Santiago Sierra was born in Madrid (Spain) in 1966, where he still lives and works.
After graduating in Fine Arts from the Complutense University of Madrid, Santiago Sierra completed his artistic training in Hamburg, where he studied under professors F. E. Walter, S. Brown and B. J. Blume.
His beginnings are linked to the alternative artistic circuits of the Spanish capital - El Ojo Atómico, Espacio P - although he will continue to develop most of his career in Mexico (1995-2006) and in Italy (2006-2010). His work has always had a great influence on literature and art criticism. Sierra's work seeks to reveal the perverse networks of power that inspire the alienation and exploitation of workers, the injustice of labor relations, the unequal distribution of wealth produced by capitalism, the deviance of work and money, racial discrimination in a world marked by unidirectional migratory flows (south-north).
By revisiting and reworking some strategies that characterize the minimalist, conceptual and performative art of the Sixties and of the Seventies, Sierra interrupts the flows of capital and goods (Obstruction of Freeway With a Truck's Trailer, 1998; Person Obstructing a Line of Containers, 2009); he hires workers to reveal their precarious conditions (20 Workers in a Ship's Hold); he explores the mechanisms of racial segregation derived from economic inequalities (Hiring and Arrangement of 30 Workers in Relation to Their Skin Color, 2002; Economical Study of The Skin of Caracans, 2006); and he refutes the stories that legitimize a democracy based on state violence (Veterans of the Wars of Cambodia, Rwanda, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq Facing the Corner, 2010-2012; Los encargados, 2012).
In 2010, he received the Spanish National Award for Plastic Arts but he publicly rejected it by claiming his independence from a state which shows "contempt for the mandate to work for the common good”. In 2018, Sierra included a portrait of Carles Puigdemont into the exhibition “Contemporary Spanish Political Prisoners”, in Madrid. It was ordered to be removed on February 23, 2018. In 2020, Sierra invited First Nations peoples, from places colonized by the British empire, to donate blood for the artwork Union Flag; the “Dark Mofo” festival cancelled plans to show the work after a backlash led by Indigenous Australian artists.