Prem Krishnamurthy (b. 1977) is a designer, author, and educator. His multifaceted work explores the role of art as an agent of transformation at an individual, collective, and structural level. This manifests itself in books, exhibitions, images, performances, publications, systems, talks, texts, and workshops.
He received the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award for Communications Design in 2015 and KW Institute for Contemporary Art’s “A Year With…” residency fellowship in 2018. His professional papers were acquired by Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies in 2019. In 2022, Domain published his book-length epistolary essay, On Letters.
He currently directs Wkshps, a multidisciplinary design consultancy, and organizes Department of Transformation, an itinerant workshop that practices collaborative tools for social change. In addition to leading design projects with artists, cultural institutions, and nonprofit organizations across the world, he has curated several large-scale exhibitions. These include Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows, the 2022 edition of FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art; Our Silver City, 2094 at Nottingham Contemporary; and Ministry of Graphic Design in Sharjah, UAE. Previously, Prem founded the design studio Project Projects and the exhibition space P! in New York.
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Prem’s exhibitions and creative work have been reviewed widely in publications including Artforum, Art in America, frieze, Mousse, The New Yorker, The New York Times, PIN-UP, The Wall Street Journal, and many others. His polymorphic artworks appear in variable formats, playing with time, performance, narrative, and collective structures. In 2020, as a co-initiator of digital artist-run space Home Cooking, he launched an experimental Sunday gathering (Present!), an exhaustive self-inventory (Structures (Describing a System in Real Time)), and a participatory social experiment (The
Artist’s Human Way, with Kalaija Mallery). His conceptual manifesto Endless Exhibition (2018–), commissioned by Kunsthal Gent, continues to guide the institution’s program in perpetuity. For his 2018 residency with KW Institute for Contemporary Art, he established K, (“K-Komma”), a year-long para-institution and collaborative artwork, culminating in a YouTube meditation tutorial, Counting. From 2017–2020, his experimental electronic book, P!DF, functioned as an ever-changing manifesto and monograph. In 2021, Pompeii Archaelogical Park released his digital artwork, Pompeii!, which reflects upon rituals, destruction, memory, and letting go.
Since 2008, he has organized numerous exhibitions and programs as an independent curator. From 2019–2022, he served as Artistic Director of FRONT International 2022: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art. Entitled Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows, this expansive exhibition featured over 100 international artists presented across 30 museums and venues in Cleveland, Akron, and Oberlin, Ohio. Notable past exhibitions and programs include Our Silver City, 2094 at Nottingham Contemporary; the 13th A.I.R. Biennial: let’s try listening again, New York (2019); Fikra Graphic Design Biennial 01: Ministry of Graphic Design, Sharjah, UAE (2018); Masterpieces & Curiosities: Elaine Lustig Cohen, Jewish Museum, New York (2018); P!CKER, Stanley Picker Gallery at Kingston University London (2017–2018); Design & Empire [working title], Liverpool Biennial (2017); Brian O’Doherty: Speaking in Lines, Simone Subal Gallery, New York (2017); Creative Operational Solutions, Para Site, Hong Kong (2016); and DIS-PLAY / RE-PLAY, Austrian Cultural Forum, New York (2016). From 2012–2017, Prem was founder and curator of P!, the experimental “Mom-and-Pop-Kunsthalle” in New York’s Chinatown, which mounted over forty on- and offsite exhibitions including the first US solo presentations of artists including Céline Condorelli, Karel Martens, Maryam Jafri, Michal Helfman, Société Réaliste, and Wong Kit Yi. His independent exhibitions and curatorial research have been supported by Artis, Graham Foundation, Mondriaan Fonds, and New York State Council for the Arts.
From 2004–2017, Prem was a founding principal of the design studio Project Projects, which in 2018 became Wkshps. The studio works with cultural partners on strategic design projects across media. In his role as director, Prem built an internationally acclaimed practice that has collaborated with institutions such as Berkeley Art Museum, BOZAR, Dhaka Art Summit, Guggenheim Museum, The Jewish Museum, Kunstinstituut Melly, L’internationale, Mercosul Biennial, MoMA, New Museum, The Renaissance Society, SALT (Istanbul), SculptureCenter, Sharjah Art Foundation, Triple Canopy, Whitney Museum, and Yale University Art Gallery; artists such as Barbara Bloom, Katharina Grosse, Mika Rottenberg, Stephen Prina, and Walid Raad; and architects such as Bernard Tschumi Architects, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Steven Holl Architects, and WORKac. He was a member of the Creative Team for the Carnegie International, 57th Edition, 2018. In 2017, the Art Institute of Chicago acquired nearly 80 works by the studio for its permanent collection.
As a writer, Prem has authored essays in books including After the Bauhaus, Before the Internet: A History of Graphic Design Pedagogy (No Place, 2022); Tools for Collective Learning (Kunstinstituut Melly, 2021); John Heartfield: Photography Plus Dynamite (Hirmer, 2020); Curating After the Global (MIT, 2019); One/Here/Now: The Brian O’Doherty/Patrick Ireland Project (Sirius Arts Centre, 2019); The Dispatch: Carnegie International, 57th Edition, 2018 (Carnegie Museum of Art, 2018); As Seen: Exhibitions that Made Architecture and Design History (Art Institute of Chicago, 2017); The Way Beyond Art: Wide White Space (CCA Wattis, 2013); and I Like Your Work: Art and Etiquette (Paper Monument, 2009). He has co-edited books such as Bande à part: On Independent Art Institutions (Mousse, 2021); The Death of the Artist (Cabinet, 2018); Speculation, Now (Duke, 2015); Amie Siegel: Catalogue (Inventory Press, 2014); Draw It With Your Eyes Closed: The Art of the Art Assignment (n+1, 2012); and MATRIX / Berkeley: A Changing Exhibition of Contemporary Art (University of California, 2009).
Prem has lectured and taught in art, design, and curatorial programs internationally, including Barnard College at Columbia University; Berlin Program for Artists; California College of the Arts; Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College; Central Saint Martins; De Appel Curatorial Programme; Eina Idea; HFBK Hamburg; HfK Bremen; Maryland Institute College of Art; Rhode Island School of Design; Parsons The New School for Design; Peter Behrens School of Arts, HSD Düsseldorf; Princeton University; Royal College of Art, London; University of Connecticut Storrs; and Weissensee Kunsthochschule Berlin.
He has served on the Board of Directors and Advisory Boards of non-profit organizations including Eyebeam Rapid Response For a Better Digital Future Fund, MARCH Journal of Art and Strategy, The Contemporary (Baltimore), Triple Canopy, and Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School.
Prem graduated with a B.A. in Fine Art from Yale College in 1999 and was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to Germany the same year.