The American artist Kiki Smith was born Chiara Smith in 1954 in Nuremberg, Germany. Today she lives and works in New York. Her mother, Jane Lawrence, was an opera singer and actor and her father was the minimalist sculptor, Tony Smith. In 1976, she moved to New York, frequenting the rock music and artistic worlds. Since the 1980s, she has been known for her multidisciplinary art work incorporating sculptures, etchings, photography, drawings, books, tapestries and a variety of objects.
One of the characteristics of her work is the representation of the human body, and particularly the anatomy and outline of the female body. Sometimes, this outline is shown at a disturbing angle, or is altered or fragmented. In reference to this, in the catalogue of the exhibition at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal (Kiki Smith, 1996) Christine Ross wrote, “Observing the work of Kiki Smith is to be confronted with a body that is bold but no longer manages to operate as a whole.” Since the mid-1990s, her research has expanded into the cosmos and mythology; in her works and installations she now combines animality and fairy tales, simultaneously suggesting wonderment and horror.
Kiki Smith has been the subject of a number of exhibitions around the world. In 2003, the Prints, Books and Things exhibitions at the MoMA in New York played an important role in her career. Then between 2005 and 2007, the travelling exhibition, Kiki Smith: A Gathering, was presented successively at the MOMA in San Francisco, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston and the Whitney Museum in New York. In 2019, she was the focus of a number of one-man shows: at the Monnaie in Paris, at the Sara Hilden Art Museum in Tampere, at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna, the Palazzo Pitti in Florence, the Modern Art Oxford and the Centre de la gravure in La Louvière. Her work has been presented at five Venice Biennales.