Otto Piene


Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts 2003
Area of Work: Sculptor and Sky Artist
Date: 17 November 2003
Place of Ceremony: National Archives of Finland
Host Institution:
University of Helsinki
Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters
National Archives of Finland
Host Country: Helsinki, Finland

HELSINKI, FINLAND. NOVEMBER 2003. The World Cultural Council presented the 2003 “Leonardo da Vinci” Prize to Otto Piene, sculptor and sky artist. The Award Ceremony took place at Helsinki, Finland with the host of the University of Helsinki, the Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters and the National Archives of Finland.

Otto Piene was selected as the recipient of this Award in recognition of his artistic and innovative accomplishments. It is a prize offered to him for his more than 40 years of productive and creative work, exploring successfully new visual and technical forms and means in art.

Otto Piene was born in 1928 in Germany. He studied painting in 1948 at Biochereschule and State Academy of Fine Arts, Munich; in 1950 he attended the State Academy of Arts, Duesseldorf; he then taught at the Fashion Institute, Duesseldorf from 1951 to 1964; he studied philosophy in 1951 at the Albertus Magnus University, Cologne, Germany. In 1964 he was a visiting Professor of the University of Pennsylvania, PA, USA; in 1974 he was Professor of Visual Design, at the School of Architecture and Planning, MIT.

For more than forty years Otto Piene combines new artistic forms with modern technological development. His work is centered on events like light, ballet and sky art environments and he opens new cosmic dimensions to sculpture and painting. His work –paintings, light sculptures, environments, prints, video, photographic and tv work- is in the permanent collections of 200 museums and other public institutions, nationally and internationally.

He has received The Grand Prize for Zero; the Grand Prize of the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art; the Kohler-Maxwell Medal for art-writing and the sculpture prize of the American Academy of Arts and Letters among others.

“I am honored, and it is with great joy that I am receiving the Leonardo da Vinci Prize.

“Once I wrote a college thesis on Leonardo but that would hardly qualify me for this formidable honor. However, Leonardo says in the Paragone of his Treatise on Painting that painting is the highest art form because it is the supreme science. This sentence is supreme Leonardo and his spirit lives on as today we are striving toward intense interaction among science, technology and the arts – evident in media arts and science and sky art.

“The Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT – its humble birthplace next to an architectural icon, Alvar Aalto’s Baker House dorm – held a vigorous international Sky Art Conference in Delphi and Ikaria just a year ago – thusly providing neighborhoods of oracle, charioteer , Greek Icarus (not the Mexican Icarus this time) and contemporary fliers, plus butterfly breeders, sky readers (i.e., x-ray astronomers) and white light holographers.

“Internationality and interdisciplinarity are intrinsic to the arts as many of us artists are fortunate to enjoy life and work “without borders” today. When after WW2 I co-founded Group Zero in Germany the resulting emergence of shared enthusiasm in previous “enemy countries” was – and remains – exhilarating – phoenix out of fire and rubble of a forever shameful world catastrophe.

“Peace, enlightenment, shared spiritual energy and cultural curiosity are values implied or openly advocated by a growing world community of arts. . The role of art in general and academic education – including science, technology and media – is being recognized, or, recognized a g a i n in some places of today’s world.

“If my idea of building buildings in the image of great persons in the history of art and culture were to be realized, Leonardo’s magnificent head would be my first choice.

“By the way, I am currently working on a light tower formed after Sir Humphry Davy’s colossal but small invention, his mining lamp.

“As usual , the world is in a state of crisis now but being here feels good.

“Thank you very much, Consejo Cultural Mundial!”