gallery. Retrieved 5 August 2012.