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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
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Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)


Piero Manzoni (1933-1963)
signed and dated 'PIERO MANZONI '59' (on the reverse) and again 'PIERO MANZONI '59 (on the stretcher)
kaolin on squared and folded canvas
25½ x 19 5/8in. (65 x 50cm.)
Executed in 1959
A gift from the artist to the present owner in 1959.
F. Battino & L. Palazzoli, Piero Manzoni. Catalogue raisonné, Milan 1991, no. 493 B (illustrated, p. 309).
A. Ponente, 'Manzoni' in Dizionario della pittura e dei pittori, Turin 1992, pl. 56.
G. Celant, Piero Manzoni Catalogo generale, vol. II, Milan 2004, no. 289 (p. 437, and illustrated in colour, p. 105, vol. I).
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Please note the work is:
signed and dated 'PIERO MANZONI '59' (on the reverse) and again 'PIERO MANZONI '59' (on the stretcher).

Lot Essay

Executed in 1959, Achrome presents a grid of rough squares which have been rendered in kaolin on canvas. There is no representation-- indeed Manzoni has even selected a medium which was to his belief colourless, hence the name Achrome (as opposed to 'monochrome'), creating the artistic equivalent of a tabula rasa. This colourless colour and content-free content is accentuated by the genesis of the Achrome itself: Manzoni has used panels of canvas soaked in kaolin and has allowed them to set slowly, a process that resulted in their moving around and ultimately defining their own appearance. In this way, Achrome is a product more of the forces of nature and the forces of the work's constituent parts themselves than of the artist. In contrast to the personal outpourings that characterised the art of many of Manzoni's contemporaries in Europe and the United States, here the artist has removed himself from the equation, distancing himself from the act of creation as well as from any content. Instead, he has created a realm of infinite potential, a lowest common denominator that through its own non-specificity manages to become universal.

Discussing the power and intention behind the Achromes, the qualities that lend them their unique sense of objecthood, Manzoni explained that they provide:

"a surface completely white (integrally colourless and neutral) far beyond any pictorial phenomenon or any intervention extraneous to the value of the surface. A white that is not a polar landscape, not a material in evolution or a beautiful material, not a sensation or a symbol or anything else: just a white surface that is simply a white surface and nothing else (a colourless surface that is just a colourless surface). Better then that: a surface that simply is: to be (to be complete and become pure)" (Manzoni, quoted in G. Celant, Piero Manzoni, exh. cat., Milan & London 1998, p. 27).

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