'The painting is finished. A surface of unlimited possibilities has been reduced to a receptacle into which unnatural colours and artificial meanings are shoved and pressed. Why not empty this receptacle, free this surface, try to discover the unlimited meaning of total space, a pure and absolute light?' (P. Manzoni quoted in G. Celant, Piero Manzoni, exh. cat, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1991, p. 93).
An exceptional example of this groundbreaking and celebrated series, the special nature of Piero Manzoni's Achrome is its outstanding scale, and the depth and density of the thick pleats which define its surface. Covering the entire composition, their sculptural presence and undulation carry a harmonious and meditative poetry which few in this series match. As one of the largest Achromes from this period, the work carries a distinguished provenance having been included in all of the catalogue raisonns of the artists work and having been originally owned by the influential collector Rudolf Scharpff. By removing any trace of an image from works such as this, and even eliminating traces of the paint itself, Achrome marks a turning point in twentieth century art and paves the way for movements such as Minimalism, Conceptualism and Arte Povera. Manzoni developed a prophetic new way of thinking; that painting should abandon representation in favour of materials and medium and that these elements should become the work in its entirety.
Distinguished by its rich concentration of gentle folds, this example of Manzoni's iconic form is remarkable in the quality of the forms on display. At over a meter wide, the impressive scale and large number of pleats that jostle for attention make this example stand apart from its contemporaries and allows it to encompass the full range of aesthetic possibilities. From dynamic swathes of wide and full folds to more delicate, refined forms that complement each other with their refined accents, the imposing scale of this particular example makes it stand out as one of the finest examples of its type. The accumulation of peaks and valleys contained within the body of this specific work creates an unprecedented sense of depth and movement that is captured in the folds of fabric. The dramatic impact of these folds is enhanced by the sheer concentration of their number. Unlike other examples of his Achromes where Manzoni concentrates these forms into a central band across the middle of the composition leaving unpopulated areas at the top and bottom, in this work he allows these folds to occupy the entire surface, increasing the impact and dynamism of the work in the process.
Manzoni's ability to transform the soft, malleable qualities of kaolin and canvas into solid form are unmatched with the history of modern painting. In a similar manner to the Baroque master sculptors, Manzoni possessed the skill of an alchemist as someone who is seemly able to transform one medium into another with such apparent effortlessness and ease. But unlike Bernini, Manzonis creations were not about the artist constructing an object; it was more about the nature of selfdetermination of the material. Like Fontana, Manzoni saw the canvas not as a surface ready to receive an image, but rather as an image itself. Unlike Fontana and Burri however, Manzoni, saw no need for the artist to interfere with this reality at all. Such 'gymnastic' interference by the artist on a surface of unlimited possibilities he declared, only reduced it to a 'kind of receptacle into which unnatural colours and artificial meanings are forced.' 'Why', he argued,' shouldn't this receptacle be emptied? Why shouldn't this surface be freed? Why not seek to discover the unlimited meaning of a total space, of pure and absolute light? It is not a question of shaping things, nor of articulating messages (and one cant resort to extraneous interventions, para-scientific mechanilicalities, psychoanalytic intimacies, graphic compositions, ethnographic fantasies etc.) ... every discipline carries within itself the elements of its solution' (P. Manzoni, 'Free Dimension,' in Azimuth, no. 2, Milan 1960).
Kaolin on pleated canvas
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
Piero Manzoni , 1950s, Paintings, Italy, Post War, abstract
Rome, Primo piano galleria d'arte, Azimuth. Mostra documentaria a cura di lea vergine, 1974-1975 (incorrectly illustrated, unpaged). This exhibition later travelled to Milan, Studio Luca Palazzoli.
New York, Hirschl & Adler Modern, Piero Manzoni, 1990, no. 4, p. 96 (dated 1957; incorrectly illustrated in colour, p. 17).
Tokyo, Akira Ikeda Gallery, Joseph Beuys, Piero Manzoni, Noriyuki Haraguchi, 1992, no. 5, p. 35 (illustrated, p. 21).
New York, Leo Castelli, Sophie Calle 'Blind Color', 1993 (dated 1957).
POST-WAR & CONTEMPORARY ART
27 5/8 x 39 3/8in. (70 x 100cm.)
G. Celant, Piero Manzoni Catalogo generale, Milan 1975, no. 166 cg (incorrectly illustrated, p. 165).
F. Battino & L. Palazzoli, Piero Manzoni Catalogue raisonné, Milan 1991, no. 364 BM (illustrated, p. 278).
G. Celant, Piero Manzoni Catalogo generale, vol. II, Milan 2004, no. 211 (illustrated, p. 425).
Luca Palazzoli, Milan.
Rudolf Scharpf Collection, Weinheim.
Rudolf Zwirner Galerie, Cologne.
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.