Mario Schifano: 1960-69

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Mario Schifano has always been considered a rebel genius and one of Italy’s most significant post-war artists. Unlike the majority of Italian artists, however, Schifano produced hundreds of works of art during his artistic career that formally started in the 1950s.

Currently ongoing at Luxembourg & Dayan gallery, London, the show traces the first attempts of the artist in experimenting extensively with media and techniques. In the early 1960s he produced monochromes – canvases in which there is an attitude towards resetting its surface and using neutral colors. He quickly moved into the pure experimentation of mixed media and became close to the American artists dominating the art world in the 1960s.

Art is a form of communication, and it represents the present; such is the fundamental idea that associates Schifano to American artists like Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Roy Lichtenstein. Thus Schifano becomes an icon of Italian art that looks to NY. Nonetheless Schifano’s work cannot be confined to a specific artistic trend. Like a chameleon, he  moved amongst various art movements at different times and across continents.

In contrast to many artists, Schifano has been appreciated by critics and collectors right from the beginning of his career, and his works of art have been always in demand – the value of his works managing to survive a notorious scandal which broke in the 2000s. In the ‘90s, he was forced to produce an enormous quantity of works of art (including lithographies) and it later emerged that a lot of fakes had been introduced to the market owing to his association which a dubious “gallery” which sold his work mainly on TV. According to the contract he signed with this gallery, he had to produce a certain amount of artworks per month, this reduced his creativity to zero.

Nevertheless his genius has always been recognised, collectors kept buying his works – albeit taking greater care when doing so. Therefore it is likely Luxembourg & Dayan has entitled the show Mario Schifano: 1960-69 in order to to restrict the range into a specific period which avoids the controversy of his later work. The 1960s were considered his most fruitful decade of production and more importantly is untainted by the issues which arose from the ‘90s onwards. The gallery highlights also the early provenance of the works – some passing through the hands of legendary dealers like Giorgio Marconi and Ileana Sonnabend – which, for artists like Schifano, makes a huge difference.

by Fausta Maria Bolettieri

All images courtesy of Luxembourg & Dayan

Mario Schifano 1960 – 67  is at Luxembourg & Dayan until August 16, 2014

Luxembourg & Dayan 2  Savile Row, London W1s 3PA
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 1266;

Fax: +44 (0)20 7287 7039