David Medalla (b. 1942) is a Filipino international artist. His work ranges from sculpture and kinetic art to painting, installation and performance. He lives and works in London and Berlin.
Born in Manila, Medalla moved at the age of 14 to New York where he was admitted as a special student at Columbia University on the recommendation of American poet Mark van Doren. There, he studied ancient Greek drama with Moses Hadas, modern drama with Eric Bentley, literature with Lionel Trilling, philosophy with John Randall and attended the poetry workshops of Léonie Adams. In New York, David met the american actor James Dean and the filipino poet José Garcia Villa who encouraged Medalla’s early interest in painting. In the late 1950s he returned to Manila and met the poet Jaime Gil de Biedma and the painter Fernando Zóbel who became the earliest patrons of his art.
In the early 1960s he moved to the United Kingdom and co-founded the Signals Gallery in London in 1964, which presented international kinetic art. He was editor of the Signals news bulletin from 1964 to 1966. In 1967 he initiated the Exploding Galaxy, an international confluence of multi-media artists, significant in counterculture circles, particularly the UFO Club and Arts Lab. From 1974 to 1977 he was chairman of Artists for Democracy and director of the Fitzrovia Cultural Centre, both in London. In 1994 he founded the Mondrian Fan Club in New York with Adam Nankervis, and in 2000 the London Biennale, the idea for which occured to him while he was on a boat en route to Robben Island, off Cape Town, South Africa, during the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale in 1998.
Medalla’s work was the subject of the solo exhibition Anywhere in the World, curated by Guy Brett, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in 2005. His work was included in the Harald Szeemann–curated exhibitions Weiss auf Weiss (1966) and Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form (1969) at the Bern Kunsthalle, and in DOCUMENTA 5, Kassel (1972).
Important group exhibitions featuring the artist’s work include How Art Became Active: 1960 to Now at Tate Modern (2016); Other Primary Structures at The Jewish Museum, New York (2014); Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making 1789-2013, Tate Liverpool (2013–14); Thresholds, TRAFO, Szczecin (2013); When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/Venice 2013, Fondazione Prada, Venice (2013); Une exposition parlée, Jeu de Paume, Paris, France (2013); Migrations, Tate Britain, London (2012); À la vie délibérée, Une histoire de la performance sur la Côte d’Azur de 1951 à 2011, Villa Arson, Nice, France (2012); Art at the 60s: This Was Tomorrow, Tate Britain, London (2004); Happiness–A Survival Guide for Art and Life, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2003); Pulse: Art, Healing and Transformation at The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2003); Century City, Tate Modern, London (2001); Force Fields: Phases of the Kinetic at the Museu D’Art Contemporani de Barcelona and the Hayward Gallery, London (2000); Century City at the Tate Modern, London (2001); Live in Your Head: Concept and Experiment in Britain 1965-75 at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2000) and the Museu do Chiado, Lisbon (2001); Micropolitiques at Le Magasin, Grenoble (2000); Force Fields at the Hayward Gallery, London (2000); Out of Actions: Between Performance and the Object, 1949–1979 at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and MAK, Vienna (1998), and Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (1999); Transforming the Crown: African, Asian and Caribbean Artists in Britain 1966–1996 at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (1997); Live/Life at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1996) and the Centro Cultural do Belem, Lisbon (1997); L’Informe at the Centre Pompidou, Paris (1996); FluxAttitudes at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1992); and The Other Story, curated by Rasheed Araeen at the Hayward Gallery, London (1989).
The artist participated in the 8th Asian Pacific Triennale, Brisbane (2015); the 9th Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre (2013); the 16th Sydney Biennial, Sydney (2008); Performa 07, New York (2007); and the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale (1998). His is currently participating in the 57th Venice Biennale (2017).
Medalla has lectured at many international institutions and universities including the Sorbonne, the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art of New York, Silliman University and the University of the Philippines, the Universities of Amsterdam and Utrecht, the New York Public Library, Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Canterbury, Warwick and Southampton in England, and the Slade School of Fine Art, London.
Medalla has won awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Jerome Foundation of America. In 2016, he was shortlisted for the inaugural Hepworth Prize for Sculpture.