Richard Serra Learn about RICHARD SERRA (B. 1938), Prints & Multiples artist,their past and upcoming works offered at auction at Christie's

Political radicalism swept America in the 1960s, with civil-rights campaigners and anti-Vietnam protesters challenging the status quo. In the arts, a similar revolution was taking place; the realism of the early Modern period had been supplanted in the late 1950s by Abstraction and Pop Art. Into this heady era came a group of sculptors and artists who believed art should have its own reality and not be an imitation of some other thing. As the painter Frank Stella said, ‘What you see is what you see.’ It was called Minimalism, and Richard Serra was one of its champions.

Born in California to Spanish and Russian parents, Serra studied painting at the University of California and Yale University School of Art and Architecture, where he paid his way by working in a steel mill. In 1964 he moved to Paris, where he discovered the sculptures of Brancusi and Giacometti, and became fascinated with the way these artists played with gravity and scale. On returning to America in 1966 he settled in New York, becoming part of a small but enduringly influential underground art scene that included Eva Hesse, Chuck Close, Joan Jonas, the writer Spalding Gray and the composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass.

Serra believed in using the heavy metal industrial materials of the modern age: steel, iron, lead. In 1969 he embarked on a series of ‘prop’ works in which large pieces of lead were held up by each other in a state of suspended animation. From lead he moved on to steel, partly because lead was unstable and prone to collapsing, but predominantly because it enabled him to start making work outside of the gallery.

Today these monumental, gravity-defying curves of oxidized steel have made him famous across the world and in 2001 he won the prestigious Golden Lion at the 49th Venice Biennale. When The Matter of Time was installed at the Guggenheim Bilbao in 2005 the art historian Robert Hughes called him ‘not only the best sculptor alive, but the only great one at work anywhere in the 21st century’.

Upcoming lots by this artist

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