Mario Schifano
Congeniale, 1960
Enamel on paper mounted on canvas
100 x 151 cm
About Mario Schifano is known as Italy’s foremost protagonist of pop art.
A turbulent genius, intolerant of constraints and conventions, he conceived painting as something absolutely primary, outside of any style or tradition.
His work belongs among the artistic currents tied to a new objectivity focusing on the image and impact of the city and the man-made environment in which the relationship with the world is mediated by the mass media (movies, signals, cartoons, advertising).
Using a wide variety of media, ranging from painting to collage, he was fascinated by the ceaseless flow of images that characterise our modern society.
Prolific and exuberant, he worked by thematic cycles producing images destined to become a landmark in contemporay art.

Born in Homs, Libya, in 1934, Mario Schifano moved to Rome in the immediate post-war period. After abandoning his studies, he worked as an assistant to his father, an archaeologist and restorer at the Villa Giulia Etruscan Museum.
He initially painted Informalist-style works, which he exhibited in his first solo show at Galleria Appia Antica in Rome. He subsequently took part with Franco Angeli, Tano Festa, Francesco Lo Savio and Giuseppe Uncini in a group show entitled 5 pittori - Roma ’60, curated by Pierre Restany, which led to critical interest in his work.

Moving away from Informalism, he began to create monochrome works using industrial enamel paint on wrapping paper glued to canvas. In 1961 he won the Lissone Prize for young contemporary painting and held a new solo exhibition at Galleria La Salita in Rome.
After a trip to the United States, where he took part in the New Realism exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York, he began to introduce fragments of urban iconography into his canvases. His work took the form of thematic cycles, from Paesaggi anemici to series dedicated to art history (Futurismo Rivisitato 1966). In 1964 he was invited to the Venice Biennial, and the following year he took part in Studio Marconi’s inauguration show, becoming one of the Studio’s most representative artists. In addition to three new series Ossigeno Ossigeno, Oasi and Compagni compagni, he also made avant-garde films such as Anna Carini vista in agosto dalle farfalle, which he showed at Studio Marconi in 1967.

From 1970, after his political and social commitment during the protest years, he experimented with transferring television images onto emulsified canvas, adding details in industrial enamel paint. He had numerous solo exhibitions and in 1972 exhibited at the 10th Rome Quadrennial. The following year he participated in the Contemporanea exhibition, curated by Achille Bonito Oliva in the Villa Borghese parking lot. In 1974 a vast retrospective was held at Parma University, comprising one hundred works tracing his artistic career.
During these years he returned to revisiting art history, creating works inspired by the masterpieces of the historical avant-gardes; he also embarked on new cycles, among them Quadri equestri, Architettura, Naturale sconosciuto and Reperti.

In addition to organising numerous solo exhibitions in Italy and abroad, he contributed to several editions of the Venice Biennial and was included in the major exhibitions of contemporary Italian art, including Identité italienne (1981), Centre Pompidou, Paris; Italian Art of the XX Century (1989), Royal Academy, London; and The Italian Metamorphosis 1943–1968 (1994), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (which subsequently transferred to the Milan Triennial and the Wolfsburg Kunstmuseum).

The many exhibitions dedicated to him include extensive retrospectives held at the following venues: Galleria Comunale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome (2001); Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome (2008–2009); Galleria Gruppo Credito Valtellinese, Milan; Musée d’art moderne Saint-Etienne Métropole; Castello Pasquini, Livorno (2013); Luxembourg & Dayan gallery, London and New York (2014); Complesso Museale Palazzo Ducale, Mantua (2017); and Mayor Gallery, London (2018).

In addition to these were two important exhibitions organised by Fondazione Marconi: Schifano 1960–1964. Dal monocromo alla strada (2005); Schifano 1964–1970. Dal paesaggio alla TV (2006); Grande angolo per uomini, manifesti e paesaggi (2013), accompanied by the release of the book of the same name edited by the Mario Schifano Archive, and the last, Omaggio a Mario Schifano. Al principio fu Vero amore (2018).
In 2020 Giò Marconi gallery has shown Qualcos’altro, dedicated to a group of monochromes from between 1960 and 1962, curated by Alberto Salvadori and in collaboration with the Mario Schifano Archive.

Among the principal and most recent group shows that have included his work are The World Goes Pop, Tate Gallery, London (2016); Arte ribelle, Galleria Gruppo Credito Valtellinese, Milan, curated by Marco Meneguzzo (2017); and Nascita di una nazione, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, curated by Luca Massimo Barbero (2018).