Piero Gilardi makes comeback complete with retrospective at Nottingham Contemporary

By Mark Sheerin | 05 March 2013

Exhibition Preview: Piero Gilardi - Collaborative Effects, Nottingham Contemporary, until April 7 2013

Black and white photo of marchers on a demo costumed in giant heads
Performance during a protest against a nuclear power plant in Caorso, Italy, 1983© Courtesy Piero Gilardi and http://www.nottinghamcontemporary.org/
Art may just be the one job at which you cannot quit. Marcel Duchamp famously tried it, but was later revealed to be making art at the same time he was playing chess.

And Italian Piero Gilardi gave it a good go. But some 15 years after giving up sculpture in the late 1960s, he was back. Now you can see how and why in Nottingham.

For starters there are his Nature Carpets, natural landscapes painted and carved out of stone. These proved so popular with collectors that his gallerists pressured him to refrain from making anything else. But at the time Gilardi was part of the anti-commercial Italian movement known as Arte Povera.

During his long art-world sabbatical and exile from Italy, Gilardi spent his time writing about culture and society, rather than intervening with his sculpted pieces of the natural world.

He also organised street theatre and factory protests; he lived with native Americans on a reservation and stayed for extended periods of time in Nicaragua and Kenya.

His comeback in 1985 heralded perhaps the most interesting part of his career. From here on in, the Italian worked collaboratively with engineers and scientists. He sells off much loved Nature Carpets to raise money for new media projects and bio-art experiments.

Perhaps most impressive of all is the art centre he founded in Turin, bringing large scale public artworks by Dominique Gonzales-Foerster and Lara Almarcegui to a predominantly working class district.

Given the interest of his later work, perhaps more artists should leave the profession for a while. An interesting life doesn’t always make for interesting art, but in Gilardi’s case it has indeed.
  • Admission free. Open 10am – 7pm Tuesday to Friday (until 6pm Saturday and Sunday 11am-5pm).
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