Igor Mitoraj was a sculptor. He was born on 26th March, 1944, and died on 6th October, 2014. His sculptures stand in Paris, Rome, Milan, Lausanne, London, Kraków, and Warsaw.
Igor Mitoraj spent most of his life in the West, mainly in France and Italy. The Colombian sculptor Fernando Pole Bolero, one of the most expensive contemporary artists in the world, urged him to buy a house in Pietrasanta, the Italian capital of marble, city of sculptors, where artists such as Michelangelo worked. Mitoraj considered this Italian studio ‘his place on Earth’ though he had lived in Paris, tried to settle in Mexico to learn the art of the Aztecs, and travelled around Greece studying ancient works of art.
Antiquity was one of the main sources of inspiration for the artist. His sculptures make direct references to the mythology and history of Greece and Rome, sometimes contained already in the title: Icarus, Centauro, Eros, Mars, Gorgon, Paesaggio Ithaka. As art critics have noted, while evoking the beauty and perfect proportions of classical sculptures, Mitoraj re-interpreted them in a contemporary way. He visualised the imperfection of human nature by deliberately damaging and cracking the surface of statues.
Mitoraj’s style is now being recognised by art lovers around the world. The sculptures’ lips, which always have the shape of those of the artist, are among the characteristic features of his works, serving as a sort of an informal ‘signature’.
Igor Mitoraj was born on 26th March, 1944 in Oederan in the Ore Mountains, and was the son of a Polish forced labourer and a French prisoner of war, an officer of the Foreign Legion. When the war was over, he returned to his grandparents in Poland with his mother. Mitoraj spent his childhood and youth in Grojec. After graduating from the Art School in Bielsko-Biała, he was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków in 1963, where he studied painting under the direction of Tadeusz Kantor.
In 1968, after obtaining a degree, Mitoraj went to Paris to study at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts. He started there as a painter and graphic artist; in 1976 he had an exhibition in the La Hune gallery in the Latin Quarter, linked to the bookshop of the same name.
Later he took up sculpture. It was not long before he was offered to prepare an exhibition for the ArtCurial gallery in Paris, managed by the nephew of the then French President Mitterand. In order to prepare the works for this exhibition, Mitoraj spent a year in the centre of bronze foundries and marble masons in Pietrasanta, Italy. There he created his first works made of bronze, as well as his first monumental sculptures of white marble from the nearby Carrara.
Mitoraj is considered one of the greatest contemporary sculptors. His works can be found in dozens of museums, foundations and headquarters of the largest corporations in the world.
After the exhibition in the ArtCurial in 1977 Mitoraj’s sculptures and drawings have been shown at 120 solo exhibitions throughout the world. His sculptures, often of gigantic size, stand in emblematic points of many cities – including Paris (La Defense), Rome, Milan, Lausanne, London, Kraków, Scheveningen near The Hague, in the US and Japan.
In an interview, the artist recalled his first years as an emigrant with melancholy:
I find it absurd when someone says that I have made it in life. I have worked for my success for over 30 years. I earn money with art and it gives me freedom. I have indeed been very lucky, because I have never had to ask for my works to be shown in galleries and I have never been forced to put them out to tender, but before I became free, I had to go through the mill. When I first started my artistic career, I was earning a living by carrying pianos and furniture to the sixth floors of Parisian buildings.
In 2009 Mitoraj created the so-called Angelic doors for the Church of Our Lady of Grace in Warsaw’s Old Town. He had previously created similar doors for the Santa Maria degli Angeli Church in Rome. According to the artist, ‘some may be shocked by the completely unconventional image of the Madonna, looking down towards two angels captured in motion’.
On 5th October, 2005, Mirotaj was honoured by the then Minister of Culture Waldemar Dąbrowski with a Gold Medal for Merit to Culture Gloria Artis during a ceremony in the Kraków City Hall. On 24th April, 2012, he was awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta by the President Bronisław Komorowski ‘for outstanding contribution to Polish and world culture, for creative and artistic achievements’; the honouring ceremony took place on 3rd May, 2012.
Source: PPA, October 2014, transl. Bozhana Nikolova, April 2015