Per Kirkeby (Danish, b. September 1, 1938) is an accomplished painter, sculptor, and printmaker. Kirkeby was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, and he studied geology at the University of Copenhagen, graduating with a master's degree in 1964. Between 1958 and 1972, Kirkeby did geological work in Greenland, entering the Eksperimenterende Kunstskole, in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1972. Kirkeby is a well-traveled artist; he has been on expeditions to different places like Central Asia, Greenland, Iceland, Central America, and the Mediterranean. The experiences of nature he gathered during his travels are evidenced in his work. He worked with Joseph Beuys (German, 1921–1986) in the 1960s, and Germany has always played a key role in his work, as he went to Berlin in 1982 on a DAAD scholarship.
He held his first exhibition at the Michael Werner Gallery, in Cologne, Germany, in 1974. It was in Berlin that he was influenced and inspired by Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840) and started still-life paintings. From 1978 to 1989, Kirkeby taught at the Karlsruhe Academy of Fine Arts and then went to teach at the Städelschule academy, in Frankfurt, Germany, until 2000. Kirkeby once said that it was this German connection that made him a world artist.
Kirkeby has received a number of awards, such as the Herbert-Boeckl-Preis (2003), for his lifework, the Coutts Contemporary Art Foundation Award (1996), and the Henrik-Steffens-Award 1996. Over the years, Kirkeby has been involved in numerous exhibitions in diverse places all over the world. Some of his exhibitions include those at the Royal Museum of Fine Art, in Copenhagen, Denmark (1975), Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, in Eindhoven, the Netherlands (1982), Michael Werner London, in England (2008), and Julius Werner, in Berlin, Germany (2009). His works are diverse and include Strandbillede Laesø (1983), Ohne Titel (1998), and Abnehmen (1986). Many public collections hold Kirkeby's works all over the world, in diverse places such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, NY, the Tate Gallery, in London, England, and the Centre Pompidou, in Paris, France. Kirkeby is represented by prestigious museums around the world including Stedilijk Museum, in Eindhoven, Netherlands, Tate Gallery, in London, England, and Ludwig Museum, in Cologne, Germany. Kirkeby lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark, Amasco, Italy, and Frankfurt, Germany.