Piero Manzoni

Eumenis Megalopoulos | Apr 9, 2023

Table of Content


Piero Manzoni (Soncino, July 13, 1933-Milan, February 6, 1963) was an Italian artist known for his ironic approach to conceptual art. Manzoni argued that every act and product created by an artist's body is a work of art in itself, whether he produces a painting or his own excrement.

Piero Manzoni di Chiosca e Poggiolo, known as Piero Manzoni, was born on July 13, 1933 in Soncino, Italy, into a noble family. His father, Egisto Manzoni, was the Count of Chiosca e Poggiolo and his mother, Valeria Meroni, also came from a well-known Soncino family.

He began learning to paint in a self-taught way at the age of seventeen. His first works consisted of traditional landscapes and figurative paintings, many of which were later destroyed by the artist himself. He met, thanks to his family's social position, the founding artist of spatialism, Lucio Fontana, in his first years as an adult in Albisola, where Manzoni spent the summer with his family.

After making his first landscape and figurative paintings, he began in the fifties to question academicism and experiment with new materials. He made his debut in 1956 at the "Quarta Fiera Mercato. Mostra d'Arte Contemporanea" with the works Papillon Fox and Domani chi sa. That same year he also participates in the "Premio di Pittura San Fedele" in Milan and in December, together with other artists, he signs the manifesto "Per la scoperta di una zona di immagini".

In 1957, he published the manifesto "Art is not true creation", signed together with Ettore Sordini and Angelo Verga. After visiting an exhibition where he saw the work of Yves Klein, Manzoni created the first piece of his Achromes series of works, works devoid of color inspired by the monochrome of Klein's works. Each of his Achromes was created with different materials and textures such as cotton, straw and plastic, which he referred to as "the living flesh." In October he participated in the "Mostra del Movimento d'Arte Nucleare" with the Nucleare Movement, which he joined through his relationship with Lucio Fontana. This movement, founded in 1951 by Enrico Baj, created art related to the misapplication of nuclear technology.

In 1958 he participates with Lucio Fontana and Enrico Baj in an exhibition called "Fontana, Baj, Manzoni" at the Galleria Bergamo. From April to May the Galleria Pater in Milan dedicates a monographic exhibition to him. In the same year he participates in the publication of the Nucleare Movement newspaper and exhibits with Agostino Bonalumi and Enrico Castellani and several artists members of the Nucleare Movement at the Galleria Pater and the Galleria del Prisma.

In 1959 he exhibited again with Bonalumi and Castellani at the Galleria del Prisma and the Galleria Appia Antica. His works Achromes are so named because they are called "superfici acrome" for the first time in an exhibition at Bar La Parete. In July, he participates in an exhibition of the Zero Group, a group of artists founded by Heinz Mack and Otto Piene who wanted to establish a new concept of art by proclaiming zero hour for post-war German art. Piene described it as "a zone of silence and pure possibilities for a new beginning". This same year he also participates in the exhibition "Dynamo 1". In August, he presents his first Lines ("Linee"), a work he creates by spinning a roll of paper while laying a brush on it, leaving his mark, at the Galleria Pozzetto Chiuso in Albisola Marina. Together with Bonalumi and Castellani he founds the magazine Azimuth, whose first issue was published on the occasion of the Azimut Gallery in Milan, directed by Manzoni and Castellani. ...

With the exhibition at the Azimuth Gallery "La nuova concezione artistica", in 1960, the second and last issue of the Azimuth magazine was published. The exhibition included works by Kilian Breier, Enrico Castellani, Oskar Holweck, Yves Klein, Heinz Mack, Piero Manzoni and Almir Mavignier. He participates in the exhibition "Miniorama 1" together with the T Group, precursors of programmed art and the use of technological devices for the generation of permanent movement, whose members are presented together for the first time in this exhibition. Manzoni presents one of his Líneas on the occasion of this event. The same year he creates his first Cuerpos de aire, a piece consisting of a wooden box, a tripod, a white balloon and a nozzle to inflate it. The balloon could be inflated by the buyer of the kit, of which 45 units were produced, by Manzoni himself. These were exhibited at the Azimuth gallery in May. That same year he created a new work in Copenhagen, in which he signed hard-boiled eggs leaving the impression of his thumbprint impregnated with ink. He continued to develop this work in Milan, with an action called "Consumazione dell'arte dinamica del pubblico divorare l'arte" ("Consumption of dynamic art by the public, devouring art"). In this performance, which lasted seventy minutes, Manzoni boiled eggs which, once hard-boiled, he signed by leaving his thumbprint and gave to the public to ingest. A total of 150 eggs were consumed between the audience and the artist. The ritual action was documented through photographs and videos. This work posed a new relationship between the public and art. In the same vein, he also sold photocopies of his thumbprint.

In 1961, he exhibited with Castellani at the La Tartaruga gallery in Rome, where he created his work Living Sculptures, in which he signed the bodies of people, thus turning them into works of art. Among them were Marcel Broodthaers, Umberto Eco, Emilio Villa and Henk Peeters. Signed attendees received certificates of authenticity.

Piero Manzoni died of a heart attack in his Milan studio in 1963.

Artist's bullshit

Artist's Shit (Merda d'artista in Italian) is the title of a work by the controversial artist, first exhibited on August 12, 1961 at the Galleria Pescetto in Albissola Marina, Italy. It is a scathing critique of the art market, in which the simple signature of a renowned artist produces irrational increases in the price of the work. It consists of 90 cylindrical metal cans five centimeters high and a diameter of six and a half centimeters containing, according to the label signed by the author, Mierda de artista. Net content: 30 grams. Preserved in the natural state. Produced and packaged in May 1961. This text is written on the side of each of them in several languages (English: Artist's Shit, French: Merde d'artiste, Italian: Merda d'artista, and German: Künstlerscheiße). All of them are also numbered and signed at the top.

They were put up for sale at the same value that thirty grams of gold then had, and today their price reaches four and five digit figures in euros, on the few occasions that any of them go on sale or auction, reaching the highest figure at an auction in Milan, with 275,000 euros.

More than thirty years after the author's death, his friend Agostino Bonalumi revealed that the cans contain only plaster, in an article published by the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera. However, it seems that none of them have been opened, as doing so would seriously diminish their value, so speculation about their contents continues.

Some of the cans are in renowned art galleries. These include the Museu d'Art Contemporani in Barcelona, the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, the TATE Gallery in London and the MOMA in New York.

The Lines

The Lines (Linee in Italian) are a collection of 68 works created between 1959 and 1961. In this work, Manzoni drew continuous lines on rolls of paper that varied in size, and were then sealed inside cardboard tubes that showed the signature and length of the piece. The lines varied in length, with the shortest being 1'76 meters and the longest being 7200. The work was sealed, and it was the artist's intention that it should never be opened. Despite this, the strips are still occasionally unrolled when exhibited. The viewer could not see the work directly, only imagine it. The piece most representative of the concept of this series is Linea di lunghezza infinita ("Line of infinite length"), a wooden cylinder containing a line that exists only as a concept. This piece shows Manzoni's conceptual side, clearly parodying the state of art and giving it a paradoxical value.

The exceptional length lines were a continuation of the same collection in which the lines took on larger dimensions, the largest being 7,200 meters, and were contained in metal cylinders to be buried in some of the most prominent cities in the world. Unfortunately, Manzoni passed away before completing this project that had predetermined to make several lines of great lengths that, when put together, would go around the world.


  1. Piero Manzoni
  2. Piero Manzoni
  3. ^ Grove Art Online, Arte Povera,
  4. a b c d e «Piero Manzoni». Arte Informado. Consultado el 9 de diciembre de 2019.
  5. ^ Lorenza Delucchi, Elena Manzoni: «Vi racconto mio fratello Piero», su milano.mentelocale.it. URL consultato il 7 febbraio 2013 (archiviato dall'url originale l'8 aprile 2013).
  6. ^ Gianluigi Melega, Manzoni e la fabbrica dei concetti, su archiviostorico.corriere.it (archiviato dall'url originale il 26 giugno 2015).
  7. Groupe Nucleaire (it)

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