Artist’s Shit

piero manzoni

Artist’s Shit (Italian: ‘Merda d’artista’) is a 1961 artwork by the Italian artist Piero Manzoni. The work consists of 90 tin cans, each 30 grams, with a label in Italian, English, French, and German stating: ‘Artist’s Shit; Freshly preserved; Produced and tinned in May 1961.’ At the time the piece was created Manzoni was producing works that explored the relationship between art production and human production, Artist’s Breath (‘Fiato d’artista’), a series of balloons filled with Manzoni’s breath, being an example.

A tin was sold for €124,000 at Sotheby’s in 2007. The cans were originally to be valued according to their equivalent weight in gold — $37 each in 1961 — with the price fluctuating according to the market. One of Manzoni’s collaborators, Agostino Bonalumi, claimed that the tins are full not of faeces but plaster; but some cans have leaked and confirmed they are indeed faeces — though whether human or animal has not been verified.

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