Born in 1938 in Istanbul, Turkey, Sarkis has been living and working in Paris since 1964.
Sarkis studied French, painting and interior design before moving to Paris in 1964. In 1967, he won the Biennale of Paris Painting Prize. The same year, Sarkis exhibited Connaissez- vous Joseph Beuys ? at the Salon de Mai in reference to the German artist he considers to be the most important of our time. In 1969, he was invited by art critic Harald Szeemann to take part in the now famous exhibition When attitudes become form at the Kunsthalle of Bern. Since he also deeply cares about transfer of knowledge, he ran the art department of the School of Decorative Arts of Strasbourg from 1980 to 1990, and worked as a seminar director at the Institut des Hautes Etudes en Arts Plastiques (IHEAP) created by Pontus Hulten from 1988 to 1995.
His work has been exhibited in prestigious international institutions among which the Pompidou Center (France), the Guggenheim Museum (USA), the Istanbul Modern (Turkey), the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art (France), the Kunst-und-Ausstellungshalle of Bonn (Germany), the Louvre (France), the Bode Museum (Germany), the Kunsthalle of Bern (Switzerland), and the Kunsthalle of Düsseldorf (Germany). His work was also featured in major art events like the Documenta VI and VII (Germany), the Venice Biennale (Italy) and the Biennales of Sydney (Australia), Shanghai (China), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Moscow (Russia) and Istanbul (Turkey). In 2015, he represented Turkey at the 56th Venice Biennale, and took part in the exhibition held at the pavilion of the Republic of Armenia, which won the Golden Lion.
In France, Sarkis has enjoyed many major solo shows notably at the Chapelle de la Visitation (Thonon-les-Bains) in 2019, at the Musée de Fécamp (Fécamp) and at the Couvent des Cordeliers (Toulouse) in 2018, at the Petit Palais (Paris) in 2016, at the Musée du Château des Ducs de Wurtemberg (Montbéliard) in 2015 and 2014, at the Château d'Angers in 2012, at the Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire in 2011, at the Centre Pompidou (Paris) in 2010, 1993 and 1979, the Bourdelle Museum, the Louvre Museum and the Maison Rouge (Paris) in 2007, the Picasso Museum (Paris) in 2003, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Lyon, the Museum of Modern Art of Céret, the ENSBA of Paris in 2002, the CAPC-Bordeaux in 2000 and 1976, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary, art of Strasbourg in 1998 and 1988, the Fine Arts Museum of Nantes in 1997, the Magasin de Grenoble in 1991, the ENSA of Limoges in 1986, the New Museum of Villeurbanne in 1985, the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1984, the Museum of Art and Industry of Saint-Etienne in 1974, the Galliera Museum (Paris) in 1973, and the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art in 1970 with Christian Boltanski.
In Passages, the exhibition held at the Centre Pompidou in 2010, Sarkis opened a dialogue with the works of Kasimir Malevich, the wall of Andre Breton's studio as well as the work Plight by Joseph Beuys, one of Sarkis's tutelary figures-along with filmmaker Andreï Tarkovski, which movie the artist revisited in Brancusi's studio.
These works allude to the artist's KRIEGSSCHATZ (war treasure) and consist of found objects: artworks or ethnographic objects from various civilizations. In 2011, the MAMCO of Geneva held a major retrospective show of his work entitled Hôtel Sarkis. This four-stories exhibition gathered 200 pieces from 1971 to 2011 and gave an overview of the artist's wide range of practices, deepening the impact of a work full of echoes to other creators. Invited by the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum of Rotterdam in 2012, he exhibited Ballads in the 5000m2 of the Submarine Wharf, was showcased by the Château de Chaumont sur Loire, the same year - in response to a commission from the Région Centre - and during the Intense Proximité Triennial of the Palais de Tokyo. In 2013, Sarkis took part in When attitudes become form, Bern 1969/Venice 2013 on the occasion of the 55th edition of the Venice Biennale at the Prada Foundation. He presented Passages Croisés en or at the Castle of Angers; was invited to exhibit his Frise de Guerre at the MONA - Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania, and took part in Ici, Ailleurs on the occasion of Marseille - Provence, European Capital of Culture, as well as to the Modernity? Perspectives from France and Turkey exhibition held at the Istanbul Modern. In 2014, he exhibited at the Huis Marseille Museum voor Fotografie of Amsterdam. His works were featured at the CIAC, the MNAC and the National Museum of the Romanian Peasant in Bucharest (Romania) at the same time as a monographic exhibition was held at the Museum du Château des ducs de Wurtemberg (Montbéliard). In 2015, he represented Turkey at the Venice Biennale and took part in Armenity at the Pavilion of the Republic of Armenia, which won the Golden Lion. He also enjoyed a monographic exhibition at the Boghossian Foundation of Brussels, and exhibited at the MAXXI in Rome. In 2016, his work was showcased at the Grand Palais, the Singapore Museum, the Muba Tourcoing and the CaixaForum of Barcelona in addition to a monographic exhibition at the Zacheta Museum of Warsaw in 2017. In the summer 2018, the Pêcheries, Musée de Fécamp has invited him for its reopening. In 2019, the historical installation of Les Magiciens de la Terre (Centre Pompidou, 1989) was shown at the ARTER Foundation Koc, Istanbul after his solo show at the Chapelle - art contemporain, Thonon les Bains.
Sarkis's works are featured in many internationally-renowned public collections in France and abroad, such as the Landes Museum (Germany), the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum (Netherland), the MAMCO (Switzerland), the Museu Serralves (Portugal), the Istanbul Modern (Turkey), the ZKM (Germany); the Pompidou Center, the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of the Castle of the Dukes of Württemberg, the Museum of Modern Art of Saint-Étienne, the Museums of the City of Strasbourg, the CAPC of Bordeaux, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Lyon, the MAC/VAL, the Fine Arts Museum of Nantes, the LAM, the Castle of Chaumont-sur-Loire, the IAC of Villeurbanne/Rhône-Alpes, the FRAC of Loire, Poitou- Charentes, Brittany, Alsace, Auvergne, Lorraine, Aquitaine, Franche-Comté, Languedoc-Roussillon, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Ile-de-France, the CNAP as well as the Departmental Collection of Seine-Saint-Denis (France).
Sarkis has been represented by la Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels, since 2011.