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ANTONIO BERNI  (b. 1905, Argentina)

Muralist, sculptor, painter, and printmaker Antonio Berni showed artistic talent from an early age. The youngest of three children to an Italian immigrant family in Rosario, Argentina, Berni took his first drawing and painting classes in 1916, at Centre Catalá de Rosario. By the time he was 15, he was exhibiting his work in Rosario and Buenos Aires. Berni moved to Europe in 1925 and joined the Grupo de Paris, a group of Argentine artists and writers living abroad. In Paris, Berni studied with André Lhote and Othon Friesz, and he befriended members of the Surrealist movement. He also studied printmaking for the first time, working with artist and poet Max Jacob; the medium would become central to his aesthetic and political concerns. In 1930, he married sculptor and political activist Paule Cazenave, and they returned to Rosario shortly afterward.

Upon his return to Rosario, Berni showed his Surrealist-inspired works at Amigos del Arte. He joined the Equipo Poligráfico Ejecutor founded by David Alfaro Siqueiros in 1933, and worked with Siqueiros, Lineo Spilimbergo, Juan Carlos Castagnino, and Enrique Lázaro to complete a private mural commission, Ejercicio plástico. Berni was critical, though, of Siqueiros’s proposition for a public mural movement in Argentina, and he believed that printmaking offered a more accessible forum for a proletarian politics. Berni founded the Mutualidad de Artistas y Estudiantes Plásticos de Rosario (Art Students Union of Rosario), a school and print workshop that offered him a platform to develop his ideas about New Realism, a politically and socially committed art that Berni described as a new humanism.

In the 1950s, Berni began traveling to the rural communities in the northern province of Santiago del Estero, where he made large-scale paintings that dealt with labor conditions and migration in the impoverished region. During this time, he also began his narrative collage series based on the life of a fictional character he named Juanito Laguna; in 1963 he began his Ramona Montiel series. Between 1955 and 1958 his work was exhibited in Paris, Berlin, Bucharest and Moscow, and in 1962, he won the grand prize for engraving and drawing at the Venice Biennial. In the 1960s and 1970s, working in Buenos Aires and Paris, Berni made paintings, collages, and engravings, as well as objects, installations, theater sets, and happenings. In a 1965 retrospective exhibition of his work at the Instituto Torcuato di Tella in Buenos Aires, Berni debuted his sculptures of monsters; these objects would influence a generation of Argentinean painters, including members of the Otra Figuración movement, Jorge de la Vega and Luis Felipe Noé.


“One cold, cloudy afternoon, while I was wandering through Juanito’s miserable town, a radical change occurred in my view of reality and its interpretation… it came from the discovery, on the unpaved streets and in the empty lots, of scattered, discarded materials that made up Juanito Laguna’s true environment: scrap wood, empty bottles, scrap iron, cardboard boxes, sheet metal, etc…. Beginning that day I bought fewer and fewer bottles of paint…”

Selected Solo Exhibitions


Antonio Berni. Revelaciones sobre papel. 1922-1981. - Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires (MAMBA), Buenos Aires


Antonio Berni - Juanito y Ramona - MALBA Colección Costantini - Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires


Antonio Berni - Juanito and Ramona - Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ


Antonio Berni: Juanito and Ramona - MFAH - Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, TX


Antonio Berni: Juanito and Ramona - MFAH - Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, TX


Antonio Berni — la mirada intensa - Fundacion Picasso - Museo Casa Natal, Málaga


Berni: narrativas argentinas - Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes - MNBA, Buenos Aires


Antonio Berni - Pesadilla de los injustos - Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes - MNBA, Buenos Aires


Antonio Berni. Obra gráfica - MUNTREF - Museo de la Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, Buenos Aires


Antonio Berni - Presencias y Creencias - Fundación Federico Jorge Klemm, Buenos Aires


Antonio Berni - Obras Graficas - Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, Santurce


Antonio Berni - Obras Surrealistas - Ruth Benzacar - Galeria de Arte, Buenos Aires


Antonio Berni: paintings, drawings, etchings, collages - Galería Bonino, New York City, NY

Selected Public Collections

Fundación Alon, Buenos Aires, Argentina

MUNTREF - Museo de la Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA), Buenos Aires, Argentina

Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires (MAMBA), Buenos Aires, Argentina

Museo Maguncia del Papel, Grabado y la Estampa, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA), Buenos Aires, Argentina

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Rosario (MACRo), Rosario, Argentina

Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes Juan B. Castagnino, Rosario, Argentina

Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogotá (MAMBO), Bogota, Colombia

Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia, Cali, Colombia

Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), Long Beach, CA, USA

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City, NY, USA

MAAM Fundacion Museo de Arte Americano de Maldonado, San Fernando de Maldonado, Uruguay