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    Sale 2167

    Post War and Contemporary Evening Sale

    13 May 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 38

    Piero Manzoni (1922-1963)


    Price Realised  


    Piero Manzoni (1922-1963)
    kaolin on canvas
    39½ x 29½ in. (100 x 75 cm.)
    Painted in 1958-1959.

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    Discarding all concepts of poetry, Piero Manzoni swept into the art world with a refreshing and completely new iconography. Eliminating image and figuration, expression and feeling, Manzoni instead created his Achromes, stark, minimalist works in which even color was absent. There is no artistic meddling, no mediation from the artist. Manzoni presented the viewer with a post-Nuclear tabula rasa, a free zone devoid of all association; the viewer could then contemplate the most fundamental, universal grounds of not just painting, but of existence itself.

    The notion of the tabula rasa is central to the present work, and indeed all of Manzoni's Achromes. The lack of drawing and artistic contribution removes any sense of autobiography. Manzoni essentially removed all the vestiges of representation in order to create something. He later explained, "the difficulty lies in freeing oneself from extraneous details and useless gestures; details and gestures that are polluting the customary art of our day" (P. Manzoni, quoted in Ibid., p. 76). Manzoni has achieved this freedom, creating an art form that is not hampered by specific associations, but is instead a window into fundamental elements common to all humanity and to all creation: "Art is not a matter of hedonism, but of bringing to light preconscious universal myths and reducing them to an image. Art therefore is not a descriptive phenomenon, but a scientific process of foundation" (P. Manzoni, quoted in Ibid., 1998, p. 69).

    Achrome was created using kaolin on canvas. Kaolin was a substance that Manzoni considered essentially colorless, that allowed him to remove from the equation an entire level of potentially self-defeating information, a pitfall of specificity. Because of its thickness, kaolin takes time to set. It has more in common with clay than paint, which again illustrates Manzoni's refusal of artistic tradition. He has deliberately pleated the kaolin-soaked canvas, leaving it to dry, a process that has created a miniaturized version of geological processes of land formation. The kaolin has interacted with the elements in order to dictate its own final form, the artist having removed himself at an early stage. The inner energy of the work has led to its own creation. In this way, Manzoni minimized his participation in the creation of the work, allowing it to become instead a direct product of physics, of the Earth. Entire aspects of human creation have been eschewed as a refutation of traditional art forms and the role of the artist, and also to harness something truly fundamental in the Achrome series.


    Galleria dell'Ariete, Milan
    Private collection, Donnini
    Beatrice Monti, Milan
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

    Pre-Lot Text



    F. Battino and L. Palazzoli, eds., Piero Manzoni, Catalogue Raisonné, Milan, 1991, p. 79, no. 367 (illustrated in color).
    G. Celant, Piero Manzoni, Catalogo Generale, vol. II, Milan, 2004, p. 431, no. 254 (illustrated in color).


    Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art; Tokyo, Museum of Contemporary Art; Tottori, Yonago City Museum of Art; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art and Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Arte Italiana 1945-1995: Il Visibile e L'invisibile, November 1997-November 1998, p. 44, no. 8 (illustrated in color).