MATTA, Roberto (1911-2002)

Mural painting, oil painting on laid down canvas
245 x 550 cm
Date of entry at UNESCO
Country of origin Chile
Acquisition made by UNESCO for the artistic decoration of its Headquarters in Paris in 1958.
© Photo: UNESCO
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In 1957, UNESCO's “Committee on Architecture and Works of Art” organized a competition for the decoration of the Organization's permanent headquarters in Paris; only eleven artists were selected, among which Roberto Matta. The Committee members included the building architects, Bernard Zehrfuss, Marcel Breuer, Luigi Nervi, and C. Para-Perez who presided the Committee of Art Advisors which included Georges Salles, Shahid Subrawardy and Herbert Read, selected to guide the choice of works

Alongwith paintings by Afro Basaldella and Karel Appel, Matta’s “The Widest Opening on the Cosmos” was chosen for the decoration of the 7th floor of the newly constructed Fontenoy building. This large painting, with its specific and original architectural space, reveals a “utopic spirit” which favors, according to the artist, “The Widest Opening on the Cosmos”. Surrealism, of which he claimed himself to be, was to him “the only discipline allowing constant transformation”. Desire and Eros are the lines of force in his cybernetic compositions, where insects, larvae, totems and strange machines create a perfectly controlled monumental delirium His works constitute a revolutionary saga which follow the struggle, throughout the world, against imperialism and the breach of human liberty.

Artist Biography

Roberto Matta Echaurren was born on 11 November 1911 in Chiloé (Chile) to Hispanic-Franco-Basque parents. He began Architecture studies in 1929 at the Catholic University of Santiago, which he soon stopped in order to settle in Europe as of 1931, first travelling to Italy, Spain and later Russia and the United Kingdom, where he met René Magritte. Although a disciple of the architect Le Corbusier, he opposed himself to his rationalism in the magazine “Minotaur”. He decided to settle down in Paris in 1934, where, through Federico Garcia Lorca, he met Salvador Dalí, André Breton, Yves Tanguy and Pablo Picasso. As of 1937 he dedicated himself to painting, creating his first oils on canvas the following year. He participated in the International Exhibition on Surrealism in Paris, in 1938, alongside Magritte, Miró and Picasso in the Spanish pavilion. An important retrospective exhibition, which he did not attend, was held in Santiago (Chile) in 2000 and included 162 of his works – oils, drwings, pastels, sculptures, ceramics – carried out between 1930 and 2000. Considered the “last of the Surrealists” and one of the last great painters of the 20th century, Matta saw himself as a “citizen of the world”. Matta passed away in 2002, in Civitavecchia (Italy).

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