Donald Sultan Biography

Donald Sultan




Painter, sculptor, and printmaker David Sultan was born on May 5, 1951, in Asheville, North Carolina. Encouraged by his parents, who were active in the arts, he began his creative path as a theater student and set painter, working as an apprecentice for various professional theaters. His interest eventually gravitated toward visual arts and he enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where earned his BFA in 1973; in 1975, he earned his MFA at the Art Instititue of Chicago.

Sultan grew restless and dissatisfied with traditional art mediums  and by the mid 1970s he began to experiment with industrial materials and tools, including tar, vinyl, spackle, enamel, and more. Following graduation from the AIC, he relocated to New York and supported his art career by working as a carpenter and handyman for various artists and galleries. In 1979, he was awarded a grant by the New York State Council on the Arts that allowed him to focus full time on his professional art career. By this time, his prominence in the New Image movement was on the rise, and he participated in major exhibitions at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Houston Museum of Contemporary Art, and New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1981. His unique approach to mediums and tools set him apart from other prominent artists of the time, inspiring others to experiment with unorthodox materials. Sultan would explain his desire to work with industrial materials as a sendover from his father and grandfather's work in labor and service, his father being a tire salesman and his grandfather having worked on automobile assembly lines in Detroit during the Depression.

In the late 1980s Sultan began to focus on printmaking and was given an opportunity to work with Aldo Crommelynck, a master printmaker who worked Picasso, among others. He collaborated with writers and poets to create art books, including David Mamet and Robert Creeley, and created several limited edition art books on his own to be sold at auction for various art institutions, including the Parrish Art Museum, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. His multifaceted oeuvre secured him a major commission to design the interiors of a luxury hotel in Budapest, to be called the Art'otel Budapest Donald Sultan. This included not only the designs of the artwork, sculpture, wallpaper, and carpeting, but the dishes, matchboxes, and linens.

Sultan began exhibiting regularly throughout the United States and abroad beginning in the mid 1970s, including in Europe, Britain, Japan, Russia, and Switzerland. He continues to work from his studio in Manhattan and to exhibit.

 Awards and Honors:
1979: Creative Artists Public Service Grant, NY
1980: National Endowment for the Arts - Visual Artist Fellowship
1992: Distinguished Alumnus Award, University of North Carolina 
2000: Honorary Doctorate, Corcoran School of Art, Washington, D.C.
2002: Honorary Doctorate, New York Academy of Art
2007: Honorary Degree, University of North Carolina
2010: North Carolina Award for the Arts
2011: Lifetime Achievement Award, Houston Fine Art Fair, Texas

Exhibitions (partial list):
Houston Museum of Contemporary Art; Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art; Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; Brooklyn Museum; New York Museum of Modern Art; Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center (retrospective, 2009).

Permanent Collections (partial list): 
Honolulu Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art (NY); Metropolitan Museum of Art; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; Boston Museum of Fine Arts; Whitney Museum of American Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Portland Museum of Art; Dallas Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Reina Sofia (Madrid); Tate Modern (London); National Museum of Modern Art (Tokyo); Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris).