Pier Paolo Calzolari was born in Bologna on November 21, 1943, and spent his childhood in Venice. He didn’t attend formal schools but was educated at home with a private tutor. His dream of becoming a violinist accompanied him during this solitary period.
He returned to Bologna at the age of 22 and opened a studio at Palazzo Bentivoglio, initially focusing on painting. His artistic endeavors attracted intellectuals and artists, including foreigners like Allen Ginsberg and William Borroughs. In 1967, he organized his first interactive solo exhibition titled “Il filtro e benvenuto all’angelo,” engaging the audience in a sensory experience.
Later on, he moved to Urbino and became associated with the Arte Povera movement. In 1968, he wrote a significant text titled “La casa ideale.” His work drew the attention of the Galleria Lo Sperone in Turin, and in 1969, he participated in the renowned exhibition “Live in Your Head: When attitudes become form” at the Kunsthalle in Bern, contributing to the international recognition of Arte Povera.
During the 1970s, Calzolari held solo exhibitions abroad, including three at the Galleria Sonnabend in Paris and New York between 1970 and 1971. In 1973, he exhibited at the Folker Galerie Skulima in Berlin and returned to the Kunsthalle in Bern in 1974.
The artist experimented with various materials, including ice and neon. Time and the transformation of matter were recurring themes in his work. Materials such as lead, moss, frost, salt, and tobacco leaves were characteristic of his oeuvre.
After spending time in Bologna, Paris, and Milan in the 1970s, Calzolari settled permanently in Milan around the mid-1970s. He exhibited in various Milanese galleries and collaborated with the Tucci Russo Gallery in Turin.
In the 1980s, he moved to Vienna for two years and then returned to Italy to continue his exploration of light in the Montefeltro region. He also exhibited in New York during this period.
In the 1990s, Calzolari participated in important retrospective exhibitions, including those held in Paris, Lausanne, and Turin in 1994. In 2012, he had his first solo exhibition in the United States in 20 years and continued to exhibit in various galleries worldwide.
Calzolari’s works are part of significant public collections, including the Guggenheim in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Sammlung Goetz in Munich.
Currently, Pier Paolo Calzolari lives and works in Lisbon.