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Antoni Tàpies
Antoni Tàpies
Birth name Antoni Tàpies
Born 13 December 1923 (1923-12-13) (age 86)
Barcelona, Spain
Nationality Spanish Catalan
Field Painting,Sculpture, Lithography
Movement Abstract expressionism

Antoni Tàpies (born in Barcelona, December 13, 1923) is a Spanish Catalan painter. He is one of the famous artists of European abstract expressionism. After studying law for 3 years, he devoted himself from 1943 onwards only to his painting. He is perhaps the best-known Catalan artist to emerge in the period since the Second World War.

In 1950 he held his first solo exhibition, at Galeries Laietanes, Barcelona. In the early 50s he lived in Paris, to where he has often returned. Both in Europe and beyond, the highly influential French critic and curator Michel Tapié (no relation, despite the similar name) enthusiastically promoted the work of Antoni Tàpies.

In 1948, Tàpies helped co-found the first Post-War Movement in Spain known as Dau-al-Set which was connected to the Surrealist and Dadaist Movements. The main leader and founder of Dau-al-Set was the poet Joan Brossa. The movement also had a publication of the same name, Dau-al-Set. Tàpies started as a surrealist painter, his early works were influenced by Paul Klee and Joan Miró; but soon become an abstract expressionist, working in a style known as "Arte Povera", in which non artistic materials are incorporated into the paintings. In 1953 he began working in mixed media; this is considered his most original contribution to art. One of the first to create serious art in this way, he added clay and marble dust to his paint and used waste paper, string, and rags (Grey and Green Painting, Tate Gallery, London, 1957).

Mural at the Catalonian Pavilion at the Seville Expo '92

His international reputation was well established by the end of the 50s. From the late 50s to early 60s, Tàpies worked with Enrique Tábara, Antonio Saura, Manolo Millares and many other Spanish Informalist artists. From about 1970 (influenced by Pop art) he began incorporating more substantial objects into his paintings, such as parts of furniture. Tàpies's ideas have had worldwide influence on art, especially in the realms of painting, sculpture, etchings and lithography. Examples of his work are found in numerous major international collections.

Fundació Tàpies, in Barcelona, is a museum dedicated to his life and work. He currently is living in Barcelona.


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Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Antoni Tàpies (13 December 1923) is a Spanish Catalan artist , born in Barcelona, who from 1947 on, started to paint in a surrealistic style, but soon started to make abstract-expressionistic painting. Through the Arte Povare, under the influence of among other things Eastern calligraphy, he consequently developed a spontaneous abstract-expressionism with its own symbolic language.


  • These days there is no such thing as art for the sake of pleasure, whatever transcendent or aesthetic meaning one tends to apply to it…. Art is made elsewhere, out there, on another planet (far from reality), which somehow we perceive, art is what is not known. (1952)
    • Antoni Tàpies, Wikiquote Dutch, (translation C. Whorall)
  • The way art is made these days, confronts us with the way in which Johannes of the Cross (Spanish medieval mystic, fh) used to contemplate. Steep and rough: not offering any additional satisfaction whatsoever. From Nietzsche and onward, art appears to be from beginning to end, the most inhuman adventure in existence. (Tàpies refers here among other things, to the work of the painters Fautrier and Dubuffet, fh).(1952)
    • Antoni Tàpies, Wikiquote Dutch, (translation C. Whorall)
  • For instance, the symbolism of matter, with its controversies, that is to say, the inner similarity of the deepest being of human and nature. The symbolism of ashes, earth, of mud and clay from which the human being originates and to which he eventually will return; the grains of sand which so obviously indicate the fragility and insignificance of our life and the solidarity emanating from it when one realises that the differences between us (people, fh) are the same as those between one grain of sand and the other; fact is: there is no difference.(1977)
    • Antoni Tàpies, Wikiquote Dutch, (translation C. Whorall)
  • Did the most modern scientists confirm the ideas of some old philosophers and the intuitive visions of mystics, poets and artists? Without a doubt the need I vaguely felt for using new materials in the art of painting, apart from the influence of some masters, was the result of an effort to call to mind some problems raised by matter, substance and nature.(1977)
    • Antoni Tàpies, Wikiquote Dutch, (translation C. Whorall)
  • At lucky moments this (suggestive) emanation (of the painting, fh.) could overwhelm the spectator in such a way, that because of all sorts of associations in his thinking , he could finally be taken to those areas which also had moved me so deeply and made me think I should draw the attention of others to it. (1988).
    • Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 26
  • (my paintings) for the first time in history have become walls. (about his former Arte-Povare–art, fh)
    • Antoni Tàpies, Wikiquote Dutch, (translation C. Whorall)
  • I would say off the cuff that I am an anxious person. I worry about everything. I need to know everything. I tend to live in a state of anxiety with the feeling that life is some kind of great catastrophe. I feel the desire, or rather the intense need, to do something useful for society, and that is what stimulates me. In every situation I always look for what is positive and beneficial for my fellow citizens. I am interested in study, reflection, philosophy — but always as a dilettante. I also consider myself a dilettante as a painter.
  • When I talk of reality, I am always thinking of essentials. Profundity is not located in some remote, inaccessible region. It is rooted in everyday life. That is what great thinkers have taught me, above all the philosophers of the Far East, for whom true wisdom — which I am far from achieving — is the conjunction of samsara (the ordinary world) and nirvana (profound reality). To achieve contact with reality is not to transport oneself elsewhere, it is not transcendence but thorough immersion in one's surroundings. A reality which is neither purely physical nor metaphysical, but both at once.
    • As quoted in "Antoni Tapies" by Serafin Garcia Ibanez in the UNESCO Courier (June 1994)
  • The highest wisdom adopts the humblest of bodies. (about the simple materials he used at his Arte Povare time, such as straw and string, fh)
    • De Tweede Helft, beeldende kunst na 1945, Ad de Visser, Sun Amsterdam, 1998, p. 56
  • In the potential of absurdity, hiding in the disparate combination of the various different subjects which in themselves are nothing but daily items (Schwitters collages, fh) equally in the exclusive representation of a normal item (industrial products of Duchamps, fh) taken out of their usual context , is by far the most radical – in its effect comparable to a Japanese Zen koan - paradox to be witnessed, which modern art has produced, one of the most forceful impulses that generated from it.
    • Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 28
  • I never view aesthetic ideas as having an existence purely of their own but as a function they have in connection with political or moral values.
    • Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 24
  • Obviously, the intention was not to go back to images traditionally valued as worthy or holy images and shapes, but exactly the opposite; its main purpose had to be, to realise as sacred art anything which so far had been regarded as of little value and pitiful.(1988)
    • Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Nils Ohlsen, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 38
  • It is what makes conscious of the conditions and laws of observing which applied in this manner become a theme on its own. The activity of consciousness depending on the way the work itself proceeds, becomes the subject of my attention this way and it is precisely because of this voyeuristic attitude toward the own observation and experience of the subject that the conscious analytic dimension in the work shows. (about the ambivalence in his own work).
    • Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 30
  • The artist may rightly venture the opinion that he does not convey ideas, does not preach, nor that he intents to convert people by using mass communication techniques.. ..Better than handing out all kinds of wise advice, he could show life itself; he could awake forces lying dormant in everybody, he could launch an invitation to create direct and personal experiences.
    • Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 30
  • Reminding people what in reality it is all about, giving them a theme on which to ponder, creating a shock within them, pulling them out of the delusion of non authenticity, enabling them to become aware of their true possibilities (1976).
    • Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 25
  • I often told the fanatics of realism that there is no such thing as realism in art: it only exists in the mind of the observer. Art is a symbol, a thing conjuring up reality in our mental image. That is why I don’t see any contradiction between abstract and figurative art either.
    • Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 25
  • The material presence of the work only serves as a conveyer launching an invitation to the observer to take part of the comprehensive game of the thousand and one emotions and visions.
    • Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 26
  • An image means nothing. It is just a door, leading to the next door. It will never happens that we will find the truth we are looking for just in an image; it will happen behind the last door that the spectator discover the truth, because of his own efforts.
    • Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 30
  • Starting with approaching the spot where the painting is to be done, meanwhile realising the emptiness of the mind, up to the method of ‘the flying white’, of the rule of the singular stroke of the brush.. ..there is a proper tradition in which the artist is fully aware of the fact that only the pure and empty spontaneity enables him to embrace without hesitating all apparitions and to truly penetrate into the roots of things.
    • Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Nils Ohlsen, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 38
  • The tattoo can only exist as part of the skin, as a drawing always is an incision in the material and therefore cannot be parted from it.
    • Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 27
  • A cross could be a shape for expressing something spacious; such as the coordinators of space. That could be called its first significance or its first relevance. A cross could equally stand for crossing something out. It could also be a sign of obstruction. An overturned cross, an X so to speak, could be the symbol of mystery, something for the other side. Then I could paint a cross in such a way that a connection is made between two bars, and in doing so convert it into a symbol of the unlimited. So, many different crosses and X symbols occur in my works.(1988)
    • Tàpies, Werke auf Papier 1943 – 2003, Achim Sommer, Kunsthalle Emden, Altana 2004, p. 27
  • How many possibilities may arise from the image of the ‘wall’ and everything diverted from it. Separation, isolation, wailing walls, prison walls. Witnesses of the passing of time : smooth, calm, white surfaces, tortured, old, perished surfaces; signs of human intervention, traces of objects of the force of nature; impressions of battle, of exertion, of destruction, of catastrophes or of renovation, creating and balance; what is left of love, grief, aversion, chaos, romantic enchantment of silted ruins by organic matter; shapes from which one can read the rhythm of nature and the spontaneous mobility of matter. (1980, about his early wall-like paintings, fh)
    • Antoni Tàpies, Wikiquote Dutch, (translation C. Whorall)

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