Despite his short career, Piero Manzoni (1933‒1963), who died an early death at the age of twenty-nine, is regarded as one of the most momentous representatives of Italian art after 1945. Manzoni would have celebrated his eightieth birthday on 13 July 2013.
The retrosperctive Piero Manzoni. When Bodies Became Art, on the ground floor of the Städel in Frankfurt, highlights the radical character of the artist’s multifaceted position: Manzoni not only submitted Duchamp’s concept of the ready-made to a far-reaching revision, but also thought central discourses of Modernism like monochromy through to the end and opened painting into the fields of the everyday world and commodity aesthetics. With works like Merda d’artista – (allegedly) 30 grams of artist’s shit in a strictly limited edition – or Socle du monde (Base of the World, 1961) – a pedestal elevating the world to an artwork – Manzoni created two icons within the more recent history of art. More than one hundred works from all phases of Manzoni’s productive career will offer complex insights into a still persuasive and influential oeuvre between Art Informel and the emergence of a new concept of art, Modernism and neo-avant-garde, art and the everyday world.
Piero Manzoni was born the son of Valeria Meroni and Egisto Manzoni, Count of Chiosca and Poggiolo, in Soncino, Lombardy, on July 13, 1933. He began to study law in 1951 and philosophy in 1955, when he also presented his first solo exhibition
in Soncino. This was about the time he got to know artists of the CoBrA group, of the “Spatialist” movement around Lucio Fontana, and finally the “Arte Nucleare” group he joined in 1957. It was in Rotterdam where he presented his first solo show abroad in 1958. One year after, Manzoni founded the Azimut Gallery in Milan together with Enrico Castellani. The dato Gallery was the first to exhibit his work in Frankfurt in 1961. At the age of twenty-nine, Piero Manzoni died from a heart attack in his studio in Milan.
Manzoni’s still unbroken influence on contemporary art production will be illustrated in the exhibition by works of the artists Erwin Wurm (b. 1954), Leni Hoffmann (b. 1962), and Bernard Bazile (b. 1952), which – offering an essayistic introduction to the show ‒ explore central dimensions of Manzoni’s oeuvre regarding their relevance to the present.
Piero Manzoni: When Bodies Became Art is accompanied by a catalogue, available in German or English, edited by Martin Engler and published by Kerber Verlag. With contributions by Germano Celant, Martin Engler, Massimiliano Gioni, Dominique Laporte, Franziska Leuthäußer, and Francesca Pola.
Städel Museum Website
Please click here for a Culturekiosque art exhibition review of Piero Manzoni.