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Cesar Baldaccini

Born 1921, Marseille, France. Died 1998, Paris, France.

César Baldaccini is better known by his first name than his family name.  Furthermore, it lives on in the 'Césars', the national film awards of France, since he designed the trophies which feature his own figure. 

He studied at the School of Art in Marseille from 1935 and then at the Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris from 1943.  From 1947 he began to work in plaster and iron.  In 1956 he exhibited at the Venice Biennale and then at the Sao Paul Biennale and Documenta II in 1959.  He became head of the Ecole nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris in 1970 and received the Rodin Prize in 1988.

In 1960 he began to make compressed works, notably cars compressed with the aid of a hydraulic press.  This appropriation was a critique of the developing consumer society and brought him into contact with the Nouveaux Réalistes, notably Arman with whom he is often associated.   The Nouveaux Réalistes made works which sought to avoid both the lyricism of abstraction but also figuration, preferring assemblage and accumulation of found and ready made objects.  One of César's last works, made in 1998 is Suite Milanaise, made in collaboration with the Italian motor company Fiat.  It is a series of new Fiat cars which, once compressed, were taken to the Fiat paint shops and sprayed in the season's colours.   

César's work is in many museum collections and his Centaur, in homage to Picasso, was installed at the Crois-Rouge crossroads in Paris in 1985.  Shortly before his death, a major retrospective exhibition was held at the Galerie nationale de Jeu de Paume in Paris.