Main content

Michael Rakowitz ’95

Michael Rakowitz ’95 is an artist living and working in Chicago.

Concerned with history and current events, Rakowitz uses his work to explore pressing issues and to invite others into the conversations fostered by his public projects, installations, and events.

Like an amateur historian, he begins by fact-finding, making connections whenever possible with people involved in the particular situations upon which he focuses, which range from the personal to the local to the geo-political.

Among his first projects is paraSITE (begun 1997), a series of inflatable homes built in consultation with the homeless people who would occupy them. They attach to the exterior outtake vents of a building’s heating, ventilation, or air conditioning system.

Rakowitz’s own Iraqi-Jewish heritage figures prominently in many of his works, reflecting his deep connection to the country. Since 2004, with his ongoing project, RETURN, he has been attempting to import Iraqi dates into the U.S., the centerpiece of a multipart project that illustrates the cultural richness of this country in crisis.

His work has appeared in venues worldwide including dOCUMENTA (13), P.S.1, MoMA, MassMOCA, Castello di Rivoli, the 16th Biennale of Sydney, the 10th Istanbul Biennial, Sharjah Biennial 8, Tirana Biennale, National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt, and Transmediale 05.

He is the recipient of the 2018 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts (Visual Arts category), a 2012 Tiffany Foundation Award; a 2008 Creative Capital Grant; a Sharjah Biennial Jury Award; a 2006 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Grant in Architecture and Environmental Structures; the 2003 Dena Foundation Award, and the 2002 Design 21 Grand Prix from UNESCO.

He has had solo exhibitions at the Barbara Wien Gallery, Berline, DE; Castello Rivoli, Turin, IT; Cleveland Triennial, Cleveland, OH; The Graham Foundation, Chicago, IL; Jameel Arts Center, Dubai, UAE; Jane Lombard Gallery, Chelsea, NY: Malmo Konsthall, Malmo, SE; Mason Hall Atrium Gallery, Fairfax, VA; MOCA Chicago, Chicago, IL; Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, TX; REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA; Trafalgar Square, London, UK; Whitechapel, London, UK; Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA and many more within the last decade.His works are featured in major private and public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Neue Galerie, Kassel, Germany; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Smart Museum of Art, Chicago; Van Abbemuseum, Endhoven, Netherlands; The British Museum; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Kabul National Museum, Afghanistan; and UNESCO, Paris.

Rakowitz is a Professor of Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University.

Jane Lombard Gallery

In 2019, Rakowitz was named by The Nasher Sculpture Center as the recipient of its fifth Nasher Prize. The Nasher Prize, “an international award that seeks to recognize living artists who have significantly contributed to sculpture and ‘elevated the understanding of sculpture and its possibilities,’” consists of $100,000 and an award designed by architect Renzo Piano.

For the Unlimited sector of Art Basel 2018, he created Room N, Northwest Palace of Nimrud (2018), the latest piece in the series, The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, in which he uses Middle Eastern convenience food packages sold in the US to recreate artifacts lost to the ravages of war in Iraq. The work featured reproductions of reliefs from the Assyrian Palace of Nimrud destroyed by the Caliphate in 2016.

See a video below about his work, “A Lost City Reappeared: Professor rebuilds lost artifacts through art,” on the Northwestern University’s