Joel Shapiro

Biography of Joel Shapiro

Internationally renowned artist Joel Shapiro is celebrated for his modernist sculptures that bridge the gap between the Minimal art of the 1960s and the more content-heavy art of the following decades. He is best known for his geometric sculptures that are reminiscent of the human form, and yet lack both discernible features and any indications of gender. Composed of simple rectangular shapes, they are abstractions of the human body, explorations in form and movement, and Shapiro’s distinctive skill is in using the human figure to examine the nature of abstraction itself.


Born in 1941 Joel Shapiro attended New York University and intended to become a physician. However, a life-changing visit to India with the Peace Corps caused a complete reevaluation of his life and he decided to become an artist instead. Returning to New York, Shapiro finished his MA at New York University in 1969 and took a studio. It did not take long for him to start being noticed, winning considerable acclaim for his small-scale works. Building his sculptures from wood, wire, and cast bronze, Shapiro used space and the position of the viewer to play with perception. Multicolored constructed blocks are arranged in abstract shapes or are suspended from ceilings and walls—without the constraints of architecture they are projections into space. In 2011, the artist energized the monumental 13 meter-high gallery at Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany, with 15 vibrantly painted wooden elements.


Astonishingly successful and prolific, Joel Shapiro has had over 160 solo exhibitions and retrospectives. He also featured prominently in the Venice Biennale in 1980, and at documenta, Kassel, Germany, in 1977 and 1982. Furthermore, Shapiro has undertaken more than 30 commissions and public sculptures around the world and is featured in the permanent collections of such internationally renowned collections as Tate, London, and the Australian National Gallery.

Available Works: 4