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Vue de l'exposition "David Wojnarowicz. History Keeps Me Awake at Night", 26.10.2019 – 09.02.2020, Mudam Luxembourg
David Wojnarowicz

History Keeps Me Awake at Night

History Keeps Me Awake at Night surveys the work of artist, writer, and activist David Wojnarowicz (b. 1954, Red Bank; d. 1992, New York). It is the first retrospective exhibition of his work to be presented in Europe.

From the late 70s to the early 90s, David Wojnarowicz created a body of work that spanned photography, painting, music, film, sculpture, writing, and activism. Wojnarowicz was largely self-taught and came to prominence in New York in the 80s, a time marked by creative energy, financial uncertainty, and profound cultural changes. Intersecting movements – graffiti, new and no wave music, conceptual photography, performance, and neo-expressionist painting – made New York a laboratory for innovation. Wojnarowicz refused a signature style, adopting a wide variety of techniques with an attitude of radical possibility.

Wojnarowicz saw the outsider as his true subject. Queer, and later diagnosed as HIV-positive, he became an impassioned AIDS activist when an inconceivable number of friends, lovers, and strangers were suffering and dying from the disease and as a consequence of government inaction. Wojnarowicz’s work documents and illuminates a desperate period of American history: the AIDS crisis and culture wars of the late 80s and early 90s. But his rightful place is also among the raging and haunting iconoclastic voices, from Walt Whitman (b. 1819, West Hills; d. 1892, Camden) to William S. Burroughs (b. 1914, Saint-Louis; d. 1997, Lawrence), who explored American myths, their perpetuation, their repercussions, and their violence. Like theirs, his work deals directly with the timeless subjects of sex, spirituality, love, and loss. Wojnarowicz, who was 37 when he died from AIDS-related complications, wrote: ‘To make the private into something public is an action that has terrific ramifications.’

With rage and beauty, David Wojnarowicz has created an art that questions power, and especially why some lives are visible and others are hidden.

— David Breslin, co-curateur de l’exposition

Biographical note

David Wojnarowicz was born in 1954 and died in 1992. He lived and worked in New York. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions including the P.P.O.W. Gallery in New York, or in institutions such as the Fondation Cartier in Paris (1986), The Kitchen in New York (1989), the Gallery 44 Center for Contemporary Photography in Toronto (1996), the New Museum in New York (1999) and Between Bridges in Berlin (2006). His works have been displayed in group exhibitions and international events such as the 41st Rencontres d’Arles (2010) and the 10th Biennial of Gwangju (2014) and form part of numerous collections around the world such as the MoMA, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Rubell Family Collection in Miami and the Broad Art Foundation in Los Angeles. Wojnarowicz was awarded the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award in 1991.


David Breslin & David Kiehl (Whitney Museum) about David Wojnarowicz at Mudam


  • David Breslin, David Kiehl
    The Mudam presentation is curated by Christophe Gallois, assisted by Nelly Taravel

Exhibition design:
  • Polaris Architects

This exhibition was organised by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in collaboration with Mudam Luxembourg – Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.

A screening of films by David Wojnarowicz and Marion Scemama is also programmed at Mudam Auditorium during the exhibition.