Car crash neon art: Maverick sculpure’s work for Leeds show

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SMASHING a car into a wall might not sound like art.

But that’s exactly what Italian sculptor Mario Merz did with his Simca 1000 in 1969.

Now, and for the first time in almost 30 years, the work called Automobile Pierced by Neon will go on display at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds.

It is part of an exhibition called Mario Merz: What is to be done? which opens next month at the sculpture gallery in The Headrow.

The shows features 12 works created between 1966 to 1977 by the maverick artist who died in 2003 aged 78.

Communications manager Adelle Stripe said: “It’s a coup for us as it’s the first time in almost 30 years that he’s been exhibited in Britain.

“Mario Merz was imprisoned for his anti-facist views in 1942. It was while inside that he became an artist.

“He started doing complete drawings where he wouldn’t lift the pencil off the page until they were finished.

“Then he moved to sculpture and was part of the Arte Povera movement, which means Poverty Art, in the 1960s which was a loose grouping of Italian artists who got together after the Second World War.

“We are looking at his neon works. He was the first to use neon lighting in his sculpture which later inspired some of Tracey Emin’s works.

“Mario Merz drove the car across Italy then crashed it and put a neon light in it.

“We are currently arranging to bring it over but it’s quite fragile so it will be a very careful operation.”

It is the first major exhibition curated by Lisa Le Feuvre, the institute’s new head of sculpture studies.

And a film by Tacita Dean of Mario Merz shot shortly before his death will be shown in the institute’s Gallery 4 to show the man behind the art.

Ms Stripe said: “Mario Merz was kind of obsessed on naturally occurring numbers in nature, this was known in Italian as Fibonacci.

“I think it’s going to be a really interesting show and the use of neon will catch people’s imaginations.”


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