Per Kirkeby (1938 – 2018) was born in Copenhagen, Denmark
He lived and worked in Copenhagen and Læsø, Denmark and Arnasco, Italy

Per Kirkeby (b. 1938 in Copenhagen; d. 2018 in Copenhagen) was one of the most renowned artists of his generation. Kirkeby’s multiple skills, not only as a painter, sculptor, and filmmaker but also as an author (of poetry, essays and travel books) make for a versatile body of strong and unique works. While involved with Fluxus and having studied at the Experimental Art School of Copenhagen, Kirkeby studied geology and was greatly influenced by his expeditions to Greenland and Mexico, which led him to place nature at the center of his artistic endeavors. Another source of inspiration has been the Byzantine image tradition and the iconoclasm involved: broken byzantine vases and other ornamental objects are a recurring element in his work.

Per Kirkeby has been a professor at the Art Academy in Karlsruhe (1978-89) and Frankfurter Städelschule (1989-2000). He represented Denmark in the 1976 Venice Biennale and participated in Documenta VII and IX. He has been granted solo survey exhibitions in important institutions such as the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Kunsthalle Bern; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, and The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk. His work can be found in numerous public collections, including Tate Modern, London; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; MoMA, New York; and Centre Pompidou, Paris.



  • 1957-1964 Studies Geology at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 1962 Experimental Art School, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 1964 PhD in Natural History and Arctic quaternary geology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark


  • 1958 Participates in an expedition to Narssak, Greenland, which is followed by further expeditions in the 1970s to Greenland, Central America and the Arctic
  • 1962 Studies at the Experimental Art School in Copenhagen in the areas of painting, graphic arts, film and performance
  • 1964 Graduates from University of Copenhagen First exhibition of drawings and collages

  • 1965 First solo exhibition at ‘Den Frie Udstillings-bygning’, Copenhagen
    Receives a three-year scholarship from the State Art Foundation
    Publishes his first book of poems
  • 1966 Publishes a volume of poems titled ‘Copyright’
    Performs with Joseph Beuys, Bengt af Klintberg, Henning Christiansen, Björn Nörgaard
    Travels to New York
  • 1967 Performs in New York with Nam June Paik and Charloote Moorman
    Publishes his first novel ‘2,15’ Performs with Immendorff and Nörgaard in Aachen
  • 1968 Publishes a volume of poems and collected essays about art titled ‘Billedforklaringer’
  • 1971 Travels to Central America to Study Mayan art and architecture
  • 1973 Finishes his first brick sculpture in Ikast, Jutland, Denmark
  • 1974 First exhibition at Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne
    Publishes ‘Fliegende Blätter’
  • 1975 Retrospective of works on paper in the graphic department of the Royal Museum of Fine Art, Copenhagen
    Exhibition of drawings in Henie-Onstad Kunstsenter, Hoevikodden, Denmark
  • 1977 Solo exhibition in the Museum Folkwang, Essen, featuring paintings, brick sculptures and artist’s books
  • 1978 Professorship at the Academy of Art, Karlsruhe
  • 1979 Purchases a house on the island Laeso in the Kattegat Bay, northeast of the Danish mainland
  • 1981 Completes volume of essays titled ‘Bravura’
  • 1982 Appointed member of the Danish Academy of Literature Guest artist of the DAAD, Berlin
  • 1985 A.R. Penck publishes a volume of ‘Kräter und Wolke’ dedicated to Per Kirkeby, with drawings by Kirkeby
  • 1986 Travels to Australia
  • 1988 Publishes books of essays on Delacroix, Manet and Picasso
  • 1989 Professorship at the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main
  • 1990 Receives Art Award of the NORD/LB (North State Bank)
  • 1992 Designs a stamp for the Danish post
  • 1994 Publishes ‘Fieldbook’
  • 1996 Winner of the Coutts Prize, Vienna
  • 1999 Designs the scenery, décor, and costumes for the New York City Ballet’s production of the Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’, New York
  • 2000 Provides eight large bronze sculptures for the Bundesratsgebäude, Berlin
    Winner of the ‘Wilhelm Hansen Fondenshaederpris’ (Copenhagen) for his stage production of ‘Swan Lake’
  • 2007 Designs sets and costumes for the New York City Ballet’s production of Prokofiev’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Awards & Honors

  • 2011 Member of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK
  • 2003 Herbert-Boeckl-Preis
  • 1996 Coutts Contemporary Art Foundation Award

  • 1993 Ars Fennica Award of the Henna
  • 1993 Pertti Niemistö Art Foundation Prize

Public Collections

Tate Modern, London, UK
Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Germany
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, NY, USA


Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY, USA
Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

Talks and Classes

Art Academy, Karlsruhe, Germany
Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, Germany
Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main, Germany