Ugo Nespolo's Biography

Ugo Nespolo (Mosso, -Biella- 29 August 1941) is an Italian painter and advertiser.

After graduating from the Albertina Academy of Fine Arts in Turin, he graduated in Modern Literature, and then made his debut in the Italian art scene in the 1960s, proposing a particular form of contamination between Pop Art, Conceptual Art and Arte Povera (poor art). Never absolutely linked to a trend, his production is immediately characterized by an accentuated ironic, transgressive imprint, a personal sense of fun that will always represent a sort of trademark.

In the following decade an unconventional, ironic production inspired by children’s illustrations continues, which also lends itself to the “cinematographic canvas”. He also appropriates a second means of expression, cinema: in particular the experimental, artist’s cinema. The actors are artist friends, from Lucio Fontana to Enrico Baj, to Michelangelo Pistoletto. To his films have dedicated extensive reviews cultural institutions such as the Center Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art, the Filmoteka Polska in Warsaw, the Civic Gallery of Modern Art in Ferrara, the National Cinema Museum in Turin, the Museum “Manege” of St. Petersburg.

The seventies represent a fundamental passage for Nespolo: he wins the Bolaffi prize (1974), he realizes the Museum (1975-’76), a ten-meter long painting that marks the beginning of a never exhausted vein of reinterpretation-decomposition-reinvention of other people’s art. The work was exhibited for the first time in 1976 at the Progressive Museum of Contemporary Art in Livorno. He also began experimenting with techniques (embroidery, inlay) and unusual materials (alabaster, ebony, mother of pearl, ivory, porcelain, silver). The Tree of hats is born, then mass-produced as a piece of furniture.

In 1973, at the psychiatric hospital of Volterra, with the help of the patients he created two works: a pyramid full of drawings, puppets and personal objects of the sick, and a giant papier-mâché pill, symbolizing the pharmacological treatments that, in a sort of a purifying gesture that aims to denounce the abuse of drug therapy and raise awareness among citizens, was burned in a city square.

The 1980s materialized into an “American period“, with his paintings representing objects and clichés of American cities. In these years the experiences in the applied art sector have also accumulated: Nespolo is faithful to the dictation of the historical avant-gardes to “bring art into life” and is convinced that the contemporary artist must cross the boundaries of the specific assigned by late romantic clichés. He collaborated with Rai, for which he makes videosigle (video theme songs), and with advertising agencies.

In the following decade he added to his numerous activities a commitment to the theatre, creating sets and costumes for Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, itinerant to the Paris Opera, Lausanne, Liège and Metz, the sets and costumes of Paisiello’s Don Quixote for the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome.

In 1996 Ugo Nespolo took over the artistic direction of Richard-Ginori. In 1991 and 2009 Nespolo created the Palio of the Giostra della Quintana di Foligno, in 1998 the one for the August edition of the Quintana knightly tournament in Ascoli Piceno, in 2000 the two stendali for the Palio di Asti and in the banner of the Palio of Siena. 1998 begins with the construction of the monument “Work, Work, Work, I prefer the sound of the sea” for the city of San Benedetto del Tronto. The collaboration with the historic art glass factory Barovier & Toso of Murano is started, for which Nespolo creates a series of works to be exhibited at the Doge’s Palace in Venice for “Aperto Vetro“, (International Exhibition of Contemporary Glass).

In 2003 the organizers of the Giro d’Italia entrusted him with the creation of the pink jersey and the official poster, and in 2005 in Turin he created thematic works for GTT in the underground stations and for the outside of the shopping centre in via Livorno.

In 2007, he designed sets and costumes for the opera Madama Butterfly which inaugurated the 53rd season of the Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago Puccini on 20 July. The following year he edited “Nespolo reads Dante“, a limited-edition triptych commissioned by De Agostini of Novara for the reading of the Divine Comedy through figurative art. This is followed by the personal exhibition held in New York by the Walter Wickiser Gallery, and the anthology at the Museum of Cinema. He also participated in the exhibition “Italics: Italian Art between tradition and revolution, 1968-2008” with two works, at the invitation of the management of Palazzo Grassi in Venice.

In 2006 the city of Asiago realizes the review “Homage to Piero Cerato and Ugo Nespolo“, with over 50 works by the two artists in comparison.

In 2009 the anthological exhibition Nespolo, return home was set up at the Museum of the Biellese Territory, followed by other retrospectives: at the Canci Gallery in Lerici he set up a personal exhibition, at the National Museum of the Bargello in Florence (2010), at Palazzo Trinci in Foligno (Nespolo. Anthological Hypothesis, 2010), at the Museum of Contemporary Art Casa del Consul in Calice Ligure, at the Galleria dell’Accademia Albertina in Turin (2010), at the Campari Museum in Sesto San Giovanni, and in numerous other public and private galleries.

He also collaborated with the Brooksfield brand for a biennial stylistic intervention in the collections and in communication (2009-2010). In 2010 he became an honorary member of the Turin literary art movement. In March 2012 he received the honorary citizenship of the city of Santhià, in which he spent his childhood and adolescence and where he made his first pictorial experiments.

There are numerous collaborations for the creation of advertising campaigns: among many with Campari, Piaggio and Caffarel.

Nespolo is present for Expo 2015 in six railway stations between Turin Porta Susa and Rho Fiera Milan. A station redevelopment model where the artist proposes posters, customized totems and window stickers of the Italian province. Also in 2015 in October Nespolo was present at the Tate Modern in London at the debate following the screening of his film “Buongiorno Michelangelo” within the program “Arte Povera was Pop: Artists’ and experimental cinema in Italy 1960s-70s“; in May 2016 at the Guggenheim in Venice for “If Arte Povera Was Pop” and subsequently at the Center Pompidou in Paris at the round table “Arte Povera Hier et Aujourd’hui (9 and 10 June 2016).

In 2016 he joined Luca Desiata’s “Corporate ArtManifesto together with Alexander Ponomarev, Fernando De Filippi and other artists.

With the exhibition dedicated to Ugo Nespolo, entitled The triumph of books, (from 19 April to 25 May 2018) the National Central Library of Florence pays tribute to an artist present in its collections. The exhibition brings together works created in more than forty years of activity that find their right setting in the Institute which, more than any other, testifies to the infinite aspects of the culture of our country.

Ugo Nespolo still lives and works in Turin today.

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