Martial Raysse

Palazzo Grassi
12/04 - 30/11/2015


From 12 April 2015 to 20 November, Palazzo Grassi hosts a major exhibition dedicated to Martial Raysse, curated by Caroline Bourgeous. A painter, scuptor, draughtsman, poet, and film-maker, Raysse is multifaceted artist who cannot easily be categorised. His work spans the second half of the twentieth century, and continues to astound today for its variety and richness.

With more than 250 works on show, the exhibition explores the tireless experimental spirit that drives Raysse’s entire artistic output, from his small, playful sculptures to the self-discipline of drawing; from films expressing the libertarian trends of the 1970s to Raysse’s use of neon as colour; and from installations celebrating consumer society to his paintings, which represent the most complete aspect of his work – among them, transcriptions of great Renaissance masterpieces, female portraits, large group paintings, and imaginary landscapes.

The exhibition examines the key themes Raysse has explored over sixty years, offering a new perspective on the work of one of the most important contemporary artists in France, and highlighting his versatility and the continuing dialogues and references that unite his work.

Planned with Raysse involvement, the exhibition does not follow a chronological order but explores the themes, interests, materals and techniques that have charactersised his art over several decades. His most recent works offer a new perspective on his previous activity, leading to a deeper understanding and posing questions about the role of painting and the artist in society.


Martial Raysse was born in Golfe Juan on 12 February 1036 to a family of French ceramicists. In 1954 he registered in the Faculty of Literature at the University of Nice but also attended the decorative arts school. In 1955 he got to know Ben Vautier and Arman, with whom he shared an interest in artistic experimentation.

From the Poèmes-objets and abstract paintings of his early years, Raysse progressed to assemblages of everyday objects, such as boxes of washing powder, games and plastic products, which became his favourite materials. With Arman, Yves Klein, Françoise Dufrêne, Raymonde Hains, Daniel Spoerri, Jean Tinguely and Jacques Villeglé, he belonged to the New Realism movement, founded by the art critic Pierre Restany.

In 1962 Raysse exhibited his Raysse Beach at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. This was the most ‘American’ and Pop installation of his entire artistic output. Three years later he moved to Los Angeles, where various galleries were interested in his work, extending his reputation beyond France. This was a period of intense creativity: in 1962, he created more than thirty works, and more than 100 between 63 and 64.

In 1963 he produced his Made in Japan series, in which works by great painters, from Cranach to Pollaiuolo and from Ghirlandaio to Ingres, are passed through the brilliantly coloured filter and incisive style of the Pop Art imagination. During these years, in a cultural environment influenced by New Wave films, Raysse became interested in cinema. He made experimental films, which he often integrated in his paintings, such as Suzanna, Suzanna of 1964, in which short videos are projected directly onto the canvas.

In 1966 the artist represented France at the Venice Biennale with a ten-metre long composition called Nice-Venice.

At the end of the 1960s, against the backrdop of the French May protests, Raysse established a distance from his Pop works, which struck him as false and superficial, and learned to paint.

From the 1970s, his tireless pictorial production was accompanied by intense sculptural activity, which included small humorous sculptures made with found materials, the Coco Mato boxes reflective of his psychedelic experimentation, and classicising figures often made in bronze.

From the 90s, Raysse’s paintings have tended more towards great pictorial compositions. Carnivals and lively tableaux vivants have become the characterstic elements of his work. An affirmation of this burlesque spirit is found in Le Carnaval à Périgueux of 1992, while his interest in humanity, with its temptations and brutality, emerge in Ici plage comme ici bas of 2012, which represents a masterly synthesis of his work.

Following his participation in the exhibition “Sequence 1” in 2007 and “Mapping The Studio, Artist from the François Pinault Collection” in 2009, both at Palazzo Grassi, in 2014 the Centre Pompidou in Paris held an important retrospective of his work. In 2015, Palazzo Grassi holds the first large-scale exhibition of his work in Italy.



The exhibition catalogue is published by Marsilio Editori. Graphic design by Leonardo Sonnoli, Tassinari/Vetta.

It brings together texts by Philippe Azoury, Andrea Bellini, Alison M. Gingeras, Anaël Pigeat, Dimitri Salmon, Didier Semin and Françoise Viatte. A collection of poems written by Martial Raysse as well as a chronology by Mica Gherghescu of the artist's life and work are also included in the catalogue.

500 pages
3 editions: Italian, English, French

Exhibition guide

Martial Raysse