The Italian modern and contemporary artist Salvo had an unconventional but impactful career, with work spanning Arte Povera and Conceptualism to more traditional yet dreamlike landscape paintings.Read More
Salvo was born as Salvatore Mangione in 1947 in Leonforte, Sicily. In 1956, he moved with his family to Turin in northern Italy, where he would live and work for the rest of his life.
As an adult in Turin, Salvo became involved with Arte Povera, a political art movement which emerged at the end of the 1960s. He befriended other influential Italian modernists including Mario Merz and Alighiero Boetti, with whom he shared a studio until 1971.
Much of Salvo's earliest work focussed on the concept of the artist. These included photographed self-portraits in which Salvo staged himself in the style of famous artists including Raphael, and photomontages incorporating his likeness into newspaper photographs. His practice ranged widely, branching into sculpture with marble gravestones engraved with self-deprecating or ironic text, such as Io sono il migliore (I am the best) (1970).
By 1973, the artist began to focus on painting. Salvo still maintained an interest in art historical references and explorations of the self through compositions with religious and mythological themes. This turn to more traditional media and subject matter was highly unconventional for an artist steeped in Conceptualism. Nevertheless, it would eventually yield his best-known work.
From the early 1980s, Salvo produced his signature abstracted landscape and cityscape paintings, remaining committed to this style and subject matter for the majority of his career. These works are particularly notable for the artist's masterful rendering of natural light, painting vibrant natural and urban scenes. Each canvas presents a convincing specificity of dawn, daylight, dusk or darkness, even in such highly stylised depictions.
Salvo's interest in light and the passage of time is reflected in many of the titles of his works, such as in his seasonal Primavere (Spring), Autunno (Autumn) and Inverno (Winter) paintings. In Salvo's oeuvre, one finds an uber-colourful dreamworld in oil paint, with all of the architectural and natural motifs of the Italian countryside.
Several series within this vast collection of landscape paintings venture beyond Italy, reflecting the artist's travels to Northern Europe, the Middle East and further afield to east and southeast Asia.
Throughout his five-decade career, Salvo was exhibited widely across Europe including several retrospectives. He was also invited to participate in such high profile exhibitions as documenta 5 in 1972, and in the Venice Biennale in 1976 and 1984.
After many years of prolific painting and artistic success, the artist passed away in his adopted hometown of Turin in 2015. His final work as an artist was posthumous: according to his wishes, his 1970 gravestone work stating 'Salvo è vivo' (Salvo is alive) was turned to reveal the words 'Salvo è morto' (Salvo is dead).
Salvo's work is represented in many prestigious collections internationally. Examples include the European Parliament Collection, Brussels; GAM Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin; Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Weimar; MAMbo Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna, Bologna; MoMA Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museo del Novecento, Milan; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
Salvo has been the subject of both solo exhibitions and group exhibitions.
Solo exhibitions include: Salvo: Sicilie e città, Dep Art Gallery, Milan (2022–23); Autoritratto come Salvo, MACRO, Rome (2021); Omaggio a Salvo, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin (2015); Salvo, Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin (2007); Salvo, Trevi Flash Art Museum, Trevi (2003); Schilderijen – Paintings 1975–1987, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam (1988); Bilder 1973–1982, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Lucerne (1983); and Salvo, Museum Folkwang, Essen (1977).
Group exhibitions include: Autour de l'Arte Povera. Photographie, film vidéo, Jeu de Paume, Paris (2022); Fuori, XVII Quadriennale d'Arte, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome (2020); Chi ha paura del disegno? Opere su carta del XX secolo italiano, Estorick Collection, London (2019); and Challenging Beauty – Insights in Italian contemporary art, The Parkview Museum, Singapore (2018).
Salvo's work appears on the auction market frequently across Europe. His auction record at the time of writing is €125,500, achieved at the Naples auction house Blindarte in June 2022 for his late career painting La Valle (2003).
Salvo's website can be found here.
Rachel Kubrick | Ocula | 2022