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Francesco Clemente
HomeArtistsFrancesco Clemente

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Francesco Clemente


"When you sit for an hour and a half in front of somebody, he or she shows about twenty faces. And so it's this crazy chase of, Which face? Which one is the one?"


Look up “Neo-Expressionism” in the dictionary and you’re apt to see an image of Francesco Clemente. This Italian-born painter has been at the forefront of the movement since the early 1980s thanks to his powerful portraits and evocative drawings, many of which can currently be seen at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Tate Collection in London and the Kunstmuseum in Basel.


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Early Life


Francesco Clemente was born in Naples in 1952, where he spent his childhood and adolescence in close contact with seventeenth century art. After finishing secondary school, he taught himself painting and began to write and publish poetry. Francesco Clemente has always had an appreciation for beauty.

In 1970 he moved to Rome to attend architecture at the University of Rome before switching his focus to painting. He met a number of artists including Cy Twombly and Alighiero Boetti, who influenced his initial artistic work. . “Boetti was my mentor,” he says. “We would see each other every day in Rome. He had an extremely original mind. Boetti was very aware of French thinkers like Foucault and Lacan. It's to Boetti that I owe my awareness of the fragmentation of self, how the self is an unreliable source of centering. ”The pair spent the ensuing year in Afghanistan, where Boetti helped Clemente refine his skill and vision.


It proved to be a savy decision and he had his very first solo exhibition at Rome’s prestigious Galleria di Valle Giulia in 1971.


Artistic Career

Throughout the 1970s he exhibited works that reflected his interest in the contemplative traditions of India. Travel would become a theme in Francesco Clemente’s life. The young artist created many of his earlier works in Turin, Amsterdam and Cologne before moving to India in 1977, where he spent two years collaborating on projects with local sign painters, miniaturists and paper makers. “I would've literally died, I think if I [stayed in Italy]”, he says. “History's dead end in Italy and the '70s meant that people my age got very heavily involved in terrorist activities. I wanted to take a vacation from history into geography.”

In 1979 he joined the Transavantgarde movement, theorized by the critic Achille Bonito Oliva, and became one of its leading exponents together with Chucchi, Chia, De Maria and Paladino, with whom he put on an exhibition in Cologne.From the 1980s onwards he achieved major international success at a time in history when artists were reacting against the dominant conceptual movement.
In 1981, he settled permanently in New York City. During the decade of the 1980s Clemente was featured in shows at numerous international venues including the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1983; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1984 ; the Nationale Galerie, Berlin, 1984; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1985 ; the Art Institute of Chicago, 1987 ; the Fundacion Caja, 1987; and the Dia Art Foundation, New York, 1988.


1990s and After


Francesco Clemente began the 1990s on a high note with a touring retrospective of his work organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He also had his celebrated work introduced to a more mainstream audience in 1998 when he was commissioned to create more than 200 pieces for the feature-length film Great Expectations starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow.
great expectation_movie_poster_clemente
Although the movie wasn’t a great commercial success, critics were unanimous in the praise for Clemente’s impressive contribution to its overall aesthetic. Clemente finished the decade with a retrospective of his work at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1999.
Francesco Clemente has since embarked on a number of ambitious projects. He created a series of midsized alla prima paintings that were displayed at the Museo Nazionale delle Arti del XXI Secolo in Rome, he made a fresco for the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina in Naples and he recently painted a series of eight portraits for the Metropolitan Opera.
In August 2008 , Francesco Clemente participated in Charlie Rose interview :

The full interview can be found at Charlie Rose Web site.
Francesco Clemente continues to live in New York , traveling between India and Italy. “New York is a place to record the thoughts of your time, or the beauties of your time, or the ambitious people of your time,” he says.
2012 clemente 


Upcoming/Current Performances

  • Francesco Clemente - Mary Boone Gallery (Chelsea), New York, May 5 - June 23, 2012 Francesco Clemente Biography

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