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Antoni Tàpies was born on December 13, 1923, in Barcelona. His adolescence was disrupted by the Spanish Civil War and a serious illness. He began to study law in Barcelona but in 1946 decided instead to devote himself to art. He was essentially self-taught as a painter. Tàpies’s early work was influenced by the art of Max Ernst, Paul Klee, and Joan Miró and by Eastern philosophy. He exhibited for the first time in the controversial Salo d’Octubre in Barcelona in 1948.
He soon began to develop a recognizable personal style related to matière painting, or Art Informel, a movement that focused on the materials of art making. The approach resulted in textural richness, but his more important aim was the exploration of the transformative qualities of matter. Tàpies freely adopted bits of detritus, earth, and stone—mediums that evoke solidity and mass—in his large-scale works. In 1950 Tàpies’s first solo show was held at the Galeries Laietanes in Barcelona and his work was included in the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh. That same year the French government awarded Tàpies a scholarship that enabled him to spend a year in Paris. His first solo show in New York was presented in 1953 by Martha Jackson. During the 1950s and 1960s Tàpies exhibited in major museums and galleries throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, and South America. In 1966 he began his collection of writings, La practica de l’art. Retrospective exhibitions of Tàpies’s work were presented at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris in 1973 and at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, in 1977. The following year he published his prize-winning autobiography, Memòria personal.
In the early 1980s he continued diversifying his mediums, producing his first ceramic sculptures and designing sets. In 1993 Tàpies and Cristina Iglesias represented Spain at the Venice Biennale, where his installation was awarded the Golden Lion. A retrospective exhibition was presented at the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris and the Guggenheim Museum SoHo in New York in 1994–95. In 2000 the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid organized a major retrospective of the artist’s work. Tàpies died in Barcelona on February 6, 2012.