By Matthew Whyte

Meroni Manzoni di Chiosca e Poggiolo, better known as Piero Manzoni, was born on 13 July 1933 in Soncino in the province of Lombardy. Associated with the avant garde and Arte Povera, the conceptual artist and painter provoked questions about the definition of art by using nontraditional materials (such as animal fur and human excrement) in his work. Manzoni’s work is often seen as interacting with the innovations of Marcel Duchamp, deconstructing traditional associations of art objects with notions of beauty and skill. Works such as Artist’s Shit question the nature of art in the commodity culture taking hold of Italy after World War II. Manzoni’s interpretation of products of the artist’s body reinvents Duchamp’s ‘readymade’, arguing with irony for the inherent value of objects produced by an artist.

Manzoni died at the age of 30 on 6 February 1963 in Milan after suffering a heart attack.

Reference: Freddy Battino and Luca Palazzoli, Piero Manzoni: Catalogue Raisonné, Milan:  all’Insegna del Pesce d’Oro-Scheiwiller, 1991.

Piero Manzoni with artwork.

Artist’s Breath, 1960, Tate Gallery, London.

Artist’s Shit, 1961, first exhibited in Galleria Pescetto, Albissola Marina.

(Images: Wikipedia Commons)

Further Reading: Germano Celant, Piero Manzoni, New York: Skira, 1972.

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