Mario Schifano (Homs, Libya, 1934 – 1998, Rome)
Made his debut with a show in 1960 at the Salita gallery in Rome, presented by Pierre Restany, with five Roman artists: Angeli, Festa, Lo Savio, Schifano, and Uncini. He attracted the attention of the critics with his monochromatic works that gave the idea of a screen that would later bear numbers, letters, road signs, and the trademarks of Esso and Coca Cola. He signed an exclusive contract with the Ileana Sonnabend Gallery.
In 1962, he travelled to the United States for the first time, and exhibited at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York in The New Realists exhibition. He had personal shows in Rome, Paris and Milan, followed by a return to the United States. The artist became widely recognised by the critics and won several prizes including the Lissone prize (Lissone 1961), the Fiorino prize, and La Nuova Figurazione prize (Florence, 1963).
From 1963, his works were listed in Italian history of art publications, the initial “Paesaggi anemici” presented at the Venice Biennale when he was invited in 1964, followed by works influenced by Futurism. During the same period, he shot some short black and white films, almost always without soundtracks. In 1970, he began his series of TV landscapes; while painting, the artist preferred the use of industrial acrylic and enamel colours because of their capacity to maintain their initial vibrancy and fast drying qualities, which enabled him to paint the image with the same rapidity in which it appeared. In 1971 he showed works at the exhibition: “Vitalità del negativo nell’arte italiana 1960-70”, curated by Achille Bonito Oliva; he began a series of personal exhibitions in Rome, Parma, Turin and Naples, and in 1973, took part in the X Quadriennale in Rome, and in Contemporanea, curated by Achille Bonito Oliva. In 1974, the Palazzo della Pilotta (Salone delle Scuderie) in Parma hosted the first important retrospective of Schifano’s works. In 1976, he was asked to show at the “Europa/America, l’astrazione determinata 1960-76” at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Bologna. In 1978, he returned to the Venice Biennale with his series: “Al mare” and “Quadri equestri”; he was invited to show at “Arte e critica 1980”, at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, and in 1981 was part of the exhibition “ Identité italienne” at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. During this period, he painted his cycles entitled: “Architetture”, “Cosmesi”, “Biplani” and “Orti botanici”. His works were included in the show: “Avanguardia/ Transavanguardia alle Mura Aureliane” in 1982. In 1984, he was again invited to the Venice Biennale and presented his “Naturale sconosciuto” cycle at the Palazzo dei Piombi curated by Alain Cueff. In 1989, he was among the leading figures in the exhibition of 20th Century Italian Art organised by the Royal Academy of London. His personal shows were held at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and at the Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea in Ferrara and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. After ten years of intense, vibrant and sumptuous painting in which he produced some of his most exciting work, in 1990, he inaugurated the re-opening of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome with “Divulgare” from Dante’s “vulgate” in reference to television language. In 1994, he participated in the exhibition: The Italian Metamorphosis, 1943-1968, organised by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; and in 1996, he exhibited in Spain and Latin America in a show entitled: “Musa ausiliaria, omaggio nei confronti della televisione intesa come flusso inesauribile di immagini”. In 1997, he took part in Minimalia held at the Palazzo Querini Dubois in Venice.