Sturtevant was born in Lakewood, Ohio (USA) and made the first years of her artists life working in New York where she began in 1965 to manually reproduce paintings and objects created by her contemporaries with results that can immediately be identified with an original. Sturtevant thus turns the concept of originality on its head. All of her works are copies of the works of other artists; none is an original. She initially focused on works by such American artists as Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol. In the late 1960s, she concentrated on replicating works by Joseph Beuys and Duchamp. Since the early 1980s, she has focused on the next generation of artists, including Robert Gober, Anselm Kiefer, Paul McCarthy, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. She masters painting, sculpture, photography and film in order to produce a full range of copies of the works of her chosen artists. In most cases, her decision to start copying an artist happened before those artists achieved broader recognition. Nearly all of the artists she chose to copy are today considered iconic for their time or style. This has given rise to discussions amongst art critics on how it has been possible for Sturtevant to identify these now famous artists at such an early stage.
In 1991, Sturtevant presented an entire show consisting of her repetition of Warhol’s ‘Flowers’ series. In 1965 a Jasper Johns flag painting that formed part of Robert Rauschenberg's “Short Circuit” was stolen, so Rauschenberg got Sturtevant to paint a reproduction of Johns’s flag.
Sturtevant had her first her solo show in 1965 at the Bianchini Gallery. Solo exhibition of her work have since been shown at Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main (2004), and Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (1992), Moderna Museet (2012).
On June 4, 2011, Sturtevant received the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the 54th Venice Biennale At September 2013, she will be awarded the Kurt Schwitters Prize by the Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung, Hannover.
- Anne Dressen et al. Sturtevant - The Razzle Dazzle of Thinking (Paris: Paris Musées, 2010).
- Lena Maculan (Ed.). Sturtevant. Catalogue Raisonné (Frankfurt/Main: Museum für Moderne Kunst and Ostfildern Ruit: Hatje-Cantz, 2005).
- Bruce Hainley. Sturtevant: Shifting Mental Structures (Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2002).
- Rikard Ekholm. Identical, But Still Different: On Artistic Appropriation in Visual Art" (Dissertation. Uppsala University: The Department of Philosophy).
- Sturtevant Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris/Salzburg.
- Sturtevant: Raw Power, 3 March 2007 - 7 April 2007 Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris/Salzburg.
- Carol Vogel (June 9, 2011), Now Starring in Chicago, a Prime Rauschenberg New York Times.
- Bruce Hainley, Erase and Rewind: Elaine Sturtevant Frieze, Issue 53, June–August 2000.
- La Biennale di Venezia Golden Lion 2011
- Press Release BoxID 387192, Elaine Sturtevant ist Preisträgerin 2013 des Kurt-Schwitters-Preises der Niedersächsischen Sparkassenstiftung www.lifepr.de, 11. February 2013