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Donald Clarence Judd (June 3, 1928 - February 12, 1994) was a minimalist artist (a term he stridently disavowed).[1] In his work, Judd sought autonomy and clarity for the constructed object and the space created by it, ultimately achieving a rigorously democratic presentation without compositional hierarchy. It created an outpouring of seemingly effervescent works that defied the term "minimalism".

Background and education

Judd was born in Excelsior Springs, Missouri.[1] He served in the Army from 1946-1947 as an engineer and in 1948 began his studies in philosophy at the College of William and Mary, later transferring to Columbia University School of General Studies. At Columbia, he earned a degree in philosophy and worked towards a master's in art history under Rudolf Wittkower and Meyer Shapiro. Also at Columbia he attended night classes at the Art Students League of New York. He supported himself by writing art criticism for major American art magazines between 1959 and 1965.


Early work

In the late 1940s he began to practice as a painter. His first solo exhibition, of expressionist paintings, opened in New York in 1957. From the mid-1950s to 1961, as he explored the medium of the woodcut, Judd progressively moved from figurative to increasingly abstract imagery, first carving organic rounded shapes, then moving on to the painstaking craftsmanship of straight lines and angles.[2] His artistic style soon moved away from illusory media and embraced constructions in which materiality was central to the work. By 1963 he had established an essential vocabulary of forms — ‘stacks’, ‘boxes’ and ‘progressions’ — which preoccupied him for the next thirty years.[3] He would not have another one person show until the Green Gallery in 1963, an exhibition of works that he finally thought worthy of showing. Humble materials such as metals, industrial plywood, concrete and color-impregnated Plexiglas became staples of his career. Most of his output was in freestanding "specific objects" (the name of his seminal essay of 1965 published in Arts Yearbook 8, 1965), that used simple, often repeated forms to explore space and the use of space. While Judd executed early works himself (in collaboration with his father, Roy Judd), in 1964 he began delegating fabrication to professional artisans and manufacturers.[4]

As he abandoned painting for sculpture in the early 1960s, he wrote the manifesto-like essay “Specific Objects” in 1964. In his essay, Judd found a starting point for a new territory for American art, and a simultaneous rejection of residual inherited European artistic values, these values being illusion and represented space, as opposed to real space. He pointed to evidence of this development in the works of an array of artists active in New York at the time, including Lucas Samaras, John Chamberlain, Jasper Johns, Dan Flavin, George Earl Ortman and Lee Bontecou. The works that Judd had fabricated inhabited a space not then comfortably classifiable as either painting or sculpture and in fact he refused to call them sculpture, pointing out that they were not sculpted but made by small fabricators using industrial processes. That the categorical identity of such objects was itself in question, and that they avoided easy association with well-worn and over-familiar conventions, was a part of their value for Judd. He displayed two pieces in the seminal 1966 exhibit, "Primary Structures" at the Jewish Museum in New York where, during a panel discussion of the work, he challenged Mark di Suvero's assertion that real artists make their own art. He replied that methods should not matter as long as the results create art; a groundbreaking concept in the accepted creation process. In 1968, the Whitney Museum of American Art staged a retrospective of his work which included none of his early paintings.

In 1968 Judd bought a five-story building in New York that allowed him to start placing his work in a more permanent manner than was possible in gallery or museum shows. This would later lead him to push for permanent installations for his work and that of others, as he believed that temporary exhibitions, being designed by curators for the public, placed the art itself in the background, ultimately degrading it due to incompetency or incomprehension. This would become a major preoccupation as the idea of permanent installation grew in importance and his distaste for the art world grew in equal proportion.

Mature work

In the early 1970s his art increased in scale and complexity.[5] He started making room sized installations that made the spaces themselves his playground and the viewing of his art a visceral, physical experience. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s he produced radical work that eschewed the classical European ideals of representational sculpture. Judd believed that art should not represent anything, that it should unequivocally stand on its own and simply exist. His aesthetic followed his own strict rules against illusion and falsity, producing work that was clear, strong and definite.
Donald Judd, Untitled, 1977, Münster, Germany

Furniture design and architecture

In his later years, Judd also worked with furniture, design, and architecture. The first furniture was designed in 1973, when he moved from New York to Marfa.[6] At his death, he was working on designs for a fountain commissioned by the city of Winterthur in 1991, Switzerland, and a new glass facade for a railroad station in Basel, Switzerland.[7]

Chinati Foundation
Main article: Chinati Foundation

In the early seventies Judd started making annual trips to Baja California with his family. He was very affected by the clean, empty desert and this strong attachment to the land would remain with him for the rest of his life. In 1971 he rented a house in Marfa, Texas as an antidote to the hectic New York art world. From this humble house he would later buy numerous buildings and a 60,000 acre (243 km²) Ayala de Chinati Ranch30°7′19.58″N 104°34′33.95″W / 30.1221056°N 104.5760972°W / 30.1221056; -104.5760972 (Ayala de Chinati), almost all carefully restored to his exacting standards; though rumored that much of the 'preserved' land has been sold. These properties (not open to the public) and his building in New York are now maintained by the Judd Foundation.

In 1979, with help from the Dia Art Foundation, Judd purchased a 340 acre (1.4 km²) tract of desert land near Marfa, Texas which included the abandoned buildings of the former U.S. Army Fort D. A. Russell. In 1986 the properties were transferred to the ownership of the Chinati Foundation. The same year, the Chinati Foundation opened on the site as a non-profit art foundation, dedicated to Judd and his contemporaries. The permanent collection consists of large-scale works by Judd, sculptor John Chamberlain, light-artist Dan Flavin and select others, including David Rabinowitch, Roni Horn, Ilya Kabakov, Richard Long, Carl Andre and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen. Judd's work in Marfa includes 15 outdoor works in concrete and 100 aluminum pieces housed in two painstakingly renovated artillery sheds.

Academic work

Judd taught at several academic institutions in the United States, including Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (1962-64), Dartmouth College, Hanover (1966), and Yale University, New Haven (1967). In 1976 he served as Baldwin Professor at Oberlin College in Ohio. Beginning in 1983, he lectured at universities across the United States, Europe and Asia on both art and its relationship to architecture. During his lifetime, Judd published a large body of theoretical writings, in which he rigorously promoted the cause of Minimalist Art; these essays were consolidated in two volumes published in 1975 and 1987.[8]


The Panoramas Gallery organized his first solo exhibition in 1957. The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, organized the first retrospective of his work in 1968. During this decade, the artist received many fellowships, among them a grant from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1968. In 1975 the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, organized a Judd exhibition and published a catalogue raisonné of Judd’s work. He participated in his first Venice Biennale in 1980, and in Documenta, Kassel, in 1982.[8]

In 1987, Judd was honored by a large exhibition at the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; this show traveled to Düsseldorf, Paris, Barcelona, and Turin. The Whitney Museum organized a second, traveling retrospective of his work in 1988. Another major European survey was mounted by Tate Modern in 2004.[9]

Position on the art market

Judd's ten-unit sculpture Untitled, 1968 (DSS 120) made of stainless steel and amber Plexiglas was sold for $4.9 million[10] at Christie's New York in 2009.

The Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, represented the artist from 1965 to 1985. Judd then worked with Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, where he had a number of solo shows, and PaceWildenstein, which represented him through the end of his life. Judd's work has been represented - through the Judd Foundation - by David Zwirner since 2010.[11]

Judd Foundation

Originally conceived in 1977, and created in 1996, the Judd Foundation was formed in order to preserve the work and installations of Judd in Marfa, Texas and at 101 Spring Street in New York. In 2006, the Judd Foundation decided to auction off about 36 of his sculptures at Christie's in New York on the 20th floor of the Simon & Schuster building. Concerns that the sale would have an adverse effect on the market proved unfounded and the exhibition itself won an AICA award for "Best Installation in an Alternative Space" for 2006. The $20 million in proceeds from the sale went into an endowment that enable the Foundation to fulfill its mission, supporting the 16 permanent installations that are located at 101 Spring Street in New York City and Marfa, Texas.[12] Marianne Stockebrand, director of the Chinati Foundation, resigned from her post on the Judd Foundation’s board partly in protest of the auction.[13]


Judd married dancer Julie Finch in 1964 (later divorced) and fathered two children, son Flavin Starbuck Judd and daughter Rainer Yingling Judd. He died in Manhattan of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1994. He had homes in Manhattan, Marfa, Texas, and Kussnacht am Rigi, Switzerland.[7]


1. ^ a b Tate Modern website "Tate Modern Past Exhibitions Donald Judd". Retrieved on 19 February 2009.
2. ^ Donald Judd - Woodcut Prints Paula Cooper Gallery, May 2 - June 30, 2008. Accessed 31 January 2011
3. ^
4. ^ Panza Collection Initiative: Artist Case Studies Guggenheim Museum. Accessed 31 January 2011
5. ^ Donald Judd at Dia Art Foundation Dia Art Foundation. Accessed 31 January 2011
6. ^ Donald Judd Furniture Louisa Guiness Gallery. Accessed 31 January 2011
7. ^ a b Roberta Smith, Donald Judd, Leading Minimalist Sculptor, Dies at 65 New York Times, February 13, 1994. Accessed 31 January 2011.
8. ^ a b
9. ^ Tate Modern: Donald Judd 5 February – 25 April 2004. Accessed 31 January 2011
10. ^ Donald Judd - Untitled, 1968 (DSS 120) Christie's New York, Post-War & Contemporary Evening Sale, 10 November 2009. Accessed 31 January 2011.
11. ^ Art Dealer David Zwirner Lands Donald Judd Foundation ARTINFO. Accessed 31 January 2011
12. ^ Joao Ribas (2006), News Analysis: Judd Auction Raises Some Eyebrows, ARTINFO,, retrieved 2008-04-17
13. ^ Jacob Hale Russell, Look Who’s Selling --- Once-quiet artists’ foundations are becoming power players, The Wall Street Journal, July 29, 2006.

More References

* Judd, Donald. (1986) "Complete Writings, 1975-1986" Eindhoven, NL: Van Abbemuseum.
* Haskell, Barbara. (1988) "Donald Judd." New York: Whitney Museum of American Art / W.W.Norton & Co.
* Agee, William C. (1995) "Donald Judd: Sculpture/Catalogue" New York: Pace Wildenstein Gallery.
* Krauss, Rosalind E. & Robert Smithson. (1998) "Donald Judd: Early Fabricated Work." New York: Pace Wildenstein Gallery.
* Serota, Nicholas et al. (2004) "Donald Judd" London and New York: Tate Modern and D.A.P.
* Busch, Julia M., A Decade of Sculpture: the New Media in the 1960s (The Art Alliance Press: Philadelphia; Associated University Presses: London, 1974) ISBN 0-87982-007-1
* Raskin, David, Donald Judd (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010); ISBN 9780300162769

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