Adrian Piper was born in 1948 in New York, USA. From 1966 to 1969 she studied there at the School of Visual Arts, from which she graduated with a focus on painting and sculpture (A.A. - Associate in Arts Degree). From 1970 to 1974 she studied at the City College of New York, earning (summa cum laude) a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree. She then studied philosophy at Harvard University, Cambridge, USA, where she earned a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in 1977. After a period of study from 1977 to 1978 at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, where she undertook studies of Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, she received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1981 with a dissertation under John Rawls.
Adrian Piper has been a professor of philosophy at Wellesley College, Massachusetts and at Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, Stanford, and the University of California, San Diego. Since 1994, Adrian Piper has been a Non-Resident Fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities at New York University. From 1998 to 1999, she was a fellow at the Getty Research Institute. Other research fellowships awarded to her include the Guggenheim, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Andrew Mellon, Woodrow Wilson, IFK, and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin Institute for Advanced Study. Adrian Piper has participated internationally in numerous solo and group exhibitions. In 2018-2019, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York dedicated a major retrospective to her, which was taken over by Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. The artist has received numerous awards, including the Skowhegan Medal for Sculptural Installation and the New York Dance & Performance Award ("the Bessie") in Installation & New Media. In 2015, she was awarded the Golden Lion at the Biennale di Venezia, Italy. In 2018, Piper was honored with Käthe Kollwitz Prize. In 2021, she was awarded the prestigious Goslar Kaiserring and elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Since 2005, she has lived and worked in Berlin, where she directs the Adrian Piper Research Archive (APRA), founded in 2002.
After beginnings in painting and following her encounter with the conceptual works and writings of Sol LeWitt, Piper began to turn her attention to language. Piper looked into aspects of time and space in an extensive series of works involving texts and numerical combinations on paper. She combined these conceptual investigations in her "Hypothesis"-Series (1968-70), "involving a reconnaissance of her own body, which was being looked upon as a concrete object, which referred in an equal measure to itself and to other objects." Here, she documented her everyday personal activities, such as reading a newspaper or doing the shopping. Piper’s first solo exhibition was the mail art project "Three Untitled Projects" (1969), which was published in the magazine "0 to 9" (edited by Vito Acconci.) She was the only African Ameri-can woman artist to participate in important exhibitions, for example, "Concept Art" (1969) in Leverkusen, Germany, or "Information" (1970) at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In the 1970s Piper began to channel her art into non-artistic situations through performances within the public space that have since become legendary. As her own male alter ego, the "Mythic Being," she mimicked a black male self-presentation. By this time she had decided to pursue an academic study of philosophy, as she did not feel content with a lay person’s approach to philosophical doctrines. Piper’s work directly address subjects such as xenophobia and the nature of the self. She avoids all elitist art language, and tries instead to create situations, where viewers can react in an immediate way. In her famous "Funk Lessons" (1982-83), for example, the public was invited to identify their own stereotypes of blacks by dancing to funk music. So far, six retrospectives of Adrian Piper’s work have been shown, including one organized by the Generali Foundation in 2002. (Sabine Breitwieser)read more read less