Thomas Hirschhorn

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Thomas Hirschorn
Thomas Hirschhorn.jpg
Born (1957-05-16) 16 May 1957 (age 61)
Bern, Switzerland
EducationZurich University of the Arts
Known forSculpture, Art in Public Space
MovementContemporary art
AwardsMarcel Duchamp Prize, Joseph Beuys Prize, Kurt Schwitters Prize, Prix Meret Oppenheim
Ingeborg Bachmann Altar at Berlin Alexanderplatz station (2006)

Thomas Hirschhorn (born 16 May 1957 in Bern) is a Swiss artist. He lives and works in Paris.[1]

Life and works[edit]

In the 1980s, Hirschhorn worked in Paris as a graphic artist. He was part of the group of Communist graphic designers called Grapus. These artists were concerned with politics and culture, displaying impromptu creations and posters on the street mostly using the language of advertisement. He left Grapus to create the hypersaturated works he is known for today, using common materials such as cardboard, foil, duct tape, and plastic wrap. He has described his choice to use everyday materials in his work as "political" and that he only uses materials that are “universal, economic, inclusive, and don’t bear any plus-value”.[2] Hirschorn's installations are often site specific and outside the gallery, and/or interactive. He continues to offer messages in his work, as he did with Grapus. He has said that he is interested in the “hard core of reality”, without illusions, and has displayed a strong commitment to his work and role as an artist.[2] He has described working and production as “necessary”, discounting anyone who encourages him to not work hard, and says “I want to be overgiving in my work”.[2]

Austrian author and Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek takes issue with the artist's views on Marxism. In a 2008 interview, the artist said that he was not aware of her concerns.[3]

For his piece Cavemanman, he transformed a gallery space into a cave using wood, cardboard, and tape and put various philosophical and pop culture symbols throughout it.[4]

Gramsci Monument (2013), named after the Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci, is the first project that Hirschhorn has built in the United States and the fourth and final such work in a series he began many years ago dedicated to his favorite philosophers, following a monument dedicated to Baruch Spinoza in Amsterdam in 1999, one to Gilles Deleuze in Avignon, France, in 2000 and a third to Georges Bataille in Kassel, Germany, in 2002. From the beginning, the monuments have been planned and constructed in housing projects occupied mostly by the poor and working class, with their agreement and help.[1]

He presented a lecture as part of the "Image & Text: Writing Off The Page" lecture series through the Visiting Artists Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Spring, 2006.


Hirschhorn's work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions including the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museu d'Art Contemporani, Barcelona; Kunsthaus Zürich; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; and Wiener Secession, Vienna. In the summer of 2009, his work Cavemanman was recreated for the exhibition Walking in my Mind at London's Hayward Gallery.[5]


Hirschhorn's works are held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art,[6] the Walker Art Center,[7] and the Tate.[8]


Hirschhorn received the (2000/2001) Marcel Duchamp Prize, the Joseph Beuys Prize in 2004 and the Meret Oppenheim Prize in 2018. In June 2011, Hirschhorn represented Switzerland at the Venice Biennale.

Thomas Hirschhorn is represented by Gladstone Gallery, New York; Chantal Crousel, Paris; Stephen Friedman Gallery, London; Alfonso Artiaco, Naples and Dvir Gallery, Tel-Aviv.


"It’s in the suburbs [the Parisian banlieue] that there is vitality, deception, depression, energy, utopia, autonomy, craziness, creativity, destruction, ideas, young people, hope, fights to be fought, audaciousness, disagreements, problems, and dreams. It’s in the suburbs that today’s big issues are written on the building facades. It’s in the suburbs that today’s reality can be grasped, and it’s in the suburbs that the pulse of vitality hurts"[2]

"Terms such as obscene are used swiftly in order to protect people from exposure to the truth." [2]

"I'm interested in the 'too much,' doing too much, giving too much, putting too much of an effort into something. Wastefulness as a tool or weapon."

"I do not want to invite or oblige viewers to become interactive with what I do; I do not want to activate the public. I want to give of myself to such a degree that viewers confronted with the work can take part and become involved, but not as actors."

"This is something essential to art: reception is never its goal. What counts for me is that my work provides material to reflect upon. Reflection is an activity."


  1. ^ a b Randy Kennedy (June 27, 2013), Bringing Art and Change to Bronx New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c d e Cruzvillegas, Abraham “Thomas Hirschorn” in BOMB Magazine, Fall 2010. Retrieved July 26, 2011
  3. ^ Clintberg, Mark (2008-06-27). "You can love both Nietzsche and Hello Kitty: Artist interview: Thomas Hirschhorn". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
  4. ^ Kimmelman, Michael (2002-11-15). "ART IN REVIEW; Thomas Hirschhorn -- 'Cavemanman'". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-19.
  5. ^ Hayward Gallery "Walking in my mind, Adventure into the artist's imagination"
  6. ^ The Museum Of Modern Art - The Collection,
  7. ^ Walker Art Center - Collections Archived 2011-09-30 at the Wayback Machine.,
  8. ^ Tate - Art & artists,

External links[edit]