Mario Schifano was born in Homs, Libya in 1934. He was a postmodernist painter and collagist and his artworks are renowned for being influential to the genre of Pop Art.
Schifano started his career in 1960 with a crucial appearance in an exhibition by Pierre Restany at the Galleria La Salita in Rome. Critics of the time were attracted by the unconventional monochromatic pieces he painted. These pieces gave impressions of a screen that would subsequently display letters, numbers, road signs, and the Esso and Coca-Cola trademarks, a collage of sorts. Schifano traveled to the United States in 1962 where he spent time with prominent artists like Andy Warhol, Rothko, Jasper Johns, Frank O’Hara, and Gregory Corso. He also showcased his work at the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York in the “The New Realists” exhibition.
Apart from paintings and collages, Schifano also divulged filmmaking and music. He was good friends with Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones, to the extent that he was the inspiration for their song “Monkey Man from the album Let It Bleed (1969). Mick Jagger, also had a cameo in Schifano’s film Umano non Umano (Human Not Human). Schifano also directed various black-and-white short films, which were mostly silent. These were his Futurist artworks.
He would go on to present his works at institutions and events throughout the 1960s in the United States and South America. In 1970, after a failed attempt at starting production on a film he was seeking to direct in the United States, Schifano returned to Italy, frustrated by the long waiting periods in the dynamics of cinematography. He began a new series of pieces called Paesaggi TV. Using photographic emulsion, Schifano would transfer television pictures onto a canvas. Schifano was known for adapting to the changing culture and would make political pieces in the form of films and photograms. He enjoyed a reputation as a rockstar, moving in circles with famous bands of the time, and being romantically involved with models and rockstars. Even while battling a lifelong
drug addiction, he remained dedicated to his art. Schifano’s work is one of the most recognizable in contemporary art space and strikes a chord with art critics and admirers of postmodernism alike. At an auction held by famous fine and decorative art broker Sotheby’s in 2022, two of his pieces were sold for over a million USD. Tempo Moderno was sold in Sotheby’s auction for €2.3 million and Milano was sold for €1.027 million. Schifano passed away at the age of 64 in Rome, Italy on 26 January 1998.