Max Bill

Biography of Max Bill

Multitalented Max Bill was one of the 20th Century’s most influential artists, architects, scholars, and designers. Born in 1908, Max Bill initially trained as a silversmith before going on to study at Bauhaus under the guidance of Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. Alongside establishing himself as a preeminent writer, teacher, architect and designer, Bill founded the influential Concrete Art movement. His progressive explorations in the field of art and design were not only recognized by his peers, but by many future generations of artists and thinkers.


Max Bill worked mostly in sculpture, painting and print-making. Spare geometric forms inspired by his Bauhaus training and an emphasis on abstraction are the central defining features of Concrete Art. Unlike Abstraction, Concrete Art was born from the mind, rather than from the physical world around us. In Bill’s works, it is hard to decipher his hand or his sentiments­—the artworks seem to be born out of mathematical thought, almost machine-made in their appearance. The absolute precision and anonymous appearance of his creations challenge us in unconventional ways, appealing to our minds rather than our emotions.


Max Bill’s contributions to art history take the form not only of visual art, but also philosophical writings, teaching, and architecture. After teaching for several years in Zurich, Bill founded the Ulm School of Design in 1951, before taking up a professorship at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg. Bill’s diverse set of skills led to his involvement in politics, and in 1961 he was elected to Swiss Parliament.


Max Bill’s art has been exhibited and collected across the globe, in such notable institutions as the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1988, the São Paolo Museum of Modern Art in 1951, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Florence and the Kunsthaus in Zurich. He has participated in the first three documentas in 1955, 1959, and in 1964.  In 1993 he was awarded the Praemium Imperiale for sculpture by the Emperor of Japan. He died in Berlin aged 85 in 1994.

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