Hanne Darboven
artist / composer

Hanne Darboven (1941-2009) was born in Munich. She studied painting from 1962–66 at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg. In 1966 Darboven moved to New York, where she established herself as a major conceptual artist and was in contact with Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre, and Joseph Kosuth, among others. During her initial stay in New York (1966–68), Darboven developed her Konstruktionen, which comprised a neutral language of numbers in linear constructions using pen, pencil, typewriter, and graph paper as materials. For this German conceptualist, numbers not only represented an artificial, universal language but also allowed her to mark the passage of time. For Ein Jahrhundert (A Century) (1971–75), she visualized the hundred-year span through numbers representing each day and year starting with the number 00 and ending in 99. Darboven made some additions to the work in 1982 in honor of the 150th anniversary of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. In 1973 Darboven started integrating into her works texts by various authors, among them Heinrich Heine and Jean-Paul Sartre. By 1978 she was also incorporating visual documents, such as photographic images and assorted objects that she found, purchased, or received as gifts. For example, in Bismarckzeit (Bismarck era) (1978), the artist included historical text and suggestive photographs to comment on the problematic episode in German history under Otto von Bismarck. Also in the late 1970s, Darboven, who studied to be a pianist earlier in life, began to devise a system of musical notation based on the calendar and her personal number systems, and, with the aid of a collaborator, adapted them into performable compositions. Throughout the 1980s, during which Darboven oscillated between Hamburg and New York, the artist extended the principles and systems she established in the seventies to major works such as Kulturgeschichte 1880–1983 (Cultural History 1880–1983). In the 1990s Darboven revisited the theme of the century and produced a fin-de-siècle installation that engaged both her signature mode of marking time through the systematic writing of numbers and an investigation of an archetypal individual seen to represent the last one hundred years. These issues lie at the heart of Hommage à Picasso (1995–2006), her installation for Deutsche Guggenheim with date panels including an incredible 9,270 sheets of paper, a lithograph of Pablo Picasso’s 1955 painting Seated Figure in Turkish, a series of purchased and commissioned sculptures, and a newly produced musical work.