Fabio De sanctis - Biography
Fabio De Sanctis was born on Rome on 7-2-1931. He studied in Rome. After the war De Sanctis came into contact with the word of the visual arts, making friends with various artists who worked in the capital.
At eighteen he enrolled in the Faculty of Architecture in Rome, and part of his interests were absorbed by the university and the problems of his chosen discipline. During this period he executed tempera drawings, a few oils, and some ceramic sculptures.

He was graduated in 1957 and opened an architectural office,participating in competitions and designing buildings for private and public clients.
As he followed the execution of his designs, he developed a knowledge of the materials and techniques involved in the realization of his ideas.
His relations with artists sometimes led to joint efforts in the making of buildings and interiors


He felt some reservations, however, in his contact with the world of architecture in '61-'65: the critique he developed of «design» and of contemporary furniture was given concrete expression in a few early creations in his studio at Saxa Rubra, near Rome.
He invented furniture destined to have a less precarious material and expressive life and an autonomous individuality.
The conception of these pieces excluded both the possibility of serial development and the idea of integration in a «style».
This early experience was followed by the activity of Officina 11, in '63 and '64. Officina 11 was the name given to the activity of two artists, Fabio De Sanctis and Ugo Sterpini. It did not indicate an industrial or production-oriented operation. After a period of theoretical formulation by its two authors, Officina 11 made 27 pieces of furniture, choosing among numerous proposals, ideas, and trial pieces that had accumulated in the mean time. The work of Officina 11 would be shown only in art galleries and museums.The 27 works were illustrated in the «Catalogo '63-'64», which contained a declaration by the authors and a critical text by Enrico Crispolti.

The works of Officina 11 would be well received by the art world, but less so by architects and designers. The first exhibition, at Galleria Il Centro in Naples, was followed in the summer of '64 by an exhibition at Galleria Alfa in Venice, in concomitance with the '64 Biennale. The exhibition led to many new contacts; the Italian and foreign press, both specialized and generic, showed considerable interest in the works of Officina 11.

In October of that year Sterpini travelled to Paris and showed the Officina 11 catalogue to the poet and critic Jose Pierre, who presented it the same day to Andre Breton and the Surrealist group. Breton proposed that the Surrealists send a message to the two artists: "La poésie dans ses meubles", dated 3 December 1964, with texts by Andre Breton, Philippe Audoin, Robert Benayoun, José Pierre, Radovan Ivsic, Joyce Mansour, Alain Joubert, Jean-Claude Silbermann - on the occasion of their next exhibition, which was held in Rome at Galleria Pogliani.

In May '65 Andre Breton invited Officina 11 to the International Surrealist Exhibition, «L'Ecart absolu», at Galerie L'Oeil in Paris.
De Sanctis was present at some of the preparatory meetings for «L'Ecart absolu»: at the home of Radovan Ivsic, in rue Galande, he participated in the encounters at which the joint works that would be presented in the exhibition were defined. De Sanctis has frequented the group ever since.
«L'Ecart absolu» was the last official exhibition of the Surrealist Movement and the last conceived by André Breton.

At the time the group met daily in a cafe in the Halles quarter called,
"La promenade de Vènus".
André Breton had chosen it, perhaps because of its name, or because of its location near a large market center which brought it a clientele of laborers and shopkeepers.

De Sanctis found a group that was homogeneous and still compactly gathered around a few major figures. Among the desultury members of the group he recalls Man Ray, Matta, Eduard Mesens, Meret Oppenheim, Wifredo Lam, Robert Lebel, J.F. Revel, and the Italians Enrico Baj and Giordano Falzoni.
José Pierre, Jean Schuster, Gérard Legrand, Joyce Mansour, Philippe Audoin, Alain Joubert, Annie Le Brun, Radovan lvsic, Robert Benayoun, Vincent Bounoure, J. Michel Goutier and the painters J. Claude Silbermann, Adrien Dax, Jean Benoit, Mimi Parent, Nicole, Giovanna, and many others regularly attended the meetings.
These took place around a large table. Near Breton sat Toyen considered by many the most important woman painter of this century.
During these years the group published «La Brèche», under the direction of André Breton.
In addition to José Pierre, De Sanctis frequented Radovan Ivsic and Annie Le Brun when in Paris. In their home he met Toyen, Konrad Klapheck, Gérard Legrand, George Goldfayn, and several young poets.


At the beginning of '66, De Sanctis was invited by the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York to participate in the Exhibition, «Fantasy Furniture». The exhibition was centered on the furniture of Officina 11 and took place during January, February, and March. De Sanctis stayed in New York for about two months.

In June, July, and August of the same year the Museum Of Modern Art in New York hosted the exhibition,
"The Object Transformed", organized by Mildred Constantine and Arthur Drexler. The exhibition included «The Designer's Rest», which De Sanctis dedicated to the then little-known Ornette Coleman, as well as works by Man Ray, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Meret Oppenheim, and Wolfgang Paalen, whose «Nuage articule» had been pointed out to the organizers by De Sanctis.

From 1966 to the early Seventies De Sanctis, though he continued his architectural practise, devoted his energies primarily to Officina 11, in which he had remained alone. He developed its lines and executed ten works, taking account of his recent experiences and modifying his means of expression. He replaced some figurative elements and developed techniques of greater direct manual intervention.

The "Divano in olivo", the «Tavoli a funzione disturbata», the «Porta a funzionamento edipico», and particularly the «Grande Scrivania Direzionale», date from this time.

De Sanctis showed at Galleria Carbonesi in Bologna, at Vinciana in Milan, and at Galerie Baukunst in Cologne, in «Der Gheist des Surrealismus», organzed by José Pierre. In Rome, at the opening of the exhibition at Galleria Bruno Piattelli, italian actors connected with Living Theatre and Free Jazz musicians gave a performance.

In '68 the Surrealist group organized an exhibition in Brno, Prague, and Bratislava - «Le Principe du Plaisir» - in which De Sanctis also took part.
On 23 March '69, with the declaration, «S.A.S.», the members of the group decided to suspend all form of joint activity under the banner of Surrealism; they would continue to see each other privately.


From. '70 to '72 De Sanctis took interest in certain Situationist experiences, particularly Urban Drift. At the beginning of this period he terminated his activity as an architect. He motivated this decision in a text published in Paris by Editions Maintenant in 1974, «Déménagement». The second edition, «Trasloco», printed in Rome in silkscreen, dates from 1980.
Since '70 sculpture has been his primary activity. He had explored its techniques previously, in a series of increasingly complex practical experiences.Occasionally he would turn his attention to crafting furniture.

The works of this period are grouped together under the title, «Traversata delle Alpi», which takes its cue from a trip made together with Letizia, Annie Le Brun, and Radovan Ivsic, from Paris to Rome.
The dominant image of this body of work is the suitcase and its parts; but deformed faucets, pipes, and other residues of the profession of architect also figure.
In September '72, at the Museo del Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, he presented the image of a metaphysical journey, using such materials as recorded audio tapes, slide projections, and lights that illuminated not individual pieces, but a pile of baggage. The overall impression was that of a poetic movement toward a mythic place of departure or arrival.
The subsequent exhibitions in Italia and abroad represented the continuation and development of the themes of the «La Traversata delle Alpi».

In 1973 Enrico Crispolti and Mino Trafeli organized "Volterra 73", an exhibition which brought sculpture to exterior interior, and working spaces throughout the city.
De Sanctis made several on-site inspections to place the works he would contribute.He visited the workshops in which Volterra's signature material, alabaster, was processed, and he decided to use it. For the first time as a sculptor he came to grips with urban scale in an explicit manner. In agreement with what was done by other participating artists, he conceived his works for the specific situations in which they would be placed.

De Sanctis became fond of the workmanship of the alabaster masters; on his return from Volterra he brought a truckload of alabaster to Rome. In his Tiburtina studio he made a series of sculptures with this material, which would thenceforth be permanently included in his repertory.

These were the years during which the artist's relationship with his social environment was dealt with in various ways and via various approaches. De Sanctis experienced this moment passionately and felt that his works had sufficient symbolic content to be presented both in so-called «high culture» places and in «unprepared» places.
He moved away from works made for specific sites and showed in the streets the same works he presented in art galleries and museums.

In addition to Volterra, these experiments took place at Penne, Gubbio, Florence, Rome, Capannoli, Montagnana and, on two different occasions, Geneva.
Meanwhile De Sanctis resumed his filmmaking activity, which centered on the same symbols and themes as his sculpture.



De Sanctis continued to work on the themes of poetic emigration expressed in «La Traversata delle Alpi», with different materials and surfaces. The suitcase was always present, often deformed or reduced to details alone as in the «mineral baggage».

From Mercedes cars De Sanctis took the star, which became an autonomous character and a symbol. He saw the occult ties between the city, automobiles, the home and the conveyed in the «Tuberie» that he made of plastic and metal, forming environments - as in Milan, in the room of the '74 Biennale at the Palazzo della Permanente, «Constatazioni all 'interno della casa».

That same year he met Simone and Edouard Jaguer, founders of the «Mouvement Phases», with whom he would remain in contact. De Sanctis since that time has been invited to participate in exhibitions organized by Jaguer in France and abroad.

In '74 in Bruxelles he took part in the «Exposition Phases», at the Musée d'Ixelles.
In '76 he was invited to the XXXVIII Biennale d 'Arte in Venice, Italian Pavilion.
He showed in «Surrealism Unlimited 1968-78», at the Camden Arts Center in London, and in the same year in «Imagination» at Museum Bochum.

His first solo exhibition in Paris took place in 1979 at Galerie Le Triskele. The owner Sophie Babet, had had L'Etoile Scellee a gallery frequented by Breton and the Surrealists, during the '50s.
During the same year he met the poet and art dealer Max Clarac Serou, founder of the Galerie du Dragon, another Surrealist venue.


1980- 1984

De Sanctis's first show at Gallerie du Dragon in Paris was held in May '82 and followed the exhibitions at the Mexico City Museum at Château de La Napoule in Cannes at Palazzo Minnucci in Volterra, and at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna Ca' Pesaro, in Venice.
For the first time in the '82 exhibition De Sanctis presented small symbolic landscapes animated by out-of-proportion and deformed elements and familiar objects placed in allusive situations open to multiple associations.

The sculpture"Liselotte Zeiss visita Volterra, prosegue verso il mare, conosce ed ammira Monsieur-de-Larderel" is a common, everyday object modified with the intention of demonstrating an «other» use.
The elements used throughout this body of work are figurative, often taken from the stylistic heritage of the past or from the common ordinary imagination.

He was invited to the E.L.A.C. in Lyon, in the exhibition, «Permanence du Regard Surrealiste», organized by Edouard Jaguer.
In March '83, in Bari, he took part in the exhibition organized by José Pierre in the Pinacoteca, «Dans la lumière du Surréalisme».



The sculptures of this period are characterized not only by forms that find reference in Etruscan scultpure, which awakened a renewed interest in De Sanctis, but also by a green patina that recalls, on one hand, the oxidation of the bronze of archaeological finds, and on the other the taste of certain finishings used in the '20s.
Furthermore, he chose not only to paraphrase archaic forms, but also to present forms drawn from mechanical objects - contemporary archetypes such as automobiles, cameras and optical devices - together with mushrooms and small suitcases.

He attempted to show the coexistence of these diverse visual and symbolic experiences in the mind of contemporary man.In the summer of ‘85 he was invited to the 18th Sculpture Biennial - «Automobiennale» at the Middelheim Museum in Antwerp.

In the summer of '86, twenty years after Breton's death, Cahors hosted the exhibition «Changer la vue - André Breton et la Revolution Surréaliste du regard», in which De Sanctis participated with the sculpture, «The Language of Love».

In '87 he had a one-person show at Galerie de l'Hôtel de Ville, in Geneva.
In '87 De Sanctis was invited to show at the Valentino in Turin, in an exhibitiion dedicated to speed; his works were shown together with works by the Futurists, antique cars, and historic airplanes.
He took part in '88 at the Musée des Beaux Arts of Le Havre in the exhibition, «L'experience continue, 1952/1988 - Phases»



«La Condizione di Natura», dating from '88, marks the passage to further metamorphoses and fusions between the automobile and the landscape, trasforming the former into an open field of imagination in which plant, marine, and floral materials are present, and in which the human figure also represents a possible role of passage.
In « La Condizione di Natura 2 », the classical iconography of rape is taken on in a zoomorphic automobile in which the figure of the woman is partially absorbed, as though to indicate a possible unification of all the heterogeneus element described in a single work.

Certain sculpture of this period are ships, large vessels with archetypal hull lines but devoid of means of propulsion,
which transport palms, landscape elements, instruments of optical reconnaissance, and zoomorphic and plants elements
- all the bagage, that is, that the traveller thinks he must use and admire on a possible journey.
Two of these ships were shown in the underground passage of the old Roman road at the Galleria d'Arte Moderna di Verona, Palazzo Forti, as part of the exibition dedicated to Magritte.
At Asnières, Paris, the exhibition «Les Chemins du Fantastique » hosted the ships in the room dedicated to Hieronymus Bosch.

De Sanctis showed in Milan in '89 at Palazzo Reale e Arengario in «I Surrealisti », an exhibition conceived by Arturo Schwarz, and in Frankfurt at the Schirn Kunsthalle in «Die Surrealisten ».
In '91 at the Centre Georges Pompidou he participated in the exhibition, «André Breton, la Beauté convulsive». In Madrid, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, he took part in the exhibition «André Breton».

In '93, reflecting on an exhibition of his furniture at Galerie J.C. Riedel in Paris, he felt the need to find an updated way of crafting furniture that would release him from and allow him to go beyond his earlier experiences.
After a period of research the realizaton of the «Barocco Sintetico» began.

In sculpture, the theme of metamorphoses took on a more precise connotation in several works that show a mutation under way between plant elements and mechanical components (largely drawn from the mechanics of the automobile) - for instance, in "Nadie vera el rostro del Rallie que pasa en el bosque", of '92, winner of the

First Prise in Sculpture at the Tenth International Biennial in Barcelona.
He resumed and developed a series of sculptures in which, through the possiblity given to the observer of multiple points of view in some cases even with an interchange of roles - sequential and different interpretations can be generated, as in «La Condizione di Natura 3», «Officina delle Figure», «Sequenza urbana», «SORELLEDELLEROS» and «L'lsola delle Figure».

Fabio De Sanctis lives and works in Rome.