William Wegman




William Wegman (born 1943) is an internationally renowned artist and photographer, whose photographs, videos and paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries across the world. He is best known for his on-going artistic collaborations with his Weimaraners, his lifelong muses.

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Early Years

William Wegman was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts in 1943. He received a BFA from the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston and an MFA in painting from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne in 1967.

Photographic Career

Wegman taught at the University of Wisconsin between 1968 and 1970, and then relocated to teach at California State College, Long Beach. He became an early exponent of conceptual art, and his first works were performance based. Pieces included throwing radios off a roof and floating Styrofoam letters along the Milwaukee River. An installation work was included in Harold Szeemann’s influential exhibition Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form in Bern in 1969, alongside works by Joseph Beuys, Richard Serra and Bruce Nauman. Wegman’s first photographs and films were made as a way of documenting these early ephemeral and performance-based works, although they quickly became the focus of his artistic output. Wegman was pioneering in his conceptual use of both video and photography.

Whereas his contemporaries relied on large, boldly coloured images combined with text, Wegman produced black and white photographs and moving images that utilised the subtlest of visual puns to convey their message. Man Ray, his first pet Weimaraner, became a central figure in Wegman’s early photographs and video works. Wegman and Man Ray moved to NewYork in 1972 and continued their collaboration for twelve years.

In the early 1970s, Wegman’s work began to receive critical acclaim, and was exhibited internationally. Solo shows were held at Sonnabend Gallery in Paris, Situation Gallery in London and Konrad Fisher Gallery in Düsseldorf. A video by Wegman was featured in the Whitney Biennial in 1973, the first year that any video art was included in the curation.

Man Ray and Wegman’s on going artistic partnership throughout the 1970s led to features for Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live, and numerous appearances on Late Night with David Letterman and The Tonight Show. When Man Ray died in March 1982, The Village Voice featured him on their cover, and named him ‘Man of the Year’.

Wegman returned to photographing dogs in 1987, when his second Weimaraner, Fay Ray, began to feature heavily in his work. His cast of characters was expanded with the birth of Fay’s litter in 1989. Wegman continued to photograph Fay as well as her puppies Battina, Crooky and Chundo, and later, their offspring, Chip, Bobbin, Candy and Penny using a large format 20×24 inch Polaroid camera. Wegman worked extensively with the Polaroid format from 1979 until 2007.

In 1995, Wegman’s film The Hardly Boys was screened at the Sundance Film Festival. His work has been commissioned by French Vogue and The New York Times as well as for various fashion brands and the Metropolitan Opera.

Exhibitions and Awards

Wegman has been the recipient of two Guggenheim Fellowships and two National Endowment for the Arts grants and his work has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the world. These have included the seminal exhibitions When Attitudes Become Form and Documenta V, as well as a retrospective organised by the Kunstmuseum Lucerne in 1990, which travelled to museums including the Centre Pompidou, Paris and The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Recent exhibitions include William Wegman and California Conceptualism, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2018, and Being Human, which was the central exhibition at Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles in the summer of the same year.

William Wegman lives and works in New York and Maine with his two Weimeraners Flo and Topper.

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