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German artist Otto Piene dies, aged 86

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BERLIN (AP) - German artist Otto Piene, known for his colorful paintings and gigantic open-air sculptures, has died at age 86.

Piene died suddenly on Thursday, shortly after the opening of his exhibition "More Sky" at Berlin's Neue Nationalgalerie museum. His death was confirmed Friday by Markus Farr, a spokesman for the group Friends of the Neue Nationalgalerie that helped organized the exhibit.

Germany's Minister for Culture Monika Gruetters called Piene one of the last great founding fathers of postwar modern art.

"Many of his highly aesthetic works in public space were also a signal against the inhospitality of our cities," Gruetters said in a statement. "By making light and movement a topic of many of his objects and installations, he pointed out new ways for the fine arts."

Piene was born 1928 in Bad Laasphe in western Germany and studied at the academies of fine arts in Munich and Duesseldorf. Together with fellow artist Heinz Mack he founded the influential European post-war movement Group Zero in 1957. They tried to break the traditional boundaries of the fine arts by experimenting with light, air, movement, fire and metal.

In 1974 Piene was appointed director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Advanced Visual Studies. He retired in 1993.

His work has been exhibited in more than 100 galleries and museums worldwide and was shown at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.

Piene had been making final preparations for Saturday's Sky Art Event - an open-air performance at the museum with inflatable, illuminated plastic sculptures.

"In accordance with the wishes of the artist's family the Sky Art Event will take place" as planned, Farr said.

The German news agency dpa said Piene's body would be buried in the United States, where Piene had lived for many years in Groton, near Boston.

Piene is survived by his wife and children, Farr said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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