Works by César at Sotheby's
César was a French sculptor and leading member of the 20th-century art movement Nouveau Réalisme. He experimented with scale and material, compressing and compacting metal or pieces of automobiles into compact sculptures, or producing large foam sculptures of miniature creatures, insects, and animals. He experimented with the commercial aesthetic of common objects and materials, producing a synthesis of John Chamberlain’s aesthetic with Pop Art’s obsession with the culture of commodity. In addition to mining everyday objects for artistic value, his works question the implications of mass production.
The artist was born César Baldaccini in 1921 in Marseille, France, to Italian parents. He completed a traditional, academic education at the École des Beaux Arts, but quickly turned to soldering or welding unconventional materials of scrap iron and discarded metal into sculptures of surprising and bold chromatic juxtapositions. He joined the Noueaux Réalistes group, which included Armand Fernandez and Pierre Restany, and beginning in the 1960s, he began experimenting with plastics, molten crystal and polyurethane, which expands after it is set in place.
His first solo exhibition was at the Galerie Lucien Durand in 1954, and he has since had many exhibitions around the world at institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Tate, London; César represented France at the 1995 Venice Biennale. César’s works can be seen in outdoor public spaces, including his Flying Frenchman, a bronze sculpture installed outside the Hong Kong Cultural Center, his Pouce, a large-scale bronze of his own thumb, installed at La Defense in Paris, and his own grave-marker, which he designed himself for the Cemetery of Montparnasse. César was appointed Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur in 1978, and promoted to Officier in 1993.