Favorite Art Fact File


Martina Tanga, IASblog staff writer

What is one of your favorite artworks?

Piero Manzoni’s Achrome series, 1957-63, varying materials

… . and your favorite detail?

I love the way they are all the same – all white – and yet materially all very, very different. Their texture is quite amazing: some canvases are wrinkled and stretched, other Achromes were made using cotton, bread rolls, and fiberglass. I especially like the fact that Manzoni chose Italian bread, specifically “rosette,” as they are culturally quintessentially Roman.


I first encountered one of Manzoni’s Achromeat the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome when I was about 15 years old. I went to the museum with my then boyfriend – my first love – as a romantic, and culturally educational, excursion. I knew I liked art, but I didn’t yet know I would make it into a career. I remember distinctly standing in front of Manzoni’s “batuffoli” (cotton) Achromeand feeling really interested in what I was looking at. I had never seen an artwork quite like this before; I was intrigued by their strange materiality, their clinical whiteness, and their grid-composition. I recall that this artwork in particular sparked a lively debate between my boyfriend and I over what art is, and what art can be. I found myself vehemently defending the “batuffoli,” and in doing so, I understood something important about myself: that I loved the complexity and intricacy of modern art.

IASBlog (Martina Tanga) explains …

In his brief career, curtailed by his untimely death at the age of 30, Piero Manzoni produced a large number of white, monochromatic paintings known as Achromes. In the first iterations, created in 1957, Manzoni coated the unprimed canvas in Kaolin – fine white clay used in making china – and allowed the material to dry before stretching it on to the frame. He also experimented with pleating the canvas material laterally from edge to edge so as to investigate different textures and compositional elements, while always remaining faithful to the pure white surface. Manzoni wanted the Achromes to represent nothing but their own existence, in their purest simplicity. This action directly charged against Art Infromel’s dark, rubble-like, thick canvas surfaces. Perhaps bored of the textural limits of the canvas material, Manzoni  began experimenting with other matter, and that is how he came to make Achromes out of bread, pebbles, and cotton. He continued the series until his death in 1963. What I like best about this series is that, paradoxically, by extending the materiality of the Achromes to include a whole number of different objects linked to elements of everyday life, Manzoni allows us an unusual access to his idea of “nothingness.”

Achrome, 1958-59, Solomon R. Guggenheim Collection, New York

Achrome, 1958, Tate Collection, London

Achrome, 1961-62, Sperone Westwater, New York

Achrome, 1961, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome

Now it’s your turn. What is your favorite artwork? And your favorite detail of it? Why? Send us your answers by clicking the “Submit” button, and we will feature your favorite in a post.

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