Piero Manzoni

  • Born 1933 in Soncino, Italy
  • Died 1963 in Milan, Italy

Piero Manzoni, a largely self-taught artist, made his earliest paintings at age seventeen. By the time he first exhibited his work—in a group show in his hometown in 1956—he had already begun to experiment with anthropomorphic silhouettes, multiple imprints of everyday objects, and the use of tar instead of paint. In 1957 he took part in the exhibition Movimento Arte Nucleare (Nuclear Art Movement) in Milan. Inspired by a series of monochrome blue works by the new realist artist Yves Klein (1928–1962), Manzoni created his first “Achromes” (1957)—colorless canvases with dimensional layers of gesso, clay, or kaolin. For later “Achromes” he used cotton wadding, wool, fiberglass, rabbit skin, and even bread rolls. In 1958 he began his collaboration with Enrico Castellani and Agostino Bonalumi, cofounding an art gallery, Azimuth. From the late 1950s onward, Manzoni’s art became more conceptual. In works like Artist’s Breath, Artist’s Shit , Sculpture Eggs, Magic Bases, and Living Sculptures (all from 1960–61), he explored the ironic and critical role of the artist, and questioned the dynamics of the art market and its object-bound mechanisms.