Antoni Tàpies (Barcelona, 1923–2012) began experimenting with art during his adolescence. His growing commitment to drawing and painting led him to abandon his law studies. In the forties, he began exhibiting his works, marked by a strong personality, and together with Joan Ponç, Joan Brossa and others, founded the avant-garde magazine Dau al Set (1948). While Tàpies’ painting showed the influence of Miró and Klee, he was soon adding the iconography, magic themes, geometry and colour studies that would result in his matter paintings.
Following the Second World War and the advent of the atomic bomb that shocked artists on both sides of the Atlantic, Tàpies began to express a special interest in matter, earth, dust, atoms and particles. This trend is reflected in the use of materials that are alien to academic artistic expression, such as shoes or socks, and in the experimentation with new techniques. With strongly textured canvases and great expressive possibilities, in the mid-fifties Tàpies reached international recognition as one of the great innovators of Informalism. The matter paintings form a substantial part of the work of Tàpies, to whom matter was also magic, mimesis and alchemy.
Aside from his artistic activities, which he could not conceive apart from the reality of life, Tàpies always maintained a strong moral commitment regarding political and social events. In the late sixties and early seventies, his involvement against the Franco regime intensified, and his works took on the marked character of denunciation. Also at this time, coinciding with the emergence of Arte Povera in Europe and post-Minimalism in the USA, Tàpies punctuated his work with objects, incorporating them into his language. In the following years until the end of his life, oriental culture became decisive in the artist’s production, with a renewed emphasis on matter, on the man-nature identity, and the denial of all dualism. His late works were marked by physical and spiritual reflection.
Tàpies was an intellectual with a great literary and musical knowledge. He worked intensely in the field of graphic art, especially on collector’s books and folios made in collaboration with poets and writers like Alberti, Bonnefoy, Du Bouchet, Brodsky, Brossa, Daive, Dupin, Foix, Frémon, Gimferrer, Guillén , Jabès, Mestres Quadreny, Mitscherlich, Paz, Saramago, Takiguchi, Ullán, Valente and Zambrano, among others. Alongside his artistic activity, Tàpies developed a prolific career as a writer. Among his publications are: A A Personal Memoir (2010), and Collected Essays (2011), which includes essays published in Catalan in six separate books between 1970 and 1999 (The Practice of Art, Art against Aesthetic, Reality as Art, For a Modern and Progressive Art, The Value of Art, Art and Its Places) together with previously uncollected articles, lectures, and other texts. In 1984, with the aim of promoting the study and dissemination of contemporary art, Tàpies founded the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, located in the old publishing house Montaner i Simon, in the heart of Barcelona’s Eixample.
Tàpies’s work has been exhibited in prominent international institutions and has received numerous awards and public recognition. His exhibitions include: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1962); Kunsthaus, Zurich (1962); Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1965); Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (1973); Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin (1974); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (1990); Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Valencia (1992); Museum of Modern Art, New York (1992); Jeu de Paume, Paris (1994); and Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (2004).