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June 1, 2013

Piero Manzoni Retrospective, Stadel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany

Large  Piero Manzoni Retrospective: Piero Manzoni. When Bodies became Art
Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Germany
June 26 - September 22, 2013

Despite his short career, PIERO MANZONI (1933-1963), who died an early death at the age of twenty-nine, is regarded as one of the most consequential representatives of Italian post-war art. The artist would have celebrated his eightieth birthday on July 13, 2013. The Städel will pay tribute to this key figure of the European avant-garde after 1945 with its exhibition Piero Manzoni. When Bodies Became Art to mark the occasion exactly fifty years after the artist’s death. The extensive show will be the first Manzoni retrospective ever to be staged in the German-speaking world and the first comprehensive presentation of his oeuvre in a museum outside Italy for more than two decades. The exhibition, on display from June 26 to September 22, 2013 in the Städel Museum, will highlight the radical character of the artist’s multifaceted position. More than one hundred works from all phases of Manzoni’s career will offer complex insights into a still persuasive and influential oeuvre between Art Informel and the emergence of a new concept of art, Modernism and neo-avant-garde, art and the everyday world. 

Photo by Ennio Vicario
PIERO MANZONI (1933-1963)
Ritratto di Piero Manzoni nel suo studio, 1958
Piero Manzoni dans son atelier de la Via Fiori Oscuri, 1958
Piero Manzoni in seinem Studio in der Via Fiori Oscuri, 1958
Photo by © Ennio Vicario

“Though Piero Manzoni acted as the central hub of the cross-Europe ZERO network and, as a breathtaking innovator of the concept of art, strikes us hardly less avant-garde today, he is far less known than his ZERO colleagues in these parts. This is why we focus not only on the complexity of his oeuvre created within only a few years, but also on its enormous influence on the paradigm change in the field of art in the 1960s,” says Max Hollein, Director of the Städel Museum. 

“Piero Manzoni is no less than one of the pioneers of today’s art, who influenced Body Art, Performance Art, Conceptual Art, and Land Art in equal measure,” emphasizes Dr. Martin Engler, Head of the Städel’s Contemporary Art Collection and curator of the show.  

The exhibition begins with early works by Piero Manzoni, presented together with a selection from some of his contemporaries’ production, like that of Lucio Fontana or Yves Klein. Piero Manzoni’s Achromes, or colorless pictures, represented in the exhibition with about fifty examples, are certainly to be regarded as the central group of works within his oeuvre. Piero Manzoni’s “white” painting, defined by the absence of color, takes a special position in the context of the international ZERO movement and its turn toward monochromy: Piero Manzoni saw his Achromes as paintings in spite of their ultimate reduction on the one hand, yet extended them by everyday elements, the body, and space on the other. In creating them, he did without any direct artistic gesture. Employing unpainterly “white” materials such as gesso or kaolin, synthetic fibers, and Styrofoam, he relied on means with sculptural qualities and thus initiated a transition process from the picture to a third, corporeal dimension. 

A selection from Corpi d’aria (Bodies of Air) and Fiato d’artista (Artist’s Breath), two series Piero Manzoni produced in 1959/60, confronts us with works oscillating between object and concept: the balloons, filled with the owner’s or Manzoni’s breath, related to a body discourse that anticipated the 1970s and was also reflected in other works by the artist like in the performance Consumazione dell’arte (Consumption of Art, 1960), in which he marked hard-boiled eggs with his thumbprint and offered them to the audience to eat. 

Photo by Ennio Vicario
PIERO MANZONI (1933-1963)
Ritratto di Piero Manzoni nel suo studio, 1958
Piero Manzoni dans son atelier de la Via Fiori Oscuri, 1958
Piero Manzoni in seinem Studio in der Via Fiori Oscuri, 1958
Photo by © Ennio Vicario

The provocative impact of Piero Manzoni’s probably best known group of works, Merda d’artista (Artist’s Shit, 1961), is still unbroken even five decades after the artist’s death: thirty grams of the artist’s feces in compact cans, which, priced by weight based on the current value of gold, were offered for sale on the art market. This series is to be understood as a logical consequence of Manzoni’s art consumption performances: the body becomes a medium for the intake and production of art. The outcome is a circle of organic art production which, in its absurd logic, passes comment on the expectations of the art market. 

Also including Piero Manzoni’s Sculture viventi (Living Sculptures, 1961), which declare bodies to be art by signature or by means of a pedestal, the exhibition highlights an approach appropriating man as a live work of art: Manzoni’s concept involved the viewer as an actor and opened the door for the Actionist Art of the 1960s and 1970s. 

The presentation of three contemporary positions ‒ Erwin Wurm (*1954), Leni Hoffmann (*1962), and Bernard Bazile (*1952) ‒ provides an essayistic introduction to the show in the foyer of the exhibition building, a foreword exploring central dimensions of Manzoni’s oeuvre regarding their relevance to the present. 

PIERO MANZONI. WHEN BODIES BECAME ART 
Curator: Dr. Martin Engler, Head of the Contemporary Art Collection, Städel Museum 
Research assistant: Franziska Leuthäußer, Städel Museum 
In collaboration with Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milan 

Catalogue: The exhibition will be accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue edited by Martin Engler and published by Kerber Verlag. With contributions by Martin Engler, Germano Celant, Massimiliano Gioni, Francesca Pola, Dominique Laporte, and Franziska Leuthäußer, 300 pages 

Opening hours: Tuesday, Friday to Sunday 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday 10:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. 

Information: www.staedelmuseum.de

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