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PROPERTY OF AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE ITALIAN COLLECTOR

Piero Manzoni
ACHROME
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600,000800,000
LOT SOLD. 850,000 GBP
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37

PROPERTY OF AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE ITALIAN COLLECTOR

Piero Manzoni
ACHROME
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Artist's Resale Right
Purchase of lots marked with this symbol will be subject to the payment of the artist's resale right.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
600,000800,000
LOT SOLD. 850,000 GBP
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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Piero Manzoni
1933 - 1963
ACHROME
pebbles and kaolin on canvas
48 by 40 cm. 18 7/8 by 15 3/4 in.
Executed circa 1962.
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Provenance

Galleria Notizie, Turin
Marcello Levi Collection, Turin
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the 1970s

Exhibited

Milan, Palazzo Reale, Piero Manzoni 1933-1963, March - June 2014, p. 141, no. 111, illustrated in colour

Literature

Germano Celant, Piero Manzoni: Catalogo Generale, Milan 1975, p. 267, no. 6 s, illustrated

Freddy Battino and Luca Palazzoli, Piero Manzoni: Catalogue Raisonné, Milan 1991, p. 422, no. 888 BM, illustrated

Germano Celant, Piero Manzoni: Catalogo Generale, Vol. I & II, Milan 2004, p. 364 (Vol. I) and p. 545 (Vol. II), no. 1027, illustrated

Exh. Cat., Naples, Madre Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, Piero Manzoni, May - September 2007, p. 342, no. 401, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

“Why not empty [the] recipient? Why not liberate the surface? Why not attempt to discover the limitless significance of total space? Of pure and absolute light?”

Piero Manzoni, ‘Free Dimension’, in: Azimuth, No. 2, 1960, n.p.

A mesmeric whiteness ebbs and flows over the unsteady surface of Piero Manzoni’s Achrome, circa 1962. The work comes from a series of paintings by the same name, initiated by the artist in 1957 and characterised by a monochromatic expanse of whiteness and highly textured surfaces that are entirely absent of both colour and narrative. Noted for his departure from traditional materials, Manzoni experimented with a plethora of unconventional, quotidian and, at times, controversial objects, ranging from straw, polystyrene and bread rolls, to rabbit fur, gravel and even human excrement. Working in an era dominated by Abstract Expressionism and Art Informel, Manzoni sought to dislocate the painted surface from the hand of the artist, envisaging instead a pictorial language befitting of his contemporary moment. “It is not a question of shaping things, nor of articulating messages,” he asserted in 1960, “For are not fantasising, abstraction and self-expression empty fictions? There is nothing to be said: there is only to be, to live” (Piero Manzoni cited in: Exh. Cat., London, Serpentine Gallery, Piero Manzoni, 1998, p. 134).

A cacophony of form protrudes from the present work and the eye is drawn in by the pulsating rhythm of its pictorial plane. Its compositional irregularity and rough, uneven exterior creates a compelling interplay of light and shadow which flits across its façade like an electric charge. Manzoni created this painting by saturating pebbles in liquid kaolin (china clay), before leaving them to dry. Such a self-determining process enabled Manzoni to distance his own subjectivity from the final product, fabricating a work devoid of either brushstroke or personal mark; devoid too of representation or symbolic significance. Born in Soncino, Italy, in 1933, Manzoni’s brief yet illustrious career was tragically cut short by his premature death in 1963. Widely seen to have anticipated the birth of Conceptual art, Manzoni was to influence a generation of younger artists from Jannis Kournellis to Maurizio Cattelan through his radical corpus of work. Marked by an ironic approach to avant-garde art, his Achromes playfully allude to Italy’s economic boom after the Second World War, with its soaring demand for mass production and burgeoning consumer culture. By employing a technique of monochrome abstraction, as exemplified by the stark white seriality of the present work, Manzoni paved the way for a visual syntax which emphasised surface, repetition and materiality over depth, singularity and meaning. In both title and composition, Achrome self-reflexively constitutes a metaphysical blank that points to nothing beyond its own immediate existence.

Striving to challenge, reassess and re-evaluate the individuality of the artist in a post-war world, Manzoni founded the pioneering art journal ‘Azimuth’ in Milan in 1959, alongside his contemporary Enrico Castellani. Propagating an elemental art based solely on the concepts of light, space and time, the two artists looked not to illusory representation but rather to a tautological and physical presence. Concerned with neither the metaphorical nor the figurative world, Manzoni looked to embody within his art what he termed “A white that is not a polar landscape, not a material in evolution or a beautiful material, not a sensation or a symbol or anything else: just a white surface that is simply a white surface and nothing else (a colourless surface that is just a colourless surface). Better than that: a surface that simply is: to be (to be complete and become pure)” (Piero Manzoni, ibid., p. 27). Certainly, in Achrome’s undulating and hypnotic surface, this raw and primal purity is majestically achieved.  

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London