Considered one of the greatest contemporary sculptures Mitoraj has become famed for his classicist aesthetic, inspired by ancient Greek and Roman art, which he fuses with a postmodern malaise. Exploring ravaged fragments of classical figures, decapitated and ruptured anatomies, bandaged heads and distressed surfaces, Mitoraj potently combines the surreal with the mythological and historical, highlighting the transitory nature of beauty. Indeed this notion of broken beauty was to be his constant muse. Using fragmentation Mitoraj explored the paradox of the human condition, examining the search for perfection and the inevitable discovery of imperfection. Mitoraj visualised the imperfection of human nature by deliberately damaging or cracking the surface of his works. This can be seen in Annunciazione, where a wrapped bandage covers the face of one of the figures, while the other figure’s head has been dismembered and cracked, so that only half of her face and breast is intact. Mitoraj explained his preoccupation with beauty, stating, ‘The idea of beauty is ambiguous, a double-edged sword that can easily hurt you, causing pain and torture. My art is an example of this dichotomy: mesmerising perfection attached to corrupted imperfection’.
Mitoraj’s works can also be seen as a commentary on ‘contemporary suffering’, his bound or blindfolded heads in particular highlighting the plight of man. Mitoraj looked to ancient culture, inspired by the mystical and yet simultaneously religious, sensual and humane qualities they imbued. Referencing the damage inflicted on antiquities by the passing of time, Mitoraj explored the contemplation of time, reflecting on the fleeting character of life. His works can also be seen to contain a social consciousness; distressed by the abandonment and neglect of the ancient art he witnessed in Italy his fragmented sculptures attempt to raise awareness for the heritage of Ancient Roman and Greek art.
Conceived in a striking blue patina, Annunciazione, is one of the finest examples of Mitoraj’s work, which although executed on a smaller scale than some of his other pieces, still displays the same visually arresting power and energy of his larger, monumental statues. The theatricality of the work, echoes his early tutelage under the celebrated Polish painter and theatre director Tadeusz Kantor, at the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts, who encouraged him to go to Paris, where Mitoraj enrolled at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts.
Since the early success of his first solo exhibition at the Krzysztofory Gallery in Kraków in 1967, Mitoraj has found increasing recognition for his work, exhibiting extensively across Europe and America in the 1980s and 1990s, holding major exhibitions at places, such as the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield (1992), La Défense, Paris (1997), Boboli Gardens, Florence (1999), the Tuillerie Gardens, Paris (2004), the Trajan Markets, Rome (2004) and famously at The Valley of the Temples, Agrigento (2011), where 17 of his fragmented bronze sculptural figures were exhibited among the Greek archaeological ruins. Mitoraj has participated in a number of well-known British projects, which include his evocative installation at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire in 2009, where his Eros Bendato Screpolato (Eros Blindfoled and Craked), laid on its side, was set in the grounds and his striking Testa Addormentata (Head Lulled to Sleep), 1983, now on display in Canary Wharf. During the 1990s Mitoraj formed a fruitful collaboration with the independent curator James Puttman who arranged the display of his bronze Tsuki-No-Hikari (Moonlight) in the British Museum show Time Machine, to critical acclaim. Mitoraj’s works are also held in the collections of the Coca-Cola Foundation, Atlanta, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield and Mitoraj received the Golden Medal for Merit to Culture - Gloria Artis in 2005 and the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta in 2012.