Mirko Basaldella (1910 - 1969)
Totem, c. 1958
Bronze with green patina
13 x 1 5/8 x 1 1/4 inches
Estate of Gyorgy Kepes
Mirko Basaldella was considered one of the most significant Italian sculptors of the twentieth century. He was born in Udine on September 28, 1910, and grew up in a family of artists, studying in Venice and Florence with brothers Dino, a sculptor, and Afro, a painter. He attended the Institute of Applied Arts in Monza, where he studied under Arturo Marini. When he was just eighteen, he had a group exhibition with his brothers in their native city, and in 1934, after moving to Rome with his brother Afro, he had his first solo exhibition at the Galleria della Cometa. In 1935 he was invited to represent the Roman School at the Venice Biennale.
In 1937 he went to Paris and visited the Exposition Universelle, where he was introduced to several turn-of-the-century, avant-garde masterpieces. While only somewhat taken by the work of the Surrealists, he was deeply affected by Cubism, and his work from 1939 to 1945 showed evidence of a growing synthesis between his own visual language and the modernist artistic threads of the early twentieth century. Among his various public commissions at this time was the project for the gates of the mausoleum of the Fosse Ardeatine in Rome.
At the beginning of the 1950s, he went to the United States with other Italian artists and had solo exhibitions at the Catherine Viviano gallery in New York city. His artistic achievements were further recognized in 1955, when he was included in the exhibition A New Decade: 22 European Painters and Sculptors at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and again that year when he won the first prize at the São Paulo Bienal. In 1957 he was appointed director of the design workshop of Harvard University, Massachusetts, where he made monumental sculptures for private and public collections. In the meantime he spent his summers in Italy and took part in several group shows. In 1954 he exhibited at the Venice Biennale, and Peggy Guggenheim bought some of his work for her collection. He won many awards, among them the prize for sculpture at the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (1959), a nomination to the Academy of Arts and Sciences (1962), and first prize at the Quadriennale of Rome (1966). Mirko died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on September 24, 1969.