"No need to say anything: just being". Piero Manzoni.
"Artist's Shit. Contents 30gr net freshly preserved produced and tinned in May 1961."
Piero manzoni, Artist's Shit n°8.
Thinking about the Artist's Shit we wonder what is the meaning behind Piero Manzoni’s provocative work: a series of ninety cans, all numbered and priced by weight based on the price of gold. The content remains an enigma, since opening them would destroy the artwork value. Manzoni’s production call into question the very nature of the art object.
"It is a joke, a parody of the art market, and a critique of consumerism and the waste it generates." Stephen Bury
Piero Manzoni, 1961. Photo: Ole Bagger.
Piero Manzoni came from a wealthy family: he was born in Soncino and grew up in Milan, spending his holidays at Albisola Capo, in Liguria,where his parents used to meet Lucio Fontana, the founder of
Spatialism. This place has been very influential in his training as self-thaught artist. Piero Manzoni had his first debut at the age of 23, at the ‘Fiera Mercato’ in Soncino’s Castle, in 1956. Soon he joined Movimento Arte Nucleare, founded by Enrico Baj, taking part tothe exhibition at Galleria San Fedele: at this time his works depicted anthropomorphic silhouettes and imprints of ordinary everyday objects.
Manzoni’s work changed radically after visiting Yves Klein’s exhibition ‘Epoca Blu’ in 1957 at Galleria Apollinaire, in Milan: he started creating the series Achromes (1957-1963) which consisted of a simply white textured surface covered with rough plaster or impregnated with kaolin. These works responded directly to Klein’s monochromes and represented a true "total space"repeatable to infinity, and infinitely unresolved.
Achromes would be realized with differentmediums dueto his continuous research on different materials.
Piero Manzoni, Achrome, approx. 1959 , kaolin on canvas.
Piero Manzoni, Achrome, 1961/62, bread and kaolin.
“Paintings are and will always be magical objects, almost religious. But gods are ever-changing, and they evolve as much as society does. Every moment is a new step, a new civility that is born. The artist represents this new human condition herald. He discovers new totems and taboo whose age has the semen but not yet the consciousness."
Piero Manzon. Photo: Giovanni Ricci.
Piero Manzoni’s works are interpreted as a critique of consumerism and economic progress that was changing Italian society after the II World War, as well as an ironic reference to the willingness of the art market to buy everything signed: everything touched by the artist changed into a work of art. Even if he was a self-taught artist he had a very clear idea on how he wanted to be as an artist: he shared with Jean Dubuffet the conception of the artistic process as a pure and spontaneous impulse.
"Very often we hear of people not understanding contemporary art, claiming they only love the art of the past. This derives from a fundamental misunderstanding of the very meaning of art itself, and we can be sure that those people do not understand ancient art, neither that of their time. Comprehending a painting or a work of art does not mean understanding its subject, but assimilating its meaning."
In 1959 he founded the Gallery Azimut with Enrico Castellani and they edited the first issue of ‘Azimuth’, an avant-garde magazine; his work became more radical when he came into contact with Zero Group: he staged a series of revolutionary exhibitions where he presented works such as ‘Linee’ (1959-1961) each one drown on a paper roll of various lengths and put in black cylindrical cardboard cases, and ‘Corpi d’aria’, an edition of balloons set on tripods (Fiato d’artista, 1960).
Piero Manzoni, Line of infinite lenght, 1960.
“You are invited on July 21 at 7 p.m., to visit and directly cooperate to the consumption of Piero Manzoni's works.”
Manzoni makes fun of art collectors contrasting the mith of the “work of art”. In 1960 he held the show ‘Consumption of Art by the Art-Devouring Public’ where 70 boiled eggs authenticated by the artist’s thumbprint were offered to the audience to eat: an “art devouring project” that expressed a mystical communion with art.
Consumption of Art by the Art-Devouring Public, n°16, 1960. Egg, ink, cotton wool and wood, 5,6x6,8x8,2 cm. Private Collection.
In 1961 he conceived a new series of works where human bodies were transformed in ‘living sculptures’. In the same year he carried his most shocking gesture by selling 90 cans of artist shit each one weighting 30gr.
Died at 29, he directly influenced the work of a generation of younger Italian artists with his ironic approach to the avant garde art. ‘Socle du monde’ can be consider his last artwork: an upside down ‘magic base’ made of iron which supports the entire world and transforms in a work of art everything on it.
Piero Manzoni, Living sculpture, 1962.
"There is nothing to say: there is only being, there is only living."