Miriam Cahn

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Miriam Cahn, brutality sculpture in the Sculpture Park Sculpture at Schoenthal , 2007/08
Small family
Miriam Cahn , 2012
Pastel chalk on paper
84 × 70 cm
Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw

Link to the picture
(please note copyrights )

Miriam Cahn (born July 21, 1949 in Basel ) is a Swiss artist .


Miriam Cahn is the daughter of the numismatist and art dealer Herbert A. Cahn and attended the graphics class at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Basel from 1968 to 1973 (today: Basel School of Design ). In 1978/1979 she was awarded a studio grant in Paris by the city of Basel .

In 1982 Cahn was invited to documenta 7 . However, she broke off her participation because the curator Rudi Fuchs , contrary to the agreement, wanted to hang works by another artist with her pictures. She received an invitation to participate in the Venice Biennale in 1984. This was followed in 1985 by a DAAD scholarship for a one-year work stay in Berlin , where she stayed until 1989. In 2017 her work was shown at documenta 14 .

She lives and works in Basel and Maloja .


Miriam Cahn is a figurative painter whose work stood out mainly with charcoal and pencil drawings, pastel drawings, room installations and performances . She became well known in 1979/1980 with an illegal art campaign in which she made wall drawings along a motorway bridge near Basel. This led to a lawsuit. Many years later, the city tried to make amends for the conviction by even offering to make the walls as it imagined.

In the early periods of her work, she preferred to carry out her large-format works on the floor in order to use her whole body to give up spatial distance and the associated mental distance. During this phase, monumental chalk and charcoal drawings with symbolic representations of people, animals and plants were created. In a further step she went over to making series of drawings with her eyes closed.

In the winter of 1979/1980 Miriam Cahn received media attention when she drew with charcoal on the concrete pillars of the Basel north bypass in nightly art actions . The case was tried in court.

atomic bomb (bleeding work)
Miriam Cahn , 1999
Watercolor on paper
145 × 200 cm
Museum of Modern Art , Frankfurt am Main

Link to the picture
(please note copyrights )

Miriam Cahn was shaped by the peace and women's movement , in which she was also actively involved. Her topics often revolve around the role of women or war and its representation in the mass media . In the 1990s she dealt with the Gulf War and the War in the Balkans in two cycles .

working girl / unclear
Miriam Cahn , 1999
Oil on canvas
97.6 × 55.5 cm
Museum of Modern Art , Frankfurt am Main

Link to the picture
(please note copyrights )


Miriam Cahn's work oscillates between extreme poles of human emotions. Her main themes in terms of content and style are “the vulnerability of the body and the attraction of lust and violence”. In Cahn's view, morality “has no place in art anyway”. The topic of flight has been present in Miriam Cahn's pictures since the Yugoslav wars, and the current refugee crisis is reflected in her latest series . Till Briegleb saw Miriam Cahn's work “in the rank of colleagues like Maria Lassnig or Marlene Dumas ”. It complements their artistic positions on figurative painting "with a dark love of instinct", a rediscovery of their work is urgently required.


Cahn's work is housed in numerous public art collections, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Modern in London, the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid, the Kunstmuseum Basel , the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus in Munich and the Museum für Modern art in Warsaw.

Solo exhibitions

Group exhibitions (selection)

  • 2011: 6 artists from Basel x 2 , Kunsthalle Basel
  • 2018 : I'm a Believer. Pop Art and contemporary art from the Lenbachhaus and the KiCo Foundation , Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus and Kunstbau Munich





  • Miriam Cahn - without detours . Directed by Edith Jud, CH 2005

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Miriam Cahn. In: SIKART Lexicon on Art in Switzerland. Retrieved April 26, 2020 .
  2. a b c d e f g Till Briegleb: Naked Apostle Circle. Miriam Cahn's life theme is the vulnerability of the body. Works by the 66-year-old painter can be seen in Kiel. She should be a star at the next Documenta . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung . March 22, 2016, accessed July 21, 2018 .
  3. ^ Entry on Cahn, Miriam at the DAAD's Berlin artist program. Catalog for her exhibition in the DAAD gallery from March 15 to April 20, 1986, published by the DAAD, Berlin 1986.
  4. Ludmila Vachtova: Portrait - Miriam Cahn, artist. In NZZ Folio . 01/92 (accessed on September 27, 2012)
  5. Miriam Cahn. In: New Women's Movement 2.0. Retrieved May 15, 2020 .
  6. Annelise Zwez: Miriam Cahn: I always liked the cheeky and the wild ( Memento from July 14, 2002 in the web archive archive.today ). On: xcult.org , 2002.
  7. ^ Kunsthalle Kiel 2016 ( Memento from March 15, 2016 in the Internet Archive ), www.kunsthalle-kiel.de, accessed on March 26, 2016.
  8. Miriam Cahn first winner of the new Basel Art Prize . TagesWoche , October 7, 2013
  9. ^ Text Mare Nostrum by Miriam Cahn , www.documenta14.de, accessed on March 26, 2016.
  10. Contains: Armin Boehm , Miriam Cahn, Thomas Dillmann, Peter Doig , Marlene Dumas , Johannes Hüppi , Michael Kunze , Daniel Richter , Norbert Schwontkowski , Luc Tuymans