Francesco Clemente

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Francesco Clemente
Francesco Clemente (San Francisco 1991).jpg
Born (1952-03-23) March 23, 1952 (age 64)
Naples, Italy
Nationality Italian
Education Architecture, University of Rome
Known for Painting, Drawing

Francesco Clemente (born in Naples March 23, 1952) is an Italian-born contemporary artist. His work is influenced by thinkers as diverse as Gregory Bateson, William Blake, Allen Ginsberg, and J Krishnamurti. Dividing his time between New York and Varanasi, India, Clemente 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.


Water and Wine, gouache on paper, 1981,
Art Gallery of New South Wales)
Francesco Clementes peper tent at kochi muziris bienelle2014

Clemente's 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.

His work is also 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 Robert 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 explored intensely erotic imagery, inspired by the Tantra 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 underwent a darker and grotesque phase, returning in recent years to luminous images of repose and transformation.

Since the 1980s until today, Clemente has 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 art was also featured in 1999-2000 at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York, and at the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao. In the 2000s retrospectives were held at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, at the Museo MADRE, Naples and at the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt. An exhibition of self-portraits and of Clemente's own version of the Tarot Cards was held at the Uffizi Gallery, Florence in 2011.

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

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

Francesco Clemente is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.



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" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  5. ^ a b "Being Francesco Clemente" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  6. ^ "The Twenty-Four Indian Miniatures" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  7. ^ "A conversation with artist Francesco Clemente". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 

External links[edit]