Pierre Restany

Pierre Restany

Born in 1930, Pierre Restany spent his childhood in Maroco and continued his university studies in France, Italy and Ireland. He has a "licence θs lettres" and diploma of superior studies in Aesthetics and Art History. Since 1963, he has been contributing to Domus architectural and art magazine, and lives and works between Paris and Milan. Since 1986, he has been directing the quarterly magazine ARS.

Thirty five years of passionate and often controversial activities have made him an outstanding personality in the artistic scene. He's known all over the World for his various contributions to the Press and to the audiovisual media, and for his numerous tours for conferences in Universities and Museums, as well as for his participation as a jury member in many international art events.

His meeting with Yves Klein in 1955 is of capital importance. It drove him to a total revision of the values of language. Anticipating the horizons and the limits of American abstract expressionism and of European lyric abstraction, he wrote a book, "Lyrisme et Abstraction", to define their balance: it has been a spiritual effort that has gradually induced him to create his theory of the New Realism -the discovery of a modern sense of Nature and the return to a humanism of the industrial object. The group of the New Realists (Arman, Cιsar, Christo, Deschamps, Dufrκne, Hains, Klein, Raysse, Rotella, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Spoerri, Tinguely, Villeglι) that he created in Paris and Milan in 1960, illustrates this revolution in visualizing; in looking at the City's contemporary World, at the streets or factories.

1968 offered him the opportunity of critical and prospective reflection on the sociological structures of contemporary art. His books "Le Petit Livre Rouge de la Revolution Picturale" and "Livre Blanc de l'Art Total" illustrate his preoccupation during this historical moment.

Ten years later he wrote an essay, "L'autre Face de l'Art", that was published in the form of a monthly pamphlet within Domus magazine, from January to July 1978. In this essay, he retraces the history of the deviative function in contemporary art: from Futurism and Dada to the conceptual problematic, passing through the expressive adventure of the object; from the conquest of its significant autonomy to its progressive de-materialization.

In July and August 1978, together with Sepp Baendereck and Frans Krajberg, he sailed over Rio Negro, the main tributary of the Amazon, to the North where they travelled through Manaus towards the borders of Colombia and Venezuela.

This experience provoked a profound emotional shock to Pierre Restany and enlarged his way of thinking about the modern sense of Nature. The Manifest of Rio Negro, compiled in the middle of the rainforest, refers to an integral naturalism, a fundamental discipline of reflecting and recharging our sensibility: an objective, synthetic and planetary response to today's questions about the existence and the function of art; a key in trying to better see what is happening in today's conceptual chaos, in trying to positively confront the double balance already seeping through the immediate horizon of our conscience -the balance of a century and that of a millenium. Finally, it's a redefining of the nature-culture relation, in the light of marginal cultures in search of their own identity. "Nature Integrale", a magazine he published with Carmelo Strano from 1978 to 1981 shows his ample research work and its profound stir in the artistic World.

The discovery of Benoit Mandelbrot's theories and a long exchange of ideas with Carlos Ginsbourg have permitted Pierre Restany to reflect again on the whole problem from the viewpoint of an objective and subjective fractalization.

Returning back to the views already expressed in "Livre Blanc de l'Art Total", Pierre Restany's reflection oriented gradually towards the problem of aesthetics and urbanism (mostly after his meeting with Dani Karavan in 1976): Art in the City. By attentively observing the evolution of post-modern design and more specifically the theoretical and practical developments in the work of the architect Alessandro Mendini, Pierre Restany had started, by the end of the seventies, to reflect again on the relation between the World of Art and the World of Production —adding a new supplementary chapter to his analysis of the object's expressive adventure. All his approaches result in the same fundamental question: "What will happen to Art in our post-industrial society?". A book, published simultaneously in Paris and in Milan in 1990, treats some problems of art and production from this point of view. It begins with the notion of the "plus-object", i.e. the semantic and cultural added value attached to an industrial object that enters the domain of art. This problem of "plus-object" is visually illustrated with the informative presentations of Bernard Demiaux.

Spain, Greece, Yugoslavia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Israel, Korea, Japan, USA, Iran, India, Cuba, Uruguay, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Brasil, Australia, Quebec, USSR, etc... Pierre Restany remains an indefatiguable traveller, wandering through the World, from East to West, curious about everything that's happening or that is an object of research.

In 1961, Mario Pedrosa opened the gates of Sao Paulo Biennial to him. In 1967, while he was Commissary General of the Art and Technology section, he resigned because of the anti-cultural attitude of the Brazilian military authorities in power. He participated in the last moments of the "golden age" of Buenos Aires, thanks to Jorge Romero Brest who invited him to the Torquato di Tella institute. By that time, being an art critic known all over the World, he contributed to the Argentine edition of Louis Pauwels magazine.

In 1962, he had the opportunity to participate in the Tokyo Biennial. On this occasion, he gave a series of sensational lectures on New Realism at the Tama University of Art, where he was invited by Prof.Takigushi. Between 1964 and 1968, he participated in the Prague Spring by ensuring the flow of French correspondence to Czech artistic magazines (Vytvarne Prace, Vytvarne Umeni). In 1979, a Lecture Tour Grant given by the Australian Council allowed him to visit the main Australian Universities, during a monthly circumnavigation organized by Noela Yuill.

In 1984-1985, Maria Grazia Mazzocchi invited him to participate in the founding group of Domus Academy in Milan, a post-university research institute for fashion and design, which has become World renowned. As a member of the Art Olympics organizing committee —an artistic program connected to the Korea Olympics— he conceived the idea of the Sculpture's Olympic Parc of Seoul. This park became a reality in 1987-88 and gathered 300 art works from all over the world.

The Russian edition of Domus in 1988 plunged him, along with Giovanna Mazzocchi Bordone, into perestroika. In the same year in Moscow he inaugurated a series of lectures on the condition of Western art, within the framework of Uecker's exhibition at the new Tretiakov gallery. In January 1989 he met academician Likatchov, president of the Soviet Foundation for Culture, who was in Milan to inaugurate an exhibition for the Russian Avant-garde.

The nineties are beginning for Pierre Restany with the fundamental question on the fate of our sensibility and culture in the context of this new relationship that will be established between humans and machines, mostly in the domain of the new communication technologies.

The personality of Yves Klein —to whom Pierre Restany dedicated in 1990 a new book aspiring to be an alchemic interpretation of the fire symbol in the work of the monochrome painter— illuminates the analysis field for this mutation of the planetary means of communication and exchanges within the post-modern conditions: it's a fundamental process announcing the great revolution of Truth in the World of sensible perceptions; the change of artistic criteria and of aesthetic opinion in our post-industrial society.

© ART TOPOS, 1996
Last update: 1 Aug. 1996