Roman Opalka  (French, 1931-2011) 

Roman Opalka (Polish/French, 1931–2011) was a leading Conceptual artist best known for his series of numerical paintings. A few years after his birth in Hocquincourt, France, he and his Polish family returned to their motherland, only to be deported to Germany by National Socialists in 1940. In 1946, the Opalka family was liberated by the US Army, and they returned to Poland once again. Opalka began an apprenticeship as a lithographer at Walbrzych Nowa Ruda Graphic School, Poland, and, in 1949, he began his studies at the Lódz School of Art and Design, Poland. In 1956, the artist received a degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, where he had studied since 1950.

Opalka was inspired by Neo-Constructivists early on in his career. These early paintings, which the artist referred to as “Chronomes,” were made up of dabs and zigzags created using monochrome paint. The artist’s lifetime work of consecutive numerical paintings began in 1965, and by 1970 he had devoted himself to the goal of reaching infinity. Before he settled in southern France in 1977, Opalka was granted the DAAD Scholarship in Berlin, Germany. The artist spent most of his life working from his home in France; Opalka rarely traveled because he wanted to continue painting his famous numerical canvases.

There are 233 “details” in this series titled OPALKA 1965/1 – 8, all having the same measurements of 196 x 135 cm. The works in this series are all in shades of black, gray, and white. At first, Opalka used a black background on his canvases, and he painted the numbers using white paint and the smallest brush he could find. The artist would paint around 400 numbers a day, and after a few years he began photographing himself in front of his paintings at the end of a work day. By 1972 he had begun to record his voice calling out the numbers he painted onto the canvas. At this time he also changed the background color of the works in the series to gray, and he added one percent more white paint to every canvas; by 2008, the background and the numbers were virtually the same shade of white. Before his death, Opalka reached past the number 5,500,000. These numerical paintings were very important to Opalka because he viewed them as his life in time or time in life. His paintings reference passing time and how long time exists, while his photographs reference the artist’s life as seen through the progression of these numbers. Opalka died while on a trip to Rome on August 6, 2011.

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Roman Opalka, OPALKA 1965 / 1 - &#8734


Roman Opalka
OPALKA 1965 / 1 - ∞

Barbara Krakow Gallery
Roman Opalka, OPALKA1965/1 - !Carte de voyageDétail 2333587 - 2336083


Roman Opalka
OPALKA1965/1 - !
Carte de voyage
Détail 2333587 - 2336083

Yvon Lambert
Roman Opalka, OPALKA 1965 / 1 - !Détail - photographie 2638659Autoportraits


Roman Opalka
OPALKA 1965 / 1 - !
Détail - photographie 2638659

Yvon Lambert
Roman Opalka, Roman Opalka 1965/1 - ∞


Roman Opalka
Roman Opalka 1965/1 - ∞
Axel Vervoordt Gallery
Past auction results (139)  View All
Roman Opalka, Carte de voyage, Opalka 1956/1 -∞, detail 3714652-3717790


Roman Opalka
Carte de voyage, Opalka 1956/1 -∞, detail 3714652-3717790, 1965
ink on paper


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Roman Opalka, 1965/1 -∞, detail 2,389,630 - 2,409,346


Roman Opalka
1965/1 -∞, detail 2,389,630 - 2,409,346
acrylic on canvas


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Roman Opalka, 1965/1 - 8 DETAIL - 2430581-2450736


Roman Opalka
1965/1 - 8 DETAIL - 2430581-2450736, 1965


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1931   Born in Hocquincourt, France to Polish parents
1949   Kunstgewerbeschule Lodz, Poland
1950 - 1956   Kunstakademie Warsaw, Poland
1965   Begins the series OPALKA 1965/1-infinity
1979   -present, lives and works in Bazérac/Tournon d’Agenais in Southwest France.
2002   LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, England
2002   CONTEMPORAIN, Musée de Grenoble, France
2002   VANITÉS CONTEMPORAINES, L'Arsenal, Soissons, France; Chapelle des Ursulines, Quimperlé; Musée Ziem, Martigues, France
2002   SPECIAL INSTALLATION OF PROTOTYPE FOR "L'OCTOGONE OPALKA", realized by Jean Nouvel, Morat, France
2002   1968 - 1977, L'ART EN CAUSE(S), CAPC, Bordeaux, France
2002   KUNST 2002 - ZURICH, Galerie Zéro, l'Infini, Zurich, Switzerland
2002   NONCOMPOSITION: 15 CASE STUDIES, Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art, Hartford CT,
2002   IN BETWEEN: ART FROM POLAND 1945 – 2000, Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
2002   CAMOSHOW, Kunstmuseum, Wiesbaden, Germany
2002   ROMAN OPALKA: PAINTING, PHOTOGRAPHY, AND SOUND, Quint Contemporary Art, La Jolla, CA (solo)
2002   Grant Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
2001   PERMANENT INSTALLATION BY ROMAN OPALKA OF OPALKA 1965 /1-infinty, Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Lodz, Poland (solo)
2001   OPALKA 1965 / 1 - infinty, Galerie Foksal, Warsaw, Poland (solo)
2001   OPALKA 1965 / 1 - infinty, Espace Renn, Paris, France (solo)
2001   Hommage pour ses 70 ans à Roman Opalka, OPALKA 1965 / 1- infinty, Musée de l’Architecture, Wroclaw, Poland (solo)
2001   OPALKA 1965 / 1 - infinty, Verrière, Fondation Hermès, Brussels, Belgium (solo)
2001   DANS LA SÉRIE DES MAÎTRES : ROMAN OPALKA, “OPALKA 1965 / 1 - infinty,” Kasa Galerie, Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey (solo)
1999   OPALKA 1965 / 1 - infinty , Katowice Galerie, Katowice, Poland; Medienzentrum der Verlagsgruppe Passau, St.-Anna-Kapelle, Passau, Germany (solo)
1998   ART CONTEMPORANI EN ESPAIS PUBLICS, Musée des Beaux Arts, Vilafranca del Penedès, Spain (solo)
2000    50 Jahre Kunst aus mittel Europa (50 Years of Art in Central Europe): 1949-1999, (Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Wien) pp.225; Roman Opalka pp. 119, 229-230.
1999    Das XX Jahrhundert: ein Jahre hundert Kunst in Deutschland, (National Galerie, Berlin, Germany) 668 pp; Roman Opalka pg. 373.
1999    Opalka, Roman, OPALKA 1965 / 1 - infinty DETAIL-5240852, with a forward by Loránd Hegyi, Prestel Verlag: 1999, 140 pp.
1998    …Roman Opalka der beifreite Sisyphos, Städtische Galerie, Altes Theater Ravensburg, Canz Ostfildern-Ruit Verlag: 1998, 128pp.
1997    Made in France 1947 - 1997, (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France) Roman Opalka pg. 17.
1996    Roman Opalka: OPALKA 1965/1-infinty, (Gallery ISM, Gaain Gallery, Seoul, South Korea) pg. 63.
1996    Pietkiewicz, Ewa & Marek. Roman Opalka, (Modulus, Krakow, Poland) pg.116.
1996    Noël, Bernard, Roubaud, Jacques and Savinel, Christine, Roman Opalka, Dis Voir: 1996, 132 pp.
1995    Fréchuret, Maurice; Hegyi, Lorand; Jedlinski, Jaromir; Kawalska, Bozena; Swierszcz. Roman Opalka, Opalka1965/1-infinty, (Zacheta Gallery of Contemporary Art, Warsaw, Poland) pg. 100.
1994    Honisch, Dieter. Roman Opalka OPALKA 1965 / 1 - infinty , (Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany) pg.48.
1994    Fréchuret, Maurice, “La Machine a Piendre,” Jaqueline Chambon (Marseille): 1994.
1993    Werner, Stanislav, A Conversation with Roman Opalka, Verlag Sabine Zauner (Dachau): 1993, 48 pp.
1992    Opalka, Roman, Roman Opalka, "OPALKA 1965 / 1 -infinity”, with an essay by Christian Schlater, Flammarion 4 / La Hune (Paris): 1992.
1991    Opalka, Roman, Recontre par la separation – Begegnung durch Trennung, Verlag Walter Storms (Munich): 1991.
1990    L'art conceptuel, une perspective, (ARC Musée d'Art moderne de la ville de Paris, Paris ) 256 pp.; Roman Opalka : pg. 220.
1990    Opalka, Roman, OPALKA 1965 / 1 - infinity, Verlag Ottenhausen (Munich): 1990, 148 pp.
1988    Guyot, Gérard. Opalka, rencontre par la séparation, (Centre culturel de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina) pg. 140.
1987    Fifty Years of Collecting : an Anniversary Selection, Painting since World War II, (The Salomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, NY) 152 pp.
1976    Bonito Oliva, Achille, Europe/America,: The Different Avant-Gardes, Ed. Franco Maria Ricci, Deco Press (Milan): 1976, pp.304; Opalka p. 225.