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Born Yaacov Gipstein in 1928 in Rishon L'Zion, Palestine (now Israel), Yaacov Agam’s father was a rabbi and spiritual Kabbalist. He recalls being an inquisitive child, his first real experience with the arts was reading Irving Stone’s novel on Van Gogh, Lust for Life at the age of twelve. Agam embarked on his artistic studies in Jerusalem at the Bezalel Academy. He would later travel to Switzerland to study under the renowned color theorist Johannes Itten at Zürich’s Kunstgewerbe Schule. In 1951, Agam went to Paris and enrolled the Atelier d'art abstrait and at the Académie de la grande chaumière.
Agam’s first solo exhibition was at the Galerie Craven in Paris in 1953 titled Peintures en Mouvement (Paintings in Movement). In 1955 he participated in the seminal show Le Mouvemente at Galerie Denise René alongside other pioneering kinetic and artist including Alexander Calder, Jesús Rafael Soto and Carlos Cruz-Díez. While Agam was not the first Optical-Kinetic artist, his work encouraged viewer participation and utilized light and sound in ways that had not been seen before. One of his most well-known works titled Double Metamorphosis II is composed of nine-foot long strips of painted aluminum arranged so that the overall composition shifts as the viewer changes position. Agam’s unique style and large-scale interactive works are particularly well suited for public spaces, and the artist has completed numerous civic commissions and monuments.
In 1971, Agam had his first retrospective at Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris followed by a second in 1980 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. His work is included in numerous public and private collections around the world including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C. In 2017 The Yaacov Agam Museum of Art opened in the artist’s home-town of Rishon LeZion, housing the largest collection of his art in the world. Today, Agam lives and works in Paris.