Born in Barcelona in 1923, Tàpies was a self-taught artist who developed a unique visual language centering on exchanges among symbols, gestures, and materials. The artist, also a celebrated theorist and philosopher, incorporated signs and symbols from Catalonia and other cultures into his paintings, collages, and sculptures, imbuing his work with historical allusions and references to phenomena of the natural world. Mysterious and transcendent, Tàpies’s work, which is replete with personal resonances as well as references to political and social struggles in his native Catalonia and Spain, charted new frontiers in painting during the postwar era.
Over the course of his seven-decade career, Tàpies pursued tireless investigations of forms and raw materials. The artist’s inventive, idiosyncratic combinations of media as diverse as wood, dirt, spray paint, cardboard, blankets, clothes, carpet, furniture, and marble dust reflect his intense interest in experimentation. Tàpies forged complex layers of materials like these in his compositions, bringing striking amalgams of color and texture to the fore of his work. His reimagination and redefinition of painting as a highly physical undertaking would inspire future generations of artists, including major figures working today.
The artist participated in the Venice Biennale exhibitions in 1952, 1954, and 1958 before being chosen to represent Spain at the 45th edition of the Biennale in 1993, when he won the Golden Lion for his large-scale installation titled Rinzen. In 1984, the artist established the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona—which opened a museum and library in 1990—to support the exhibition of his work and that of other modern and contemporary artists. Along with the Fundació Joan Miró and Museu Picasso, the Fundació Antoni Tàpies remains a key cultural institution in the fabric of the Spanish city.
Today, Tàpies’s work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona; the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; Tate, London; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Kunstmuseum Basel; the Städel Museum, Frankfurt; the Museum Ludwig, Cologne; the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art; the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; and many other international institutions.
The works in Pace’s forthcoming presentation exemplify Tàpies’s interest in enactments of transgression and erasure as well as explorations of the aging body, sex, and death in his art. Among the highlights in the exhibition are the large- scale painting Soc terra (2004), which includes enigmatic plays of spray paint, pencil, and soil on canvas; Manta amb petjades (2001), a painting on a blanket glued on wood; and the painting Mitjons negres (2010), created just two years before the artist’s death in 2012. These and other works in the exhibition reflect Tàpies’s longtime pursuit of visual and spiritual transfiguration and transformation.
In 2023, on the occasion of the centenary of the artist’s birth, Pace will present an exhibition dedicated to Tàpies at its Los Angeles gallery, and the Fundació Antoni Tàpies will mount an important exhibition of the artist’s work in Barcelona. A retrospective of Tàpies’s career—curated by Manuel Borja-Villel, director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid—will open next year at Bozar - Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels. In 2024, the retrospective will travel to the Reina Sofía.
About the Artist
Antoni Tàpies is recognized as one of the leading artistic voices to emerge from postwar Europe. Working in parallel with global art movements including Abstract Expressionism, Gutai, Art Informel, Tachisme, and Arte Povera, Tàpies believed that his era required a new kind of existential expression. Tàpies’s oeuvre resides between figuration and abstraction, matter and mysticism, as manifested through his painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, and printmaking.