Pawel Althamer (b. 1967, Warsaw, Poland) is an artist, sculptor, activist, and a teacher. He studied sculpture at the Fine Arts Academy in Warsaw from 1988 to 1993 along with his frequent collaborator, Artur Zmijewski. He works in a wide range of media, including installation, performance, video and sculpture.
Most recently Althamer's work has been presented at the 55th Venice Biennale. He took casts of pedestrians from the streets of Venice and turned them into larger sculptures in a small plastics factory called Almech, once operated by his father, which Althamer has recently reopened. This project stems from the 2011 Deutsche Guggenheim living exhibition Almech in Berlin, for which Althamer transplanted a branch of the factory to the museum, along with the machinery and workers, to produce sculptural portraits of museum visitors and staff within the exhibition space. The figures from Venice present a reflection on its inhabitants, who are otherwise invisible in the context of the Biennale. In November 2013 he created a month-long performance for the Performa 13 biennial, during which he, in collaboration with other artists and the public, created a monumental temporary sculpture titled Queen Mother of Reality, out of found materials, metal, wood, and other scraps, which was then disassembled at the end of the biennial.
From an early stage in his career, Pawel Althamer has focused on a consistently experimental model of social collaboration, and his unique sculptural practice seeks to engage and represent the various personal relationships and communities in which he participates. In the mid-1990s, Althamer began teaching sculpture to a group of Warsaw residents living with multiple sclerosis. They continued working together, under the moniker of "The Nowolipie Group," called after the street in Warsaw where they met. Over the past twenty years their collaborative work has been exhibited around the world. Althamer established a sculpture park with works by international artists and initiated a long-term collaboration with his neighbors in Brodno, the public housing development in Warsaw where he grew up and where he still lives today. Althamer has also worked with his neighbors on the project Common Task, in which he uses the occasion of solo exhibitions to fly himself and others around the world dressed in gold space suits.
Throughout his career Althamer has been exploring the human body. From his nude sculptural self-portrait Pawel Althamer (1993) through Balloon (2007), in which a balloon likeness of Althamer floated above Milan, to the Almech exhibition in Berlin (2011) and The Venetians at Venice Biennale (2013), his own body has been the subject of many pieces.
Althamer's work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Westfälischer Kunstverein in Münster (2003), Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw (2004), Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw (2005), Centre Pompidou, Paris (2006), Fondazione Nicola Trussardi (2007), Secession, Vienna (2009), Deutsche Guggenheim (2011), and Museo d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (MUSIEON) in Bolzano Italy (2012), The New Museum, NYC (2014) among others. His work has been exhibited in a number of major international group shows including the 2013 Venice Biennale, 7th Berlin Biennale (2012) 8th Gwangju Biennial (2010), Skulptur Projekte Münster (2007), 4th Berlin Biennial (2006), 9th Istanbul Biennial (2005), and Manifesta 3 (2000).