Wolfgang Laib

Sculpture and Installation 

Wolfgang Laib’s quiet, meditative work makes him one of the most fascinating artists of our time.

 

Taking the artist’s choice of materials for his sculptures and installations alone — rice, pollen, beeswax, milk – his work stands out as very unusual and in a unique artistic position within contemporary art.

 

Laib started out studying medicine in 1968. In 1972, amid his medical studies, he began to work on an egg-shaped stone sculpture called Brahmanda. Translated from Sanskrit, the title means “Egg of the Universe”. At this moment, Laib made the decision to finish his medical studies but with the full intention of embarking on a career as an artist. Shortly thereafter, Wolfgang Laib created his first Milkstone. Closely aligned in shape to a square, the Milkstones are slabs of pure white polished marble, the centre of the surface at the top carved out and sanded down to create a most subtle depression. This the artist fills with milk, thus unifying the ephemerality of milk with the solid density of white marble.

 

In 1977, Laib began to collect pollen from hazelnut, dandelion and pine trees in the meadows and forests around the vicinity of his village in southern Germany. These key works of Laib’s have been exhibited in museums worldwide. New York’s Museum of Modern Art presented the largest pollen installation of the artist to date, measuring around 5,5 x 6,5 meters (18 x 21 feet).

 

Cyclicality typifies the artistic work of Wolfgang Laib, a quality that applies to the pollen works, the Milkstones, but also to the works in the series entitled “Rice House”, which the artist began making in 1984, or the works made of beeswax.

 

Wolfgang Laib’s approach is remarkable for its merging of Western minimalist art currents and a spirituality sustained by his interests in Eastern – particularly Indian – philosophy, aesthetics and religion. He also has a strong connection with nature. Laib is interested in elementary forms that link together the most diverse cultures as well as exploring form and material as conveyors of archaic knowledge. Forging a singular path for more than 30 years, Laib amplifies the intrinsic materials and processes found in nature.

 

Wolfgang Laib represented Germany at the Venice Biennale in 1982 (together with Gotthard Graubner and Hanne Darboven). He was invited to show at documenta in 1982 and 1987. His most notable solo exhibitions include those at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC (2000); Dallas Museum of Art (2001); Haus der Kunst in Munich (2002); Fondation Beyeler in Basel (2005), MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt (2010) and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (2013). A permanent wax room is installed at The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, at Anselm Kiefer’s estate in Barjac in southern of France, and in Marcevol in the French Pyrenees. Wolfgang Laib was awarded the Praemium Imperiale art prize in 2015. 

 
Works by the artist are represented in numerous public collections, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris; the Kunsthaus in Zurich; the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, the Kunstmuseum in Stuttgart and the Sprengel Museum in Hannover and many more.
 
Born in Metzingen, Germany, in 1950, the artist lives and works in southern Germany and in his studio in South India.

The Buchmann Gallery has presented the artist’s work in 18 solo exhibitions up to 2022, since the collaboration began in Switzerland in 1987 and in parallel in Germany as well since 1995. 

‘Wolfgang Laib’
Wolfgang Laib

Selected Works

Wolfgang Laib, ‘Without Beginning and Without End
, Cappella Pazzi, Complesso Monumentale di Santa Croce, Florence’, 2019, Beeswax
Without Beginning and Without End
, Cappella Pazzi, Complesso Monumentale di Santa Croce, Florence, 2019
Beeswax
Wolfgang Laib, Installation view, Buchmann Galerie, 2022
Installation view
Buchmann Galerie, 2022
Wolfgang Laib, ‘Brahmanda’, 2014-2022, Indian black granite
Brahmanda, 2014-2022
Indian black granite
Wolfgang Laib, ‘Untitled’, 2015, Black Burmese lacquer on wood
Untitled, 2015
Black Burmese lacquer on wood
Wolfgang Laib, ‘Zikkurat’, 2016, Beeswax
Zikkurat, 2016
Beeswax
Wolfgang Laib, ‘Rice House’, 2008, Dark red sealing wax on wood, rice
Rice House, 2008
Dark red sealing wax on wood, rice
Wolfgang Laib, ‘Rice House’, 2013, Marble, rice
Rice House, 2013
Marble, rice
Wolfgang Laib, ‘Pollen from Pine’, 2019
Pollen from Pine, 2019
Wolfgang Laib, ‘Pollen from Dandelion, Museo di San Marco, Polo Museale della Toscana, Florence’, 2019
Pollen from Dandelion, Museo di San Marco, Polo Museale della Toscana, Florence, 2019
Wolfgang Laib, ‘Pollen Mountain’, 2015, Pollen from hazelnut
Pollen Mountain, 2015
Pollen from hazelnut
Wolfgang Laib, ‘Towers of Silence, Cappella Rucellai, Museo Marino Marini, Florence’, 2019, Beeswax
Towers of Silence, Cappella Rucellai, Museo Marino Marini, Florence, 2019
Beeswax

News

Gallery Exhibitions

Publications

Wolfgang Laib

Born 1950 in Metzingen. Lives and works in Southern Germany.

Education
1968-1974 Studied Medicine University of Tuebingen
Grants and Awards

2015 Praemium Imperiale for Sculpture, The Japan Art Foundation

Solo Exhibitions

2024
2023
2022
2021
2020
2018
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
2001
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1976

Group Exhibitions

2024
2023
2022
2021
2020
2019
2018
2017
2016
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008
2007
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
2001
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1983
1982
1981
1980
Selected Collections

Kunstmuseum Bonn 

Kunstmuseum Stuttgart

Neue Pinakothek, Munich

Sprengel Museum, Hannover

Kolumba Diözesanmuseum, Cologne

Centre Pompidou, Paris 

CAPC, Musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux 

Collections de l’Etat Français, France

Musée d’art contempoarin, Nîmes, France

Musée départemental de Rochechouart, Rochechouart 

Museé de Grenoble

Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin 

De Pont Foundation, Tilburg, The Netherlands

Kunsthaus, Zürich

LAC Museum of Contemporary Art, Lugano

Kunstmuseum St. Gallen

The Art Institute of Chicago 

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

The Museum of Modern Art, New York

The Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

The Phillips Collection, Washington D.C.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.

San Francisco Museum of Art

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki

Toyota Municipal Art Museum, Toyota

Selected Publications
2022 Wolfgang Laib: Crossing the River, Bündner Kunstmuseum Chur, texts by Damian Jurt, Stephan Kunz (exhib. cat.)
2021 Wolfgang Laib in Florence, Museo Novecento, Florence (exhib. cat.)
2017

Wolfgang Laib: Museo d'arte della Svizzera italiana, Lugano (exhib. cat.)

2016 Wolfgang Laib at Sant'Apollinare in Classe (exhib. cat.)
2009 “Wolfgang Laib” - Fondazione Merz, Turin (exhib. cat.)
2008 “Wolfgang Laib – without place – without time – without body“, Musée de 
Grenoble, text by Guy Tosatto (exhib.cat.)
2007 “Wolfgang Laib - Sin Principio – Sin Fin“, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (exhib.cat.)
“Wolfgang Laib - Reishäuser”, Interview by André Buchmann, Buchmann Galerie Berlin
2005 “Wolfgang Laib”, Essays by Philippe Büttner, Ulf Käster and Katharina Schmidt, Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/ Basel 
“Wolfgang Laib, drawings and photographs”, Essay by Christoph Schreier,  
Klaus Ottmann, Kunstmuseum Bonn, De Pont Museum, Tilburg
“Wolfgang Laib”, Essays by Danielo Eccher and Mario Codognato, MACRO, Rome, published by Electa
Müller, Hans-Joachim, "Kunst, die sich ereignet - Ein Porträt des deutschen   
Künstlers Wolfgang Laib", in: kultur.kunst., Basler Zeitung, 25.Nov. 2005 
2003 “Wolfgang Laib, Passageway-Overgoing”, Conversation Wolfgang Laib and Necmi Sönmez, Essays by Seung-wan Kang, Harald Szeemann, Barbara Catoir, Christoph Schreier National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea, with Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen e.V., Stuttgart
“Wolfgang Laib, Durchgang – Übergang”, with Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Museum of 
Contemporary Art
“Laib”, Editor Tadashi Kanai and Mikako Kato, Toyota Municipal 
Museum of Art, with Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen e.V., Stuttgart 
2002 “Wolfgang Laib - Die Neun Planeten“ (photography), Essay by Necmi Sönmez and conversation between Necmi Sönmez and Wolfgang Laib, 
Museum Folkwang Essen,(exhib.cat.)
“Wolfgang Laib - A Retrospective“, Essays by Klaus Ottmann and Margit Rowell and interview by Harald Szeemann, Hirshhorn Museum and 
Sculpture Garden Washington , Henry Art Gallery Seattle, Dallas Museum of Art, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Haus der Kunst München, (exhib.cat.)
2000 “Wolfgang Laib. Durchgang-Übergang“ Essays by Ursula Zeller, Barbara Catoir, Harald Szeemann, Christoph Schreier and interview by Necmi 
Sönmez, with Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen e.V., Stuttgart
“Wolfgang Laib - La chambre des certitudes“, Essay by Guy Tosatto and interview by Necmi Sönmez, wax-room in Roc del Maure/France
“Wolfgang Laib, Zwei Orte“, Exhibition catalogue Schloss Belvedere Weimar, for the exhibition project , “Licht auf Weimar – Die 
ephemeren Medien“, Essays by Harald Szeemann and Ulrich Krempel
1999 “Wolfgang Laib“, Essay by Guy Tosat, Carré d’Art, Musée d’art Contemporain de Nîmes
1992 “Wolfgang Laib”, Essay by John Hutchinson, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin
1989 “Wolfgang Laib“, Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, Various essays, e.g. by Tilman Osterwold and Harald Szeemann, Editor Tilman Osterwold
1988 „Wolfgang Laib“, Galerie Buchmann Basel, Editor /Publisher Galerie
Buchmann Basel