MARINO DI TEANA
B 1920 - D January 1, 2012
The story of Francisco Marino di Teana is an remarkable and inspiring one. His beginnings were very humble. He was born in 1920, in the small town of Teana in Potenza, in the south of Italy, where nothing had essentially changed in hundreds of years. There were no schools, and the tradition was to learn a trade. At the age of five, Marino worked in the fields with his grandfather, and was a shepherd. He taught himself to count using pebbles.
As he was required to learn a trade, he learned masonry, and also painted frescoes on church walls. This awakened his dormant talents in architecture and sculpture, which he was able to develop with great success while overcoming enormous hardships.
When he was 16, Italy had allied with Germany, and in order to avoid induction into Mussolini's army, his grandfather sent him to Argentina to find his father, who had abandoned the family a number of years earlier.
He succeeded in finding his father in Buenos Aires, but his father was far from pleased to see him, and was unwilling to support him. Marino found work as a mason on a construction site. By the age of 22, he was heading the entire project, and had ten workers under him. At night, he went to the National Polytechnic School in Salguero, where he earned a degree in architecture.
He was then accepted to the Ernesto de la Carcova Ecole des Beaux Arts, but his father was not impressed by his son'sachievements, and put him out to live on the street. Still, Marino managed to complete his course work, and worked nights to have enough money to live on.
Despite these hardships, Marino received his diploma with high marks, and was awarded a Premio Mittre, the equivalent of the Prix de Rome. He was offered a Professorship at the University, and taught there briefly, but he wanted to pursue his career in architecture and sculpture, and decided to go to Europe to follow his dream.
In 1952, he traveled in Spain, and happened to meet up with an old friend from Buenos Aires in Oteiza. They worked there together for a while on a variety of projects, but di Teana wanted more, and in 1953, he moved to Paris.
Life continued to be difficult for him. He slept in parks - one of his "favorites" was near the Rodin Museum, where he was inspired by the great artist's sculptures.
Because of his talent and perseverance, he was hired as a designer by Huguette Séjournet, then a student of Fernand Léger and a friend of Vasarely. They were subsequently married. She recognized his great talent, pushed him to start exhibiting his sculptures, and was first accepted by Galerie Denise René, who also showed the work of Vasarely. His sculptures were very well received, and Denise René gave him several solo exhibitions. He also toured internationally with Vasarely, Soto, Delaunay, Morellet, and other prominent artists.
His real fame came in 1962, when he was awarded the Saint Gobain First Prize - quite an accolade when one considers who some of the jurors were - Alberto Giacometti, Serge Poliakoff, and Ossip Zadkine, among other prominent artists and critics. This gave him access to the company of many other influential artists, including Agam, Jean Arp, Tinguely, Dubuffet, and Cesar, but he remained true to his own artistic path - sculpture and architecture. In the same year, he was asked by the BFCE Haussman Bank in Paris to design pieces for their entrance lobby. he created a monumental sculpture, as well as a table and desk.
For Di Teana, it was the logical result of his training as both an engineer and architect that sculpture and architecture were inextricably intertwined. He created the concept of architectural sculpture. He saw his sculptures as structures that became "architecture"; as models, perhaps, of a city of the future. He said "Art is the city". He developed a very important theory of "tri-unity", where the space was as important as the mass - 1+1=3 -- a contradictory formula, obviously, but it was intended to convey the idea of the importance of negative space being as important as the actual material structure. He referred to the negative space an "active vacuum". He further elaborated... "To create a dialogue in harmonic space, it takes a number of free forms as it takes a certain distance between two people for the conversation to be meaningful".
He began to enjoy much deserved fame in the early 1960's. His work was shown at the museé de l'art moderne in Paris, and di Teama enjoyed a retrospective of his work at the Centre Pompidou in 1976. He represented Argentina at the Venice Biennale in 1982, and represented France in the Symposium International of Arts and Sciences in Seoul, South Korea, in 1997. he was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris, where he was awarded the prize for sculpture.
The above are only some of the awards and accolades that he was awarded. His work can also be found in many museums around the world -- Brussels, Copenhagen, Tokyo, Tel Aviv, the USA (Minneapolis). His works was sold by highly prestigious galleries in Paris, Milan, London and Cologne, and were purchased by important collectors, among them L'Oreal and François Pinault.
In 1980, di Teana became a professor at the University of Art and Architecture in Fontainbleau, and resided and had his studio in Périgny sur Yerres, in France.
During his lifetime, di Teana designed and produced over fifty monumental sculptures, in addition to smaller works and several pieces of beautiful furniture. The sculpture entitled "Liberté", was completed in 1990. It was made using 100 tons of Corten steel, stands over 70 feet tall, and changes from black to red depending on the temperature. It stands in Fontanay-sous-Bois, Val de Marne, and was, until recently, the tallest sculpture in Europe.
When Marino di Teana passed away on January 1, 2012, he was well into his 90's. He was a truly heroic figure, overcoming many hardships and succeeded in realizing his great talents, and winning international acclaim. Upon his passing, the newspaper Le Monde noted "With the death of Francisco Marino di Teana, sculpture looses a "philosopher of space' ".