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Piero Manzoni
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    (July 13, 1933-February 6, 1963)
    Born in Soncino, Italy
    Birth name was Meroni Manzoni di Chiosca e Poggiolo
    Conceptual artist
    Works include:
    ’Achromes’ (1957-62): initially blank canvases coated in gesso or kaolin; later Achromes were made with white wool, cotton, fiberglass and rabbit fur
    ’Consumption of Art by the Art-Devouring Public’ (1960): he hard-boiled 70 eggs, placed his thumbprint on them, ate several, then handed out the remaining eggs to the audience to eat
    ’Declarations of Authenticity’ (1961): he would sign his name on people’s bodies, then hand them certificates designating them as works of art
    ’Artist’s Shit’ (1961): 90 numbered and sealed tins, each weighing 30 grams, allegedly containing Manzoni’s excrement
    He was a count.
    He gave into parental pressure and studied law, but dropped out of school.
    His work tends to inspire the reaction ‘You call that art?’ (Or, for one particular work, ‘You call that shit art?’)
    He was prone to pretentious commentary, such as calling his Achromes ‘a single uninterrupted and continuous surface from which anything superfluous and all interpretative possibilities are excluded.’ (Translated into in laymen’s terms: ‘It is all white.’)
    Each ‘Artist’s Shit’ can initially sold for $37 ($1.12 per gram), the same price as gold. (So he literally thought his shit was worth its weight in gold.)
    A rumor claims that the ‘Artist’s Shit’ tins actually contain lumps of plaster, but no one knows for sure, since opening the tin would ‘ruin’ the artwork.
    He was a self-taught artist. (Probably not a surprise.)
    A lot of his work was intended to satirize the marketing of art, especially the idea that anything with an artist’s signature is a work of art.
    ’Artist’s Shit’ was allegedly inspired by his father telling him, ‘Your work is shit.’
    If you had been around in 1961 with $37 to invest, ‘Artist’s Shit’ would have been a much better choice than gold: tin 54 sold at auction for £182,500 (October 16, 2015), when the same weight of gold would have sold for £806.
    He died of a heart attack brought on by overwork at the young age of 29.
    His death certificate was signed by fellow artist Ben Vautier, who declared it a work of art. (We’re sure he would have wanted it that way.)

Credit: C. Fishel

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