Richard Serra

Biography of Richard Serra

No other living artist could be said to have altered the definition and the language of sculpture more than the American artist Richard Serra. His visceral and monumental metal sheet works force the viewer to engage with both the location and the sculpture itself. A Renaissance man with a huge personality, Serra has been involved with performance, painting, sculpture, dance, and installation.


Richard Serra’s works are often participatory, in the sense that rather than being confined to a museum space, they are to be interacted with and introduced into contemporary life. This can often prove to be controversial as in the case of Tilted Arc, 1981 in lower Manhattan, when the vehement complaints of office workers, who hated its general massiveness and having to walk around it, caused a court hearing that eventually led to the work being dismantled.


Much of Richard Serra’s inspiration about material and minimalism stems from watching ships glide in the dockyards he visited as child, where his father worked as a pipefitter. Serra never shies away from emphasizing the materiality of his sculpture and their site-specific locations are selected with the viewer’s experience in mind. Often contemplative in nature, the weathered steels works are imbued with a sense of gravity, agility, and weight. One recurring and surprising element of his work is the degree to which his sculptures can appear alien and unsettling but at the same time seem to fit seamlessly into the environment. A dedicated maker of limited edition prints and multiples, Serra forced new technologies to be invented to keep up with his ideas.


Richard Serra was one of three sons born to a Jewish mother and a Spanish father in San Francisco in 1939. Serra has been a prominent part of two Venice Biennales in 1984 and 2001 as well as numerous documentas in Kassel, Germany. His sculptures are massively in demand and installed all over the world. Serra is in the permanent collections of the world’s highest-regarded museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. In 2015 France awarded the artist its premier award the Les Insignes de Chevalier de l’Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur. In 2007 MoMA presented a large retrospective of Serra’s work in New York.

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