the exuberant art of the cursed…
Born in Libya in 1934, Mario Schifano moved to Rome as a young child and lived there until his death in 1998. Artist, provocateur, filmmaker and rock musician, Schifano epitomized “la dolce vita.”
Early in his career he worked as a restorer, which led to his making his own paintings, which he began exhibiting in 1959; by 1961 he had signed a contract with Ileana Sonnabend and had shown collectively with Twombly and Rauschenberg.
As part of the historic 1962 “The New Realists” show at New York’s Sidney Janis Gallery, Schifano exhibited with fellow Romans Tano Festa and Mimmo Rotella, along with Warhol, Lichtenstein, Oldenburg, Dine and Segal. In 1964, his work was presented at the Venice Biennale.
This artistic exchange between both sides of the Atlantic fomented what is now known as the “Scuola Romana,” which has been shown by critics and artists alike to have been a prescient movement of its own, independent from American art.
Rome’s eclectic energy and august antiquity were the perfect background for this creative revolution. A vital presence in the Roman art scene, Schifano’s longtime drug habit brought police persecution and numerous arrests, a circumstance that led the artist to refer to his career as “maldoto,” or cursed.
Schifano and his contemporaries, Franco Angeli and Tano Festa, are still little known to American audiences. Andrea Franchetti, art collector, Tuscan winemaker and close friend of the artist, remembers, “Schifano was a very prolific and exuberant artist who did a lot for everyone. At the time the work was made, it was a consolation and a stimulus to see.” This is still true.
“UMANO NON UMANO” 1972 directed by Mario Schifano