Piero Manzoni

Renowned for his satiric avant-garde practice, Piero Manzoni’s brief career was one of the most radically innovative of the 20th century. Manzoni challenged traditional methods of artmaking, calling notions of artistic genius and sovereignty into question.

Inspired by Yves Klein’s blue monochromes, which he saw in Milan in 1957, Manzoni began to create his seminal Achrome series (1957–63), a group of artworks made from gesso, cotton wool, kaolin-soaked canvas and other colourless materials. Exceptional examples of the Achromes can command millions at auction.

Anticipating conceptual art, the Achromes set the tone for the rest of Manzoni’s practice, establishing a complex, playful dialogue with the status of the art object. Prefiguring the Arte Povera generation of young Italian artists brought together by critic Germano Celant in 1967, his works offered a quiet critique of Italian society after World War II, referencing the mass production and consumerism that was flooding the nation at the time.

Manzoni adopted unconventional materials to make radical conceptual statements. His series Fiati d’Artista (Artist’s Breaths) (1960) was a group of balloons which were inflated by the artist; his Sculture Viventi (Living Sculptures) (1961) saw him sign his name on the bodies of nude models at the Galleria La Tartaruga in Rome. Perhaps most infamous was his Merda d’Artista (Artist's Shit) (1961), an edition of 90 30-gram cans containing the artist’s excrement, each valued at the market price of gold.

In Milan in 1959, Manzoni co-founded Galleria Azimut with Enrico Castellani. Run with the help of their mentor Lucio Fontana, the space opened with an exhibition of Manzoni’s Linee (Lines), a series of drawings comprised of a single line along a length of paper, each of which had been signed by the artist, rolled up, and sealed within a labelled cardboard tube. An extension of their avant-garde journal Azimuth, Galleria Azimut provided an experimental space for young artists, mounting 13 shows in its eight-month lifespan. For the final exhibition, Manzoni showcased his Consumption of Art by the Art-Devouring Public (1960), in which he distributed hard-boiled eggs marked with his thumbprint to gallery visitors.

Manzoni’s prolific career would culminate in his sudden death from a heart attack, aged 29, in 1963.

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)

Merda d' artista

PIERO MANZONI (1933–1963)

Linea m 6,98 (Line m 6,98)

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)

Merda d'artista