Photograph by Kerry Ryan McFate, courtesy Pace Gallery
Fred Wilson, born in the Bronx, New York, is a conceptual artist whose work explores the relationship between museums, works of art, and collections of other kinds. He challenges assumptions of history, culture, race, and conventions of display with his work. By reframing objects and cultural symbols, he alters traditional interpretations, encouraging viewers to reconsider social and historical narratives. Since his groundbreaking and historically significant exhibition Mining the Museum (1992) at the Maryland Historical Society, Wilson has been the subject of many solo exhibitions, including the retrospective Objects and Installations 1979-2000, which was organized by the Center for Art and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and traveled to Saratoga Springs, Berkeley, Houston, Andover, and Santa Monica, before closing at the Studio Museum in Harlem. More recently, the survey Works 2001-2011, was displayed at the Cleveland Museum of Art (2012). His other solo museum installation projects include So Much Trouble in the World—Believe It or Not! at the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire (2005); Local Color at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2013); Black to the Powers of Ten and Wildfire Test Pit at the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio (2016); and Fred Wilson at the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, New York (2017).
Wilson represented the United States at the Cairo Biennale (1992) with an installation titled Re: Claiming Egypt. In 2003, he represented the United States at the 50th Venice Biennale with the solo exhibition Speak of Me as I Am, a mixed-media installation of many parts, focusing on Africans in Venice, from the 15th century to the present. Currently, he has a major new installation titled Afro Kismet at the Pera Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, for the 2017 Istanbul Biennial. This installation picks up where Speak of Me as I Am left off. It looks at the relationship between the Venetian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, but especially the Africans who were swept up in their spheres.
While Wilson’s conceptual practice includes installation, painting, sculpture, photography, performance, and video, since 2001 he has deeply explored making sculpture in glass. His work can be found in many public collections, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Tate Modern in London; the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. His many accolades include the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s “genius” grant (1999); the Luce Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Object, Exhibition, and Knowledge at Skidmore College (2003-06); the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture (2006); honorary doctorates from Northwestern University (2007), Skidmore College (2008), and the Maine College of Art (2008); the Alain Locke Award from the Friends of African and African American Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts (2013); and a Lifetime Achievement Award, Howard University, Washington, DC (2017). He is a trustee of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the American Academy in Rome.
Wilson is represented by the Pace Gallery and resides in New York City.