Today I was visiting Francesco Clemente studio.
I met him last sunday at the screening of Julian Schnabel his movie Before Night Falls (I would highly recommend people to watch it) after the event he saw me outside smoking
(I highly recommend people not to start smoking) and I said hi and introduced myself and asked if I could come to his studio. He sent me an email later that I could come to the studio on Thursday.
When I came into the studio he gave me a pack of cigarettes and said I saw you smoking outside so I made sure we could smoke together, he normally doesn’t smoke himself but he said he is using every excuse he has to light up a cigarette.
It was super magical coming to his studio normally artist dont have studios in manhattan most of them are in brooklyn but he got a huge studio as you can see on the pictures in the middle of soho. Besides the work from himself he showed me the first painting Basquiat ever made on canvas that he owns a great work by Twombly, furniture by Julian Schnabel and drawings by Warhol and Alighiero Boetti.
Also there is a photograph of him together with Willem de Kooning in the Kooning's studio. He lived in NYC for a long time now and everyone who has seen the warhol diaries on netflix saw that he was super close with Warhol and Basquiat in the 80’s he even collaborated with them on work. He said that at that time people told him that it was a bad move to work with artists like Warhol and Basquiat. It would hurt his reputation as a serious artist.. he did not care he saw the genius in both. He told me about his very interesting life, he grew up in Naples, moved to Rome and then moved in the 70's to India. He got a studio there, he said it was a luxury to just go away and be disconnected from everything you knew, it is now not possible anymore with the internet. You can still do it, you can throw away your phone and travel, he said but that is a very conscious decision. There is not much freedom in it. In the 80's he came to NYC.
He met his wife Alba Primiceri in Rome in the mid 70's after returning from his first visit to India she had a big career in theatre she fell in love with him he said he had no idea why because he was very arrogant and did not really had work to back it up, but she fell in love and saw greatness in him and gave up her career to go with him to india and never left his side.
Clemente works in a lot of mediums, in the studio it still seems he is not done with experimenting. He showed me paintings on glass, collages, a lot of drawings, watercolors, sculptures, portrait paintings, flowers paintings. It is really refreshing to see an artist who makes a lot of different types of work, most artists make work in one style, what is understable is that you can create your own languages in the art world but it also can become a bit repetitive. He is a very cultured person he paints a lot of portraits of people in his live and people he admires, a lot of them are poets, writers, artist and composers like, Morton Feldman, Allen Ginsberg, Kiki Smith and Salman Rushdie
In almost all the work he made and is making you can see how influenced he is by the culture of India, he said his goal is to collect images and references from these traditions and connect them with the emotions from the present-day, and common experiences.
He said an interesting thing to me that kept me thinking after the studio visit, we spoke about the importance of art in society and he told me art has the ability to describe where most things are prescribed. Artists can describe different stories, a different world, a different way of living. What can make people think differently and that can change the world in an indirect way. A world where we from high up get told what to do will never lead to any change. He is a very interesting guy and I am honored to have met him and also start working together with him.