Marisa Merz

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Marisa Merz
Born(1926-05-23)23 May 1926
Turin, Italy
Died20 July 2019(2019-07-20) (aged 93)
Known forSculpture
MovementArte Povera
AwardsBiennale di Venezia Award for Lifetime Achievement

Marisa Merz (23 May 1926 – 20 July 2019) was an Italian artist and sculptor.[1] In the 1960s, Merz was the only female protagonist associated with the radical Arte povera movement.[2][3] In 2013 she was awarded the prestigious Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale.[4] She lived and worked in Turin, Italy.[1]

Early life[edit]

Marisa Merz was born in Turin, Italy, in 1926.[1] Her father worked for Fiat Automobiles.[5] In the 1950s she met the artist Mario Merz, who would later become her husband, who was studying in Turin. In 1960, they married and had a daughter, named Beatrice (Bea) Merz.[5] Very little about Merz's early life, including her maiden name, is known publicly.[5]

Arte Povera and career[edit]

Untitled, 1966, Tate Modern
Testa, 1987–88, Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein

In June 1967, Merz had her first solo exhibition at the Gian Enzo Sperone Gallery in Turin, for which she made a folded aluminum foil installation.[6] In October 1968, she participated in the three day Arte Povera + Azione Povera event, curated by Germano Celant, in Amalfi.[7] This Arte povera event, which also included the artists Michelangelo Pistoletto, Alighiero Boetti, Giovanni Anselmo, and Mario Merz, was radical for its avant-garde display of every day "poor" materials as art.[7] Her work continued to reflect many of the fundamental issues with which Arte Povera artists are preoccupied, such as organic forms, subjectivity, the use of lower forms of art, including crafts, and the relationship between art and life. In 1969 she had a solo exhibition at the Attico Gallery in Rome.[6] Her husband Mario was supportive of her art and her career and would help her with her installations.[8] In 1975 she also had a solo exhibition in Rome. This exhibition featured installations made by using knitted copper, under the title of Ad occhi chiusi gli occhi sono straordinariamente aperti ('To closed eyes, the eyes are extraordinarily open').[9]

As a young artist, Merz did not receive wide-spread recognition, despite her huge contribution to the scene.[5] Later, the growth of feminism brought her greater consideration. Marisa Merz's art has been described as lyrical, subtle, visionary, and private.[10] Her installations feature the idea of the home as an intimate place, private, and feminine. An example is her 1966 installation Untitled (Living Sculpture), which was intended both for her home and to be presented in a gallery (she once said 'There has never been any division between my life and my work'). The installation consisted of thin strips of aluminium, clipped and suspended from the ceiling, forming coils and spirals. The work was acquired by Tate Modern in 2009. Her practice integrated aspects of craft and practices traditionally associated with women (e.g. knitting) and often employed mundane materials, such as copper, aluminum, waxed paper, and paraffin wax, which reflected her home environment. In this way, her art exemplifies that of the Arte Povera group, which collectively sought to "call into question—if not subvert—the high-gloss finish of fine art and its deadness as an institutional commodity."[11]

In her 1975 artist statement she talked about the absent divide between her life and her work that she created. By this time she had extracted herself from the art scene and practically locked herself in her studio to work.[12] Therein she reflected about life with her daughter, Bea, while she was constructing her aluminum sculptures and how her daughter taught her so much in that time.[13]


In 2001, at the Venice Biennale, or Biennale di Venezia, Merz received the Special Jury Prize Award.[1] At the 2013 Venice Biennale she was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement (also called the Leone d'Oro).[4]

Recent exhibitions[edit]


  • "The Shape of Time" at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis MI / 2005–2009
  • "Italics, Italian Art between Tradition and Revolution, 1968–2008" at Palazzo Grassi, Francoi Pinault Foundation, Venice Italy / 2009–2010
  • "Marisa Merz" at Gladstone Gallery, New York City / May – July 2010
  • "Arte Povera" at Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz, Liechtenstein / 2010
  • "Marisa Merz" at Gladstone Gallery, New York City / October – November 2010
  • "Marisa Merz" at Gladstone Gallery, Brussels, Belgium / January – March 2011
  • "Group Show" at Bernier Ellades, Athens, Greece / November 2011 – January 2012
  • "Marisa Merz: Draw draw draw redraw the image thought that walks" at Foundation Merz, Turin, Italy / 2012
  • "Marisa Merz" at Monica De Cardenas, Zuoz, St. Moritz, Switzerland / December 2012 – February 2013
  • "Marisa Merz" at the Serpentine Gallery, London, UK / September 2013 – November 2013
  • "Marisa Merz: The Sky Is a Great Space" at Met Breuer, New York City / 24 January – 7 May 2017, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA / 4 June 2017 – 20 August 2017


Merz died on 19 July 2019 at the age of 93.[15]


  1. ^ a b c d "Marisa Merz Biography", Gladstone Gallery. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Marisa Merz", Serpentine Gallery. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Marisa Merz: The Sky is a Great Space", Hammer Museum. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  4. ^ a b Cascone, Sarah (5 June 2013) Venice Biennale Golden Lions to Maria Lassnig and Marisa Merz. Art in America
  5. ^ a b c d "Marisa Merz's Factory of Dreams", The New Yorker. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  6. ^ a b Lumley, Robert. Movements in Modern Art: Arte Povera. London (2004): 34. Print.
  7. ^ a b "Arte Povera piu azioni povere 1968", Madre. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  8. ^ Lumley, Robert. Movements in Modern Art: Arte Povera. London (2004): 37. Print.
  9. ^ "Ad occhi chiusi gli occhi sono straordinariamente aperti" [With closed eyes the eyes are extraordinarily open] (in Italian). Capti.
  10. ^ Schwarz, Dieter; Claire Gilman (Spring 2008). "The Irony of Marisa Merz". October. 124: 157–168. doi:10.1162/octo.2008.124.1.157. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  11. ^ Fisher, Cora (November 2011). "Marisa Merz". The Brooklyn Rail.
  12. ^ Grenier, Catherine (1994). "Sur le nl du temps". Marisa Merz. Musee national d'Art moderne (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris): 73–104, 261–78.
  13. ^ Merz, Marisa (September–October 1975). Artist's Statements. Milan: compiled by Anne-Marie Sauzeau Boetti. pp. 50–55.
  14. ^ "Events & Exhibits of Marisa Merz". Mutual Art.
  15. ^ Russeth, Andrew (20 July 2019). "Marisa Merz, Key Arte Povera Figure and Relentlessly Inventive Sculptor, Is Dead at 93". Art News. Retrieved 21 July 2019.

External links[edit]