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Tomma Abts (born 1967) is a German-born visual artist who is particularly well known for her abstract oil paintings. Abts won the Turner Prize in 2006. The artist currently lives and works in London, England.

Early life and education

Abts was born in 1967 in Kiel, Germany,[1] to a teacher in a primary school and a gynecologist.[3] Between 1989-1995 Abts attended the Hochschule der Künste Berlin.[1] She has been living in London since 1995,[4] and she maintains a studio in Clerkenwell, which she has occupied since she first came to London on a grant.[3] It was only by 2002 that she was able to live solely off her art.[3]


Starting each of her works without a preconceived idea, knowing only the size of the canvas and her materials,[5] Abts works in acrylic and oil, often building up her designs from repetitive geometrical elements. Her style can be classified as abstract, but also in opposition to Germany’s Neo-Expressionist figurative painting.[6] None of her paintings are representational. There are no references to nature, the world or any other theme. The abstraction in her paintings is supported by the lack of detail and an overall retro feel. The paintings do not follow the traditional rules of abstract art though. They involve complex shapes that are layered and woven in different ways with added highlights, shadows and sense of depth.[7]

Abts used to work on canvasses of all sizes.[3] Since the early 2000s, all of Abts’ paintings are 48 x 38 centimeters and the titles of her paintings are derived from a dictionary of German first names. She has said that this is the size and style that works for her.[8] Each work takes on a color scheme that is rich and somewhat neutral. The colors are not obviously vibrant and work with each other’s tones within each work of art.[6] Abts creates a 3D effect by continually and meticulously layering and working up each painting. The works are thickly painted, almost over-painted, which gives a hint of something created by trial and error. It seems as though the layers of paint could be covering up something underneath the finished product. “Abts approaches each canvas without preconception, building up layers of paint until a form crystallizes.”[9] Abts takes a long time to produce her works, and she is not prolific.[10]


Abts is the winner of the 2006 Turner Prize, awarded by the Tate, London.[8] The Tate Gallery praised "her rigorous and consistent approach to painting" and added "Through her intimate and compelling canvases she builds on and enriches the language of abstract painting."[11] The other artists on the shortlist in 2006 were Rebecca Warren, Phil Collins (artist), and Mark Titchner.[1] Abts was the first woman painter to win the award.

Solo Exhibitions

habitat, Kings Road, London (1998)
greengrassi, London (2005, 2002, 1999)
Galerie Giti Nourbakhsch, Berlin (2004, 2001)
The Wrong Gallery, New York (2003)
Galerie Buchholz, Koln (2006, 2003)
Galerie Giti Nourbakhsch, Berlin (2009, 2004)
Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2005)
Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland (2005)[12]
Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Koln (2006)
Kunsthalle zu Kiel, Kiel, Germany (2006)
David Zwirner, New York (2008)[2]
New Museum, New York (2008)[13]
Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf (2011)[14]
greengrassi, London (2011)[15]
Galerie Buchholz, Berlin (2013)[16]
David Zwirner, New York (2014)[17]
Aspen Art Museum, Colorado (2014)[18]

Selected Group Exhibitions

filmcuts, Galerie neugerriemschneider, Berlin (1995)
Fast, 520 King Street West, Toronto (1996)
The Vauxhall Gardens, Norwich Art Gallery, Norwich (1998)
Honey, I rearranged the collection and Origin of Parties, greengrassi, London (2003, 1998)
Limit Less, Galerie Krinzinger, Wien (1999)
Etcetera, Spacex Gallery, Exeter (1999)
Egofugal 7th International Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul (2001)
The Devil is in the Detail, Alliston Skirt Gallery, Boston (2001)
Tomma Abts & Vincent Vecteau, Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles (2002)[19]
Quodlibet II and Mullberg and Richard Hawkins & Tomma Abts, Lecia Dole-Racio, Morgan Fisher, Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Koln James Hayward” (2009, 2004, 2002)
Hot, Blue & Righteous, Galerie Giti Nourbakhsch, Berlin (2003)
deutschemalereizweitausenddrei, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt (2003)
Black Rainbow, Lucky Tackle, Oakland, California (2003)
journal #7 with Vincent Fecteau, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2004)
Formalismus. Moderne Kunst heute, Kunstverein Hamburg, Hamburg (2004)
54th Carnegie International, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (2004–2005)
British Art Show 6, Hayward Gallery, London: (Wanderausstellung) (2005)
Of Mice and Men, 4th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2006)[20]
Hyper Design, 6th Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai (2006)[21]
Turner Prize: A Retrospective, Tate Britain, London (2007)
Turner Prize: A Retrospective, Moscow Museum of Modern Art (2007)
Turner Prize: A Retrospective, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2007)
The Gallery, David Zwirner, New York (2008)
The Symbolic Efficiency of the Frame, 4th Tirana Biennial, Tirana, Albania (2009)
Slow Paintings, Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany (2009)
At Home/Not at Home: Works from the Collection of Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg,CCS Bard Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-On-Hudson, New York (2010)
Stand still like the hummingbird, David Zwirmer, New York (2012)


Abts' work is represented in public collections internationally, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; Tate Gallery, London; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.[5]
Art market

Abts is represented by greengrassi, London[22] and by David Zwirner, New York.[2]


"Turner Prize 2006: artists, Tomma Abts", Tate, Retrieved 18 August 2014.
Tomma Abts at David Zwirner
Emma Brockes (December 6, 2006), 'I'm sure they were thinking it was time a woman won' The Guardian.
Tom Teodorczuk (December 5, 2006), Turner Prize returns to artistic roots London Evening Standard.
Tomma Abts, September 10 - October 25, 2014 David Zwirner, New York.
Esplund, Lance. "Shadw Play", 10 April 2008, The New York Sun, Retrieved 18 August 2014
Johnson, Ken (11 April 2008). "Little Canvases That Contain Worlds". New York Times.
"German painter wins Turner Prize". BBC News. 5 December 2006. Retrieved 16 April 2008.
"Tomma Abts". Carnegie International. Retrieved 16 April 2008.
Ken Johnson (April 11, 2008), Little Canvases That Contain Worlds New York Times.
"Turner Prize 2006". Tate. 2006. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
"Tomma Abts". Kunsthalle Basel. Retrieved 16 April 2008.
Tomma Abts at the New Museum of Contemporary Art
Tomma Abts at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf [1]
Tomma Abts at greengrassi [2]
Tomma Abts at Galerie Buchholz [3]
Tomma Abts at David Zwirner [4]
Tomma Abts at Aspen Art Museum [5]
Marc Foxx
Berlin Biennial
"Shanghai Biennale". Universes in Universe. Retrieved 16 April 2008.
"greengrassi: Tomma Abts", greengrassi, Retrieved 18 August 2014.

Artist, Germany


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