Jimmie Durham

Artist, Sculptor, Poet, Writer
Born 1940, Washington, AK
Lives in Berlin, Germany

Photo © M HKA, Bram Goots.


Jimmie Durham is an artist, poet, writer, and activist whose work deconstructs the stereotypes and prejudices on which Western culture is based. Durham's work analyzes the relationships between history and environment, architecture and monumentality, and critical attitudes towards political structures of power and narratives of national identity. In his sculptures, drawings, texts, and film and video works, Durham describes behaviors and norms of coexistence in different social and cultural formations.

Durham's career as both a sculptor and a political activist began in the early 1960s, exploring the relationships between people and the architectures, both physical and societal, that surround us. He has worked in a range of traditional and unique media, resulting in both small sculptures and large-scale installations. In the 1970s Durham co-founded the International Indian Treaty Council at the United Nations, where his work led to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Durham's work has been widely exhibited, with shows dedicated to his work at the Museum of Modern Art in Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium (2012); Museo d'Arte Contemporanea di Roma, Rome, Italy (2012-13); Palazzo Reale, Milan, Italy (2012-13); Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice, Italy (2015); Serpentine Gallery, London, United Kingdom (2015); and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2017). Durham's work has also been exhibited at documenta 13, Kassel, Germany (2012), the 55th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy (2013), the 13th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey (2013), and the Whitney Biennial, New York (2014).

Durham was an Artist-in-Residence at DAAD Berlin (1998), and was awarded the Kaiserring award from the Mönchehaus Museum in Goslar, Germany (2016). He was an adjunct professor at Malmö Art Academy (1997-2006), and a visiting professor at Università Iuav in Venice, Italy (2007).

Artist Statement

Art for me is an intellectual process but not in the sense of having a linguistic meaning.

The starting point of my work is almost always material. That can be an object, bought, found, or given by somebody; material by itself such as wood, glass, stone, plastic; or something else, even just a word. I am interested in it because of its specificity and specific materiality. I enjoy playing with materials, bringing them together so that they create something new. It very often is to celebrate the materials, to make a (physical) poem in their honor, but often, dismantling the materials from their normal use is also critical to the ideas that are imposed on them depending on the specific societies.