Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VA… Read more PIERO MANZONI "There comes a point where individual mythology and universal mythology are identical". (P. Manzoni, quoted in G. Celant, Piero Manzoni, exh. cat., Paris, Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris 1974, p. 16). More interested in art strategies than art forms, Manzoni's combination of acrid irony and unorthodoxy of content labelled him as a precocious exponent of Conceptual art. An artist that continues to shock forty years after his death, an enfant terrible of his own time, Manzoni left behind him a legacy that opened up avenues of artistic possibility for subsequent generations. Responding to a Jungian view of life as being a series of responses to and interactions with a collective unconscious shared by all mankind, Manzoni sought to define a universal ideal for artistic creation, to reveal art as absolute self-resemblance. Emphasising a certain primacy of the body and its humours, Manzoni's cerebral oeuvre offers traces of his existence as works of art. His choice to exhibit breath, faeces and fingerprints produces a continuous mass of signs, be they two-dimensional like Impronte or three-dimensional like Fiato d'artista. Working in the three-dimensional, Manzoni created forty-five Corpi d'aria, pneumatic sculptures that can be inflated by the purchaser, stored until they time in a wooden box. In his fist use of a body product, Manzoni created Fiati d'artista, cheap ballons which he inflated himself. Sealed and affixed to a wooden base, Fiato d'artista demonstrates Manzoni's desire to capture and immobilize energy, to provide a presence for the specific nature of art. Aspiring to give value to the body, to its fragments and residues, Manzoni produced ninety tins of Merde d'artista, weighing thirty grams each. Sold by weight for the equivalent of the day's price in gold, the cans and their product become aligned with the most recognised kind of valuation in existence and through this commercialism comment on the cult of personality in the Western art market. An indice of the body, they function on the same level as Uovi, eggs signed with the artist's thumbprint which were handed out to visitors of the Consumazione dell'Arte exhibition. Intended for the audiences' consumption, the eggs stand for a union with art and stamped with the artist's thumbprint, a convergence of the artificer with the supreme body of the artefact. In this exaltation of the body and its products no precedence is given to any one emission. For Manzoni, no incompatibility exists between mind and stomach, body and soul, between the outflow of excreta and the outflow of a Linea. Although limited in their extent, Linee were created as individual parts of a larger whole, intended in their completion to stretch around the circumference of the world. While Manzoni's untimely death in 1963 ensured that the ultimate goal for Linea remained unrealised, the conceptual project underlying them stands as testament to Manzoni's attempt to define a universal ideal for artistic creation.
Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)

Merda d'artista no. 077

Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
Merda d'artista no. 077
signed and stamped with the number 'Piero Manzoni 077' (on the lid of the tin)
sealed tin and paper label
1 7/8 (4.8cm.) high
2½in. (6.5cm.) diameter
Executed in 1961
Manzoni Collection, Milan.
B. A. Collection, Milan.
G. Celant, Piero Manzoni catalogo generale, Milan 1975, no. 077 (another example illustrated, p. 212).
F. Battino and L. Palazzoli, Piero Manzoni catalogue raisonné, no. 1 (another example illustrated, p. 472).
London, Serpentine Gallery, Piero Manzoni, February-April 1998 (illustrated in colour, p. 202).
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