Peter Halley was born in New York City. He received his BA from Yale University and his MFA from the University of New Orleans in 1978, remaining in New Orleans until 1980. Since 1980, Halley has lived and worked in New York.
For over twenty-five years, Peter Halley's geometric paintings have been engaged in a play of relationships between what he calls "prisons" and "cells" – icons that reflect the increasing geometricization of social space in the world in which we live.
Halley has had one-person museum exhibitions at the capc Musee d'Art Contemporain, Bordeaux (1991), the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (1992), the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1992), the Des Moines Art Center (1992), the Dallas Museum of Art (1995), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1997), the Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art (1998), the Museum Folkwang, Essen (1998), and the Butler Institute of American Art (1999).
His work has been exhibited in galleries in Chicago, London, Madrid, Moscow, New York, Paris, Rome, Seoul, and Tokyo.
Since the mid-1990s, Halley has produced site-specific installations for exhibitions and as permanent public works. These projects have been realized at the State University of New York, Buffalo (1998), the city library in Usera, Spain (2002), the Banco Suisso d’Italia Art Collection, Turin (2003), and the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas (2005). In 2008, he completed a large permanent installation for the Gallatin School at New York University.
Halley has also written on art and culture throughout his career. His early essays, which address post-structuralism, post-modernism, and the digital revolution of the 1980s, have been anthologized in two books of collected writings. In 2001, he received the Frank Jewett Mather Award from the College Art Association in the U.S. for his critical writing.
From 1996 to 2006, Peter Halley published index magazine, which featured in-depth interviews with creative people. He has taught at Columbia University, UCLA, and the School of Visual Arts. Halley was Director of Graduate Studies in Painting and Printmaking at the Yale University School of Art from 2002 to 2011.