The Icelandic pop artist, known for his riotous painted collages, recalls unveiling a painting he made with five other anti-fascist artists:
It’s impossible to remember who took this photo. But I know we were at the Brera Art Gallery in Milan in June 1961, in front of Grand tableau antifasciste collectif (Great Anti-Fascist Collective Painting). Later that month, the work—along with a few other paintings of mine—was confiscated by the police, who kept it for about twenty-five years. They told me that I was lucky they had been stored behind a big piano; otherwise, they would have been destroyed completely. Grand tableau was painted for the show “Anti-procès III,” the third in a series of anti-war exhibitions. It was Jean-Jacques Lebel’s idea to make a collective painting, and a group of us worked on it together: Lebel, Enrico Baj, Roberto Crippa, Gianni Dova, Antonio Recalcati, and me. It was against the war in Algeria, against the French. The other people in the photo are mostly friends who came to the show from Paris, where I’d already been living for a few years.
The painting is now on loan to the Reina Sofía in Madrid. It was in their show “Lost, Loose and Loved: Foreign Artists in Paris 1944–1968,” which closed last spring and included artists from all over, like Nancy Spero, Carmen Herrera, and Picasso. The museum asked to borrow it for another five years, and we might accept that.
—As told to Leigh Anne Miller