1923 Barcelona – 2012 Barcelona
The Catalan Antoni Tàpies was the most important representative of Spanish art informel and belongs to a generation of artists that electrified international art with entirely new impulses in the 1950s and 1960s. After his early surrealist works in the mid-1950s, the self-taught Tàpies, similarly to many of his contemporaries, underwent a profound break in creativity and created works that he advanced with new stylistic changes, while at the same time consistently following his chosen goal until his death in 2012. He introduced sand, cement, marble dust, and glue to his painting technique. He scraped the paint and applied it again until the surface resembled a cracked wall. Throughout his life, he keenly researched philosophy from the Far East, literature, and music. By combining individual letters, signs, crosses, and objects or items of clothing, he created a primitivistic material and symbolistic vocabulary. His paintings seem mysterious and meditative. He also created sculptures and many graphic works. The artist did not consider himself an abstract artist, but rather a realist who tried to make the reality in his works more understandable. Tàpies was born in the bosom of a bourgeois Catalan family of booksellers. With an indefatigable artistic career extending over more than six decades, his production arose in a convulsive historical moment. Between 1936 and 1939, Spain lived immersed in a Civil War that birthed a dictatorship lasting until 1975. For Catalonia – a territory in the northeast of the Peninsula which speaks a different language and contains cultural and historical differences – the new political regime implied limitations on their freedoms. For him and his family, who during the sociopolitical conflict had positioned themselves on the side of the defeated, it represented a turning point that would mark both the artistic and vital trajectory of young Antoni. Since then, he became concerned with social struggles and his work acquired a denouncing and critical tone that he never abandoned. In 1952, he took part in the Venice Biennale for the first time, the São Paulo Biennale in 1953, and in 1964 at documenta in Kassel. In 1953, his works were displayed for the first time at an individual exhibition in an American gallery, and in 1960 he was represented at group exhibitions at MoMA and the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The first large exhibitions and retrospectives were soon organised in important museums around the globe.