Kiki Smith is an American artist who was born in Nuremberg, Germany in 1954. Smith was raised in New Jersey and attended Hartford Art School, Connecticut from 1974–76. Smith currently lives and works in New York City.
Smith’s work belongs to numerous prominent museum collections, including: the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Major retrospectives of Smith’s work include: The Museum of Modern Art in (2004); Kiki Smith: A Gathering, 1980–2005, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2005–06; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2006, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, (2006) and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2006–07. Recent exhibitions have included Kiki Smith: Her Home, at Museum Haus Esters and Kunsthalle Nuremberg, 2008; and Kiki Smith: Her Memory, Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona, 2009.
Smith is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is the recipient of several awards including the 2012 National Medal of Arts, conferred by Hillary Clinton; the 2010 Nelson A. Rockefeller Award, Purchase College School of the Arts; the 2009 Edward MacDowell Medal, and the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture in 2000, among others. In 2006, Smith was recognized by TIME Magazine as one of the “TIME 100: The People Who Shape Our World.” She is an adjunct professor at NYU and Columbia University.
Kiki Smith has been known since the 1980s for her multidisciplinary practice relating to the human condition and the natural world. She uses a broad variety of materials to continuously expand and evolve a body of work that includes sculpture, printmaking, photography, drawing and textile. Smith grew up helping her father, American Minimalist sculptor Tony Smith, produce cardboard models for his geometric sculptures, an experience which helped cultivate Smith’s awareness of process and formalism. The human form, especially the female body, became central to Smith’s work in the eighties. She began to focus on themes of loss and death through her depiction of the body’s internal components, especially organs, cellular structures and the nervous system. The evacuation of these physiological components from the body presented anxieties surrounding the maternal body and the notion of the body as a receptacle for incorporeal components such as knowledge, belief and storytelling. By exposing its internal structures, Smith portrays the dichotomy between the psychological and physiological power of the body. In recent years, Smith’s work has evolved to incorporate animals, domestic objects and narrative tropes from classical mythology and folk tales.