Artists & Designers

Mario Merz (1925-2003)

Mario Merz was born in Milan, Italy in 1925. He studied medicine in Turin, where, during World War II, he became involved with the Italian anti-fascist movement Giustizia e Libertà. He was imprisoned in 1945 for his antifascist activities, and began drawing while in jail. He began as a painter in Turin in the 1950s, influenced by Art Informel. Around 1963, Merz departed from traditional understandings of painting, piercing canvases and incorporating everyday objects such as bottles and umbrellas in his works. By the late 1960s he was involved with arte povera, a term coined by art critic Germano Celant to describe artists working in diverse, experimental ways to explore the intersections of art and life, and of nature and culture, incorporating humble materials in order to protest the inhumanities of industrialization and consumer culture. In 1969 and 1970, Merz began making particular reference to the Fibonacci sequence, which is the underlying mathematical structure of forms such as the shell of a snail and the cultural architectural structure of the igloo. The Fibonacci sequence became a recurring preoccupation in the artist's work. From the 1970s onward, Merz's work became more strongly conceptual, often taking the form of site-specific installation. He died in Turin, Italy, in 2003.

Adapted from

  • Allan Schwartzman, "From a Prehistoric Wind," in Fast forward: contemporary collections for the Dallas Museum of Art, eds. María de Corral and John R. Lane (Dallas Museum of Art ; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007), 158-165.

Web Resources

  • Fondazione Merz
    Learn more about Mario Merz, his life and his works.

  • NEON on Vimeo
    Watch a video about the life of Mario Merz (with English subtitles).

  • Internet Archive
    Read the catalogue from the the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1989 Mario Merz retrospective.