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Piero Manzoni

Piero Manzoni “Achrome” a fake

The court was convinced by differences in the artists' technique

Judgment has been passed in favour of the heirs of the Italian conceptual artist notorious for his work, “Artist’s shit”, Pietro Manzoni, and against Einaudi, the Turin publishing house, in a case in a disputing authenticity.

The subject of the case was one of the “Achromes” formerly in the collection of Giulio Einaudi. The authenticity of the work, which had been placed in the hands of Milan’s auction house, Finarte, for a sale intended to improve the financial situation of the troubled publishing house, was queried by Giuseppe and Elena Manzoni, brother and sister of the artist who died in 1963 at the age of twenty-nine.

“Einaudi consulted me before proceeding with the sale,” Elena Manzoni told The Art Newspaper, “but when I saw the piece I realised that it could not have been created by my brother.”

Her reservations about the piece were based on two factors: “First, the technique,” she explained. “Piero produced his ‘Achromes’ by immersing the canvas in a solution of kaolin and glue in order to achieve the characteristic ‘folds’. But the canvas belonging to Einaudi has been painted with a brush. In addition, the canvas is framed in a gold frame which is absolutely inappropriate; the gold has been painted over with a layer of white varnish. I believe that if Einaudi had not liked the frame he would simply have changed it. At the time there was quite a competent forger at work in Turin, whose practice was to sell his forgeries in gold frames.”

The second criticism was a biographical one. “Everyone says that Piero gave this piece to Einaudi himself. Given the close relationship between my brother and myself, however, I think that if he had met Einaudi, he would have told me—Einaudi was an important man, after all. Not even Vanni Scheiwiller, the Milan publisher, who knew my brother well, knew anything about it.”

This episode has spurred the Manzoni heirs to update the artist’s general catalogue, published by Prearo in 1975 and reprinted in early 1991 under the editorship of art critic Germano Celant. “We would like a new edition,” Elena Manzoni explains, “with photographs of much higher quality than in the original one, and in colour where possible so that the authentic works can be assessed visually. The problem is that, although we make frequent requests, many of the collectors whose pictures appear in the early catalogue have simply not bothered to contact us. Celant is working towards the publication of a new catalogue in 2001. We do not want the absence of authenticated works and other documentation to cause individual paintings to be declared lost or destroyed.” The Archivio Opera Piero Manzoni is located at 23, via Ranzoni, Milan, Tel: +39 02 40 07 30 78, archmanz@tin.it.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 101 March 2000