Adrian Margaret Smith Piper, born September 20, 1948 is an American conceptual artist and philosopher. Her work addresses ostracism, otherness, racial "passing," and racism. She attended the School of Visual Arts, City College of New York, and Harvard University, where she earned her doctorate in 1981. In the 1970s, Piper began a series of street performances under the title Catalysis, which included actions such as painting her clothes with white paint and wearing a sign that read "WET PAINT"; stuffing a white towel into her mouth and riding the bus, subway and Empire State Building Elevator; and dousing herself in a mixture of vinegar, eggs, milk, and cod liver oil and then spending a week moving around New York's subway and bookstores. The Catalysis performances were meant to challenge what constitutes the order of the social field, "at the level of dress, sanity and the distinction between public and private acts." Piper's Mythic Being series, started in 1973, saw the artist dress in an afro wig and mustache and perform publicly as a "third world, working class, overly hostile male."
Piper received visual arts fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1979 and 1982, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1989. In 1991, she became the first female African American philosophy professor to receive academic tenure in the United States. In 2012, she received the Artist Award for Distinguished Body of Work from the College Art Association. In 2015, she was awarded the Golden Lion for best artist of the 2015 Venice Biennale for her participation in Owkui Enwezor’s central show, “All the World’s Futures”. She currently lives and works in Berlin, where she runs the The Berlin Journal of Philosophy and the Adrian Piper Research Archive.