Born in New York City in 1941, Joel Shapiro has explored the possibilities of sculptural form throughout his forty-five-year career. Since his first solo exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery in 1970, his work has been the subject of numerous solo and retrospective exhibitions at institutions including the Whitechapel Gallery, London, 1980; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1982; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1985; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (jointly with the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City), 1995-96; the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2001; and the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2011. Shapiro’s work can be found in numerous public collections in the United States and abroad, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Tate Gallery, London; IVAM Centre Julio González, Valencia; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; and the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
In 1993 he installed a permanent work, Loss and Regeneration, at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Other prominent commissions and works in public space include Conjunction, for the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies for the United States Embassy in Ottawa, Canada; For Jennifer, commissioned by the Denver Art Museum; and Now, commissioned by the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies and installed in 2013 at the new U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China.
Shapiro was elected to the Swedish Royal Academy of Art in 1994 and the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1998. The French Minister of Culture awarded Shapiro the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2005, and in 2013 he was honored with the National Art Award for Outstanding Achievement by Americans for the Arts. In April 2015 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in Contemporary Sculpture by the International Sculpture Center.
In 2014 Shapiro exhibited a new sculptural installation at Paula Cooper Gallery, recent work on paper at Pace Gallery, and sculpture from the 1970s at Craig F. Starr Gallery, New York. In the spring of 2014, Shapiro exhibited sculpture in wood, bronze, and plaster at Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris, which subsequently travelled to Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne, in January 2015.
In May 2016 Shapiro exhibited a new sculptural installation at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas.