Mario Schifano was an Italian artist, born on September 20, 1934, in Homs, Syria, the son of an archaeologist responsible for the excavations at Leptis Magna in Libya. After an apprenticeship at the Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia, he made his debut in 1960 with an exhibition at the La Salita Gallery in Rome, presented by Pierre Restany, titled “Five Roman painters: Angeli, Festa, Lo Savio, Schifano, Uncini.”
From the outset, Schifano attracted the interest of critics with his monochromatic paintings, which conveyed the idea of a photographic screen and would later incorporate numbers, letters, road signs, and the logos of Esso and Coca-Cola. This innovative style earned him an exclusive contract with the American gallerist Ileana Sonnabend. During the 1960s, Schifano held solo exhibitions in Rome, Paris, and Milan, and received his first recognitions, including the Lissone Prize in 1961 and the Fiorino Prize and La Nuova Figurazione in Florence in 1963. In 1962, he exhibited at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York in the show “The New Realists” and ended his collaboration with Ileana Sonnabend.
His interest in Italian art history and Futurism began to emerge in his works, and in 1964, he presented his first “Anemic Landscapes” at the Venice Biennale. During this period, he also began creating experimental short films in black and white on 16mm film. In the following years, Schifano participated in numerous international exhibitions and collaborated with a psychedelic rock group called “Le stelle di Mario Schifano,” creating one of the first multimedia live shows in Italy.
Around 1966-1967, Schifano started creating series such as “Oxygen Oxygen,” “Allstars,” “Oasis,” and “Companions, companions.” In 1967, he presented the feature film “Anna Carini seen in August by butterflies” at the Studio Marconi in Milan. His interest in contemporary history and his civic commitment led him to an ideological and identity crisis, which led him to declare his intention to abandon painting. However, his love for art drove him to continue his career, experimenting with new techniques and styles. His works were characterized by the use of innovative technologies and new materials, such as the emulsion photographic technique to transfer television images onto canvas.
Mario Schifano died at the age of 63 on January 26, 1998, of a heart attack in his studio in Trastevere, Rome.