Mark di Suvero

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Mark di Suvero
Di Suvero in 1978
Marco Polo di Suvero

(1933-09-18) September 18, 1933 (age 90)
Shanghai, China
EducationUniversity of California, Santa Barbara (attended)
University of California, Berkeley (B.A.)
Known forSculpture
MovementAbstract expressionism
  • Maria Teresa Capparotta (div.)
Kate D. Levin
(m. 1993)
AwardsHeinz Award (2005)
National Medal of Arts (2010)
American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal (2013)

Marco Polo di Suvero (born September 18, 1933),[1] better known as Mark di Suvero, is an abstract expressionist sculptor and 2010 National Medal of Arts recipient.

Early life and education[edit]

Di Suvero was born in Shanghai, China, to Matilde Millo di Suvero and Vittorio di Suvero (later known as Victor E.), both Italians of Sephardic Jewish descent.[2][1][3][4] He was one of four children, the eldest being Victor di Suvero.[2] His father was a U.S. Navy attaché for the Italian government, and the family lived in Shanghai until his father was relocated to Tientsin shortly after the birth of the family's last son in 1936.[3]

With the outbreak of World War II, di Suvero immigrated to San Francisco with his family in February 1941 aboard the S.S. President Cleveland.[2][1][3][4][5][6]

Di Suvero attended City College of San Francisco from 1953 to 1954, and then the University of California, Santa Barbara from 1954 to 1955. He began creating sculptures while at the University of California, Santa Barbara after learning that he was unable to make an original contribution as part of his philosophy major. He transferred to the University of California, Berkeley and graduated with a B.A. in philosophy in 1957.[2][1][5][6]


After graduating from college, di Suvero moved to New York City in 1957 to begin a career as a sculptor. He worked part-time in construction and began to incorporate wood and metal from demolition sites into his work.[1][6]

Di Suvero gained recognition among art critics with his first solo exhibit at the Green Gallery in Manhattan in the fall of 1960. The editor of Arts Magazine wrote, "From now on nothing will be the same. One felt this at di Suvero's show. Here was a body of work at once so ambitious and intelligent, so raw and clean, so noble and accessible, that it must permanently alter our standards of artistic effort."[7]

On March 26, 1960, while working at a construction site, he was involved in a near-fatal elevator accident, resulting in a broken back and severe spinal injuries. Treating physicians initially believed he would be unable to walk again. While in rehabilitation, however, he learned to work with an arc welder, which he used in later pieces. His recovery took four years. By 1965, he was able to walk without assistance. He is one of the 16 artists featured in Chronicles of Courage: Very Special Artists, a book that featured the accident and the subsequent effect it had on his health.[1][3][5][6]

Di Suvero was a founding member of the Park Place Gallery in 1963 with Forrest Myers, Leo Valledor, Peter Forakis, and others. The gallery closed in July 1967.[6][8][9]

Di Suvero protested the Vietnam War, and was arrested twice. He left the United States in 1971.[2][10] During his four-year self-exile, he exhibited his works in the Netherlands and Germany, taught at the Università Internazionale dell'Arte, and lived in Chalon-sur-Saône, France where he maintained one of his studios on a barge until 1989.[2][4][11] His French barge, Rêve de signes, has since been turned into La Vie des Formes, an atelier for emerging artists, which has been moored at Montceau-les-Mines since 2009.[2][12][13]

In 1975, his sculptures were exhibited in the Tuileries Garden in Paris,[7] the first living artist to hold an exhibition there.[14] He later returned to the United States and opened a studio in Petaluma, California in 1975.[11] While the Petaluma studio is still active, di Suvero moved to New York City and opened a studio there.[10][11]

In 1976, the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan housed a retrospective exhibition of di Suvero's smaller structures, while the city of New York exhibited some of his larger sculptures all around town.[7] His 1966 sculpture, Praise for Elohim Adonai, was erected in front of the Seagram Building. In January 2024, the work was permanently installed adjacent to David Chipperfield's East Building for the Saint Louis Art Museum.

He founded the Athena Foundation in 1977 and Socrates Sculpture Park in 1986, both of which function to assist artists.[2][6] In 2019, his tallest piece, E=MC 2, was moved from France to the Storm King Art Center in upstate New York.[14][15]

Personal life[edit]

Di Suvero lives in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens in New York City with his second wife, Kate D. Levin, who he married in 1993, and their daughter.[2][10] Levin, a former City College of New York teacher, served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs from 2002 to 2013, and has worked in the Ed Koch and Michael Bloomberg administrations.[16] Di Suvero was previously married to architect Maria Teresa Caparrotta, whom he met while living in Italy, but later divorced.[2]


Bunyon's Chess at Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle
Entrance to the Kröller-Müller Museum and sculpture park in Otterlo in the Netherlands; in the background is the red K-piece by di Suvero.
Declaration at Venice Beach in Los Angeles

His early works were large outdoor pieces that incorporated wooden timbers from demolition buildings, tires, scrap metal, and structural steel. This exploration has transformed over time into a focus on H-beams and heavy steel plates. Many of the pieces contain sections that are allowed to swing and rotate giving the overall forms a considerable degree of motion. He prides himself on his hands-on approach to the fabrication and installation of his work. Di Suvero pioneered the use of a crane as a sculptor's working tool.[17]

His style is associated with the abstract expressionism movement but directly evokes the spirit of the Russian post-revolution constructivism. Constructivism is strongly associated with concepts of a utopian socialist reconstruction but came crashing down when the Stalin and Hitler empires failed. Di Suvero is the first artist post-war to revive the constructivist movement. The sculptures can be touched, and they are resistant enough to be climbed on.[7]

Some of his work includes:

Di Suvero's sculptures and career were the subjects of the 1977 film, North Star: Mark di Suvero. The film was produced by François De Menil and by art historian Barbara Rose, and it featured music composed by Philip Glass.[33][34] The film was released as a DVD in 2012.[35]

In May 2013, some of his most famous sculptures were exhibited in Crissy Field in San Francisco.[36]


Some critics deny the novelty of di Suvero's art, arguing he just inflated an established concept to greater dimensions. In 1975, William Rubin argued he merely vulgarized the style of abstract expressionism set forth by Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline.[7] When Pax Jerusalemme was installed in a prominent spot in front of the Legion of Honor in 2000, Kenneth Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle dismissed it as "mediocre."[37] But remarking on the installation of the artist's colossal E=MC 2 at the Storm King Art Center, Jason Farago in the New York Times wrote that di Suvero "understands better than almost any artist the distinction between size and scale—and this serene work, breathing easy in Storm King's largest field, feels as approachable as a family member."[38]

Honors and awards[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Mark di Suvero Luce Artist Biography". Archives of American Art. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Mark di Suvero and di Suvero family papers, 1934-2005". Archives of American Art. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d Monte, James K. (November 1975). Mark di Suvero. New York City, New York: Whitney Museum of American Art. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c "Mark di Suvero, Art World's 'Last Heroic Figure'". The Ledger. Vol. 71, no. 270. Lakeland, Florida. July 16, 1978. pp. 37–38. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Heinz Awards Mark di Suvero biography". Heinz Foundations. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d e Hilton Kramer, A playful storm of sculpture,, 25 January 1976
  8. ^ Kirwin, Liza. "Art and Space: Park Place and the beginning of the Paula Cooper Gallery". Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  9. ^ "Reimagining Space: The Park Place Gallery Group in 1960s New York". Blanton Museum of Art. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  10. ^ a b c Dawson, Jessica (September 2, 2014). "At 80, Sculptor Mark Di Suvero Is Still Mixing It Up in New York". The Wall Street Journal. New York City. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  11. ^ a b c Bennett, Don (June 5, 2013). "Petaluma home to famous artist". The Press Democrat. Santa Rosa, California. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  12. ^ Castro, Jan Garden (June 2005). "To Make Meanings Real: A Conversation with Mark di Suvero". Sculpture. 24 (5). International Sculpture Center. Archived from the original on January 17, 2016. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  13. ^ Roux, Camille; Berry, Gilles (May 5, 2013). "Bateau logement pour artistes". Le Journal de Saône-et-Loire (in French). Chalon-sur-Saône, France. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  14. ^ a b c Karen Michell, Sculptor Mark Di Suvero Creates Joy Out Of Steel,, 20 October 2019
  15. ^ a b Gabriella Angeleti, Storm King installs sky-high sculpture by Mark di Suvero,, 17 July 2019
  16. ^ "Kate D. Levin named first fellow of National Center for Arts Research at SMU". Southern Methodist University. February 11, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2015.
  17. ^ Mark Di Suvero's Path to Steel. May 2013. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  18. ^ Pre-Columbian,
  19. ^ "Mark di Suvero Artworks & Famous Sculptures". The Art Story. Retrieved 2020-03-06.
  20. ^ "Mark di Suvero, For Handel, 1975".
  21. ^ Flanagan, Barbara (August 19, 1980). "Artist welds his cold steel to steal sun". Minneapolis Star: 1C. ProQuest 1879019510. Archived from the original on August 27, 2023. Retrieved August 21, 2023 – via ProQuest.
  22. ^ "rt Projects Mark di Suvero: Shoshone 1982". Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  23. ^ "Shoshone 1982". Culture Now: Museum Without Walls. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  24. ^ Liu, Maura Gillan | Photos by Lani Hanson and James (2016-06-28). "If the UNL sculptures could talk". The Daily Nebraskan. Retrieved 2023-07-07.
  25. ^ Aurora - 1992-1993,
  26. ^ Mark di Suvero - Galileo, 1996,
  27. ^ "Declaration". Declaration, L.A. Louver. Retrieved 1 October 2023.
  28. ^ "Voxal (Declaration) sculpture by artist Mark di Suvero located in Venice, a beachfront district on the Westside of Los Angeles, California". Library of Congress. Retrieved 1 October 2023.
  29. ^ "Exchange: Orion". Retrieved 2020-03-06.
  30. ^ "Outdoor Sculpture | University of Michigan Museum of Art". Retrieved 2020-03-06.
  31. ^ "ORION COMES HOME | University of Michigan Museum of Art". Retrieved 2020-03-06.
  32. ^ "Clock Knot 2007". The University of Texas at Austin. 12 August 2008. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  33. ^ "Philip Glass: Music". unvagen Music Publishers. Archived from the original on 2015-08-19. Retrieved 2015-07-22.
  34. ^ North Star: Mark di Suvero at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  35. ^ Stewart, James A. (April 19, 2012). "North Star: Mark di Suvero". DVD Verdict. Archived from the original on July 22, 2015.
  36. ^ Mark di Suvero at Crissy Field,, May 2013
  37. ^ Baker, Kenneth (16 July 2000). "A Legion of Concerns Over Sculpture / Di Suvero's mediocre 'Pax Jerusalem' may signal a troubling trend at Fine Arts Museums". San Francisco Chronicle.
  38. ^ Farago, Jason (9 July 2020). "Storm King Reopens for the Art-Starved". The New York Times.
  39. ^ "The International Sculpture Center's Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award". International Sculpture Center. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  40. ^ Sisario, Ben, ed. (May 2, 2005). "Arts, Briefly: Heinz Awards". The New York Times. New York City, New York. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  41. ^ "Smithsonian Announces Archives of American Art Medal Recipients" (Press release). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Archives of American Art. October 6, 2010. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  42. ^ "Mark di Suvero Among 2010 National Medal of Arts Recipients Announced by the White House". Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  43. ^ "President Obama to Award 2010 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal" (Press release). Washington, D.C.: White House Office of the Press Secretary. March 1, 2011. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  44. ^ "President Obama Presents Arts, Humanities Awards To Meryl Streep, James Taylor". The Huffington Post. March 2, 2011. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  45. ^ Schuessler, Jennifer (May 15, 2013). "E.L. Doctorow and Mark di Suvero Strike Gold at American Academy of Arts and Letters". The New York Times. New York City, New York. Retrieved March 10, 2015.

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