Piene was born in Laasphe, Westphalia, Germany in 1928, and he lives and works in Düsseldorf, Cambridge, and Groton, Massachusetts. From 1948 to 1953 he attended the Blocherer Art School and studied painting at the Academy of Art in Munich and the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf. Piene graduated with a philosophy degree from the University of Cologne in 1957 the year ZERO was founded With Günther Uecker , Heinz Mack and Mattijs Visser. After serving as a Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in 1964, Piene became the first Fellow of the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) from 1968 to 1971, during which he coined the term Sky Art for large outdoor sky/light projects, such as Olympic Rainbow for the 1972 Munich Olympics. In the same year, Piene became Professor of Environmental Art at MIT. From 1974 to 1994, he was director of the CAVS. Pienes solo exhibitions include retrospectives at the Kunstmuseum im Ehrenhof (Düsseldorf, Germany, 1996) and at the Prague City Gallery (Prague, Czech Republic, 2002), and a show at the Museum am Ostwall (Dortmund, 2008-2009). In 2008, Piene presented a Sky Event during Nuit Blanche in Paris.