Francesco Clemente

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Francesco Clemente
'Water and wine', gouache on paper by Francesco Clemente 1981.jpg
Water and Wine, gouache on paper, 1981,
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Born (1952-03-23) March 23, 1952 (age 62)
Naples, Italy
Nationality Italian
Field Painting, Drawing
Training Architecture, University of Rome

Francesco Clemente (born in Naples March 23, 1952) is an Italian contemporary artist. Influenced by thinkers as diverse as Gregory Bateson, William Blake, Allen Ginsberg, and J Krishnamurti, the art of Francesco Clemente is inclusive and nomadic, crossing many borders, intellectual and geographical. Dividing his time between New York and Varanasi, in India, he has adopted for his paintings a vast variety of supports and mediums, exploring, discarding, and returning to oil paint, watercolor, pastel, and printmaking. His work develops in a non linear mode, expanding and contracting in a fragmentary way, not defined by a style, but rather by his recording of the fluctuations of the self, as he experiences it. The goal is to embrace an expanded consciousness, and to witness, playfully, the survival of the ecstatic experience in a materialistic society.


Clemente is a painter whose work spans four decades. His work is stylistically varied, inclusive, erotic and nomadic. It embraces diverse mediums and diverse cultures as well, aiming at finding wholeness through fragmentation and witnessing the survival of contemplation and pleasure in our mechanical age.

Clemente's work is rooted in political utopia and expresses an anti materialistic stance. In the 1970s he moved from photography to drawing and anticipated the return to painting of the 1980s.

Clemente's work is nomadic. In the 1980s he divided his time between India and New York. While briefly associated with Neo Expressionism he took an interest in collaborative works both with Indian craftsmen and with painters like Basquiat and Warhol, and poets like Creeley and Ginsberg in New York. In an interview with The Brooklyn Rail, Clemente commented "these poets had been looking at the East for inspiration and I was also anxious to evade the materialism of the West."[1]

In the 1990s Clemente's work explored intensely erotic imagery, inspired by the Tantric traditions both of India and Tibet, and turning contemporary preoccupations with identity and sexuality into an occasion to ask questions about the nature of the self.

In the 2000s Clemente's work went through a darker and grotesque phase, returning in the last years to luminous images of repose and transformation.

Since the 1980s until today Clemente also chronicled New York intellectual and social life through a great number of portraits, contributing to the revival of a genre until then somehow discredited.

Clemente's art has been presented in solo and group shows internationally.

Major retrospectives have been held in the 1990s at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, at The Royal Academy in London, at the Centre Pompidou, Paris and at the Sezon Museum of Art, Tokyo.

Clemente's work is featured in the 1998 movie, Great Expectations.

In 1999-2000 at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York and at the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.

In the 2000s at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, at the Museo MADRE, Naples and at the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt.

An exhibition of selfportraits and of Clemente's own version of the Tarot Cards was held at the Uffizi Gallery, Florence in 2011.

Francesco Clemente is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives and works in New York and Varanasi, India.


Major retrospectives of Clemente's oeuvre have been held in the 1990s at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, at the Royal Academy in London, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the Sezon Museum of Art, Tokyo.

In 1999-2000 at the Guggenheim Museum, New York and at the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.

In the 2000s Clemente showed at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, at the Museo MADRE in Naples, the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, Uffizi Gallery in Florence and at Yale Museum of Art in 2013.

The artist is currently represented by Bruno Bischofberger in Switzerland and BlainSouthern in London and Mary Boone Gallery in New York.

Personal life[edit]

Clemente is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives and works in New York and Varanasi, India.



Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1983; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1984 ; the Nationale Galerie, Berlin, 1984; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1985 ; the Art Institute of Chicago, 1987; the Fundacion Caja, 1987; and the Dia Art Foundation, New York, 1988.


Philadelphia Museum of Art,[2] the Royal Academy of Arts, London, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris and the Sezon Museum, Tokyo.

2000 and after[edit]

Major retrospective 1999/2000, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and in Bilbao; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2004); the Rose Art Museum, Massachusetts (2004); Museo Maxxi, Rome (2006), Museo Madre, Naples (2009), Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2011), Uffizi Gallery, Florence (2011) and Yale University (2013).

Recent exhibitions[edit]


See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]


Online articles[edit]

  • Walcott, Derek. A Conversion.[4] Exhibition catalogue Deitch Projects, New York, Edizioni Charta, Milano 2009.
  • Rushdie, Salman. Being Francesco Clemente.[5] This essay was originally published as Salman Rushdie, “Being Francesco Clemente,” in Francesco Clemente: Self Portraits, exh. cat. (New York: Gagosian Gallery, 2006), pp. 5–10.
  • Kramrisch, Stella. The Twenty-Four Indian Miniatures.[6] This essay was originally published as Stella Kramrisch, “The Twenty-four Indian Miniatures,” in Francesco Clemente: Three Worlds, by Ann Percy and Raymond Foye, exh. cat (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1990), pp. 88–109.


  • Kort, Pamela. Francesco Clemente in Conversation with Pamela Kort.[5] New York, March 26, 2011 (Published in Francesco Clemente, Palimpsest, exhibition catalogue Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, 2011)
  • Rose, Charlie. A conversation with artist Francesco Clemente.[7] New York, August 20, 2008
  • Francesco Clemente in Conversation with Alex Bacon(May 2013)


  1. ^ "Francesco Clemente in Conversation with Alex Bacon". Brooklyn Rail. May 2013. 
  2. ^ "Francesco Clemente in Philadelphia Museum of Art". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  3. ^ "A History of the Heart in Three Rainbows". Retrieved 2012-03-25. 
  4. ^ "A Conversion by Derek Walcott". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  5. ^ a b "Being Francesco Clemente". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  6. ^ "The Twenty-Four Indian Miniatures". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  7. ^ "A conversation with artist Francesco Clemente". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 

External links[edit]