Piero Manzoni

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photo of Manzoni, c. 1960-62

Piero Manzoni (July 13, 1933 – February 6, 1963) was an Italian artist; best known for his ironic and independent approach to avant-garde art. Often his art is compared to the work of Yves Klein. He had a lot of influence on the later Italian w:Arte Povera and the w:Zero artists.

Quotes of Piero Manzoni[edit]

sorted chronologically, after date of the quotes of Piero Manzoni
Manzoni, 1960: 'Linea Lunga 7200 metri / Long line of 7200 meters', ink on paper, cylinder covered with lead sheets (66 x 96 x 96 cm); quote of Manzoni, 1961 : 'I should like all artists to sell their fingerprints, or else stage competitions to see who can draw the longest line or sell their shit in tins..'
Manzoni, 1961: 'Artist Shit', his own poo, in a can; - quote of Manzoni, c. 1961: 'I sell an idea, an idea in a can'
dedicated to Piero Manzoni, 1993; quote of Manzoni, 1960: 'When I blow up a balloon, I am breathing my soul into an object that becomes eternal.'
  • ..a single uninterrupted and continuous surface from which anything superfluous and all interpretative possibilities are excluded. [referring to his 'Achromes', Manzoni started to make in 1957]
  • When I blow up a balloon, I am breathing my soul into an object that becomes eternal. [Manzoni's quote of 1960, referring to his art-work 'Artist's Breath']
    • In: 'Piero Manzoni', exhibition catalogue, Serpentine Gallery, London 1998, p.144
  • I should like all artists to sell their fingerprints, or else stage competitions to see who can draw the longest line or sell their shit in tins. The fingerprint is the only sign of the personality that can be accepted: if collectors want something intimate, really personal to the artist, there's the artist's own shit, that is really his.

'For the Discovery of a Zone of Images', Piero Manzoni, 1957[edit]

Quotes of Manzoni, from: 'For the Discovery of a Zone of Images', Piero Manzoni, Spring 1957, in 'Azimuth'; reprinted in 'Piero Manzoni', Tate Gallery, London, 1974
  • The work of art has its origin in an unconscious impulse that springs from collective substrata of universal values common to all men, from which all men draw their gestures, and from which the artist derives the 'archaic' of organic existence. Every man of his own accord extracts the human element from this base, without realizing it, and in an elementary and immediate way.
    • pp. 16-17
  • Where the artist is concerned it is a question of the conscious immersion in himself, through which, once he has got beyond the individual and contingent level, he can probe deep down to reach the living germs of total humanity. Everything that is humanly communicable is derived from this, and it is through the discovery of the psychic substrata that all men have in common that the relationship of author-work-spectator is made possible. In this way the work of art has the totemic value of living myth, without symbolic or descriptive dispersion: it is a primary and direct expression.
    • pp. 16-17
  • The foundations of the universal value of art are given to us now by psychology. This is the common base that enables us to sink its roots to the origins before man and to discover the primary myths of humanity. The artist must confront these myths and reduce them, by means of amorphous and confused materials, to clear images. Since these are atavistic forces that have their origins in the subconscious, the work of art takes on a magical significance.
    • pp. 16-17
  • The key point today is to establish the universal validity of individual mythology.. .The artistic moment is therefore that in which the discovery of pre-conscious universal myths comes about, and in the reduction of these into the form of images. It is clear that if the artist is to be able to bring to light zones of myth that are authentic and virginal he must have both an extreme degree of self-awareness and the gifts of iron precision and logic.
    • pp. 16-17
  • To arrive at such a discovery, fruit of a log and precious education, involves a whole field of precise technique. The artist must immerse himself in his own anxiety, dredging up everything that is alien, imposed or personal in the derogatory sense, in order to arrive at the authentic zone of values.
    • pp. 18-19
  • So it is obvious that at first glance there would seem to be a paradox: the more we immerse ourselves in ourselves, the more open we become, since the closer we get to the germ of our totality the closer we are to the germ of totality of all men. We can therefore say that subjective invention is the only means of discovering objective reality, the only means that gives us the possibility of communication between men
    • pp. 18-19
  • There comes a point where individual mythology and universal mythology are identical. In this context it is clear that there can be no concern with symbolism and description, memories, misty impressions, of childhood, pictoricism, sentimentalism: all this must be absolutely excluded. So must every hedonistic repetition of arguments that have already been exhausted, since the man who continues to trifle with myths that have already been discovered is an aesthete, and worse.
    • pp. 18-19
  • Abstractions and references must be totally avoided. In our freedom of invention we must succeed in constructing a world that can be measured only in its own terms. We absolutely cannot consider the picture as a space onto which to project our mental scenography. It is the area of freedom in which we search for the discovery of our first images. Images which are absolute as possible, which cannot be valued for that which they record, explain and express, but only for that which they are to be.
    • pp. 18-19

'De Tweede Helft', Ad de Visser, 1998[edit]

Quotes from: De Tweede Helft, Ad de Visser, 1998, SUN, Nijmegen, Netherlands, 1998 (transl. Fons Heijnsbroek)
  • Why not to set free these forms? Why not trying to uncover the infinite meaning of absolute space, the meaning of pure and absolute light? [Manzoni is referriung to the colourless, but still matter-made art paintings, made by Zero artists, around 1950-60]
    • p. 159
  • I would like to draw a white line covering the complete Greenwich meridian.
    • p. 160
  • You [=Yves Klein ] are the 'monochrome bleu' and I am the 'monochrome blanc'; we should start to cooperate together, we two. [Manzoni's remark, during their first meeting]
    • p. 161
  • You [Dutch Zero-artist, Henk Peeters] take the North of Europe, I'll take the South. Switzerland will be our neutral zone where we shall have our common exhibition. (Manzoni's reaction when Henk Peeters accused him of plagiary]
    • p. 161

Quotes about Piero Manzoni[edit]

  • Manzoni's critical and metaphorical reification of the artist's body, its processes and products, pointed the way towards an understanding of the persona of the artist and the product of the artist's body as a consumable object. The 'Merda d'artista' (the artist's shit, dried naturally and canned 'with no added preservatives'), was the perfect metaphor for the bodied and disembodied nature of artistic labour: the work of art as fully incorporated raw material, and its violent expulsion as commodity.
    • Quote of Jon Thompson, in Piero Manzoni, Germano Celant, Jon Thompson, Anna Costantini, Serpentine Gallery; London: Serpentine Gallery and Published Milano: Charta, 1998, p. 45
  • Manzoni understood the creative act as part of the cycle of consumption: as a constant reprocessing, packaging, marketing, consuming, reprocessing, packaging, ad infinitum.
    • Quote of Jon Thompson, in Piero Manzoni, Germano Celant, Jon Thompson, Anna Costantini, Serpentine Gallery; London: Serpentine Gallery and Published Milano: Charta, 1998, p. 45
  • Manzoni's first 'Lines' made in April 1959 marked the beginning of his experiments with highly cerebral works which led away from painting and which entitle him to be regarded as a precursor of Conceptual art.. .At least 50 'Lines' were made between April and December 1959, varying in length from 0.78 meters to 33.63 meters. Then his longest 'Line' measuring 7,200 meters was made on a newspaper printing press at Herning in Denmark on 4 July 1960 and was enclosed in a large cylindrical container made of lead-iron. It was buried in the ground so that it might eventually be discovered one day by chance, but in fact has since been dug up. Finally he made two 'Lines' 1,140 and 1,000 meters on 24 July 1961 which have been put into polished steel containers, with engraved inscriptions. Though several of these lines have been exhibited unrolled, the general intention was that the containers should remain unopened.
    • Quote of Ronald Alley, in 'Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists', Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.479-80
  • In May 1961, while he was living in Milan, Piero Manzoni produced ninety cans of Artist's Shit. Each was numbered on the lid 001 to 090. Tate's work is number 004. A label on each can, printed in Italian, English, French and German, identified the contents as '"Artist's Shit", contents 30gr net freshly preserved, produced and tinned in May 1961.' In December 1961 Manzoni wrote in a letter to the artist Ben Vautier: 'I should like all artists to sell their fingerprints, or else stage competitions to see who can draw the longest line or sell their shit in tins. The fingerprint is the only sign of the personality that can be accepted: if collectors want something intimate, really personal to the artist, there's the artist's own shit, that is really his.' (Letter reprinted in 'Battino and Palazzoli', p. 144)

External links[edit]

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