Born in Lviv (formerly part of the Republic of Poland, now in the Ukraine) in 1927, Piotr Kowalski’s career as an artist did not begin until late in life. After World War II, Kowalski emigrated to Sweden, then France and Brazil before finally settling in the United States in 1947. He went on to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, taking courses in mathematics, architecture and physics. After working as an architect in New York from 1952 to 1957 on projects such as the UNESCO headquarters, Kowalski decided to practise sculpture. He relocated to France, but travelled often between Japan and the United States and also taught at the Ecole des Beaux–Arts in Paris.

Kowalski’s sculptural work drew upon his fascination with science and his interest in experimentation, yet was often left at the planning and theoretical stage due to the immense cost involved in its realisation. He worked with Kenneth Tyler at Gemini Ltd in 1965 on the lithographic series Project for a distance and Now explosion forming—both of which are typical of the artist’s scientific preoccupation. The subject of Now explosion forming is a sequence of equations and diagrammatic representations, while Project for a distance suggests an exploration of perspective.
Emilie Owens

Chronology
 
1927
Born in Lvov, Poland

1946
Emigrates to Brazil via Sweeden and France
Works with landscape architect Roberto Burle-Marx

1952
Completes architecture degree, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

1952-53
Works with I.M. Pei in New York

1953-55
Moves to Paris after invitation from Marcel Breuer to work on the UNESCO building, Paris

1955
Opens own architecture office in Paris

1958
Founds company for creating and making experimental architecture and sculpture based on surface tension

1960
Company produces first large scale prefabricated architectural sculptures in translucent polyester; has international patent for creating and producing forms issued out of elastic surfaces in tension

1961
First solo exhibition, Galerie des Beaux- Arts, Paris; wins first prize in international architecture competition for the Tunis Railway Station

1963
Receives grant by Graham Foundation in Fine Arts, Chicago
Solo exhibition, Kunsthalle, Bern, Switzerland

1965
Invited to first International Symposium of Sculpture, California State University, Long Beach; completes editions of “Now” explosion forming, Project for a distance, Gemini, Ltd., Los Angeles

1966
Solo exhibition, As formas novas do escultro, Sao Paolo Museum of Modern Art, Brazil; included in exhibition, European Drawings, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

1968
Represents France in Venice Biennale, Italy

1969
Solo exhibition, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris

1970
Solo exhibitions: Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden; Ateneumin Taide museo, Helsinki, Finland

1971
Becomes French citizen

1972
Artist in residence, West Berlin, in German Government exchange program; participates in Documenta 5, Kassel, West Germany

1976
Consultant to Metropolitan Structures, Chicago to create to projects for Chicago; a fountain and a pyramid of light

1977
Invited to sculpture symposium, Forum Metal, in one of largest steel mills in Europe, Linz, Austria; makes monumental sculpture in heat rolled Corten steel and stainless steel, Thermocouple, changes form with ambient temperature

1978
Wins first prize, in International Competition for a monumental sculpture for the Municipal Theater in Winterthur, Switzerland

1978-85
Fellow and Artist-in-residence, Center for Advance Visual Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge

1981
Receives Grand Prix de la Sculpture
Solo exhibition, Centre Pompidou, Paris

1987
Professor, Beaux-Arts de Paris, France

1988
Receives commission for Place des Degrés, Paris

1989
Included in Artec, Nagoya, Japan

1991
Solo exhibition, Kowalski á la défense, Espace Art Défence, Galerie Art 4, Paris

1992
Solo exhibition, L’Axe de la Terre, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Noiseil, France

1993
Solo exhibition, Mito Art Tower, Japan

1994
Solo exhibition, Piotr Kowalski Livres et mots, La Box, Bourges, France; included in exhibition, Europa-Europa, Kunst-und Ausstellungsahlle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn, Germany

2004
Piotr Kowalski died in Paris, France

Kate Buckingham, 2007
This chronology provides an overview of selected biographical information, major solo and group exhibitions held within the artist's own lifetime.

Further information will be added to this site as the National Gallery proceeds with its research and documentation.

Last updated November 2014