León Ferrari was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and died in the same city. Trained to be an engineer, Ferrari was mostly an autodidact artist.
His work can be found in important public collections, amongst others: the Tate Modern, London; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston ; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Buenos Aires; Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires; Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Brazil; and the Museo de Arte Moderno de México, Mexico City. In October of 2007 he was awarded the Gold Lion at the 52nd Venice Biennale. In 2010 The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York inaugurated ‘Tangled Alphabets’ a two-artist retrospective of León Ferrari and Mira Schendel. The exhibition in New York was followed by presentations at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid; and the Fundação Iberê Camargo in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
At the forefront of pre-conceptual art, Ferrari’s career developed at a time when the question of language was particularly central to Western culture due to the role taken by post-structuralism, semiotics, and the philosophy of language. Ferrari worked in a wide range of art forms and mediums. He explored techniques such as sculpture, painting, drawing, and assemblage to film, collage, mail art, poetry, and sound. During his time in Italy in the 1950s, he produced ceramic sculptures stylistically connected to the European abstraction of the time. Upon returning to Argentina, he continued to create sculptural works of metal wires and rods before beginning what would become his most iconic works, a series on paper and, ultimately, installations, developing an organic style in which gestural forms appear both as abstractions and as explorations of the codes of writing.
Known for his antagonistic political stance and artistic ethics, Ferrari obtained international acclaim when his work was included in the 2000 survey exhibition ‘Heterotopias’ at the Centro Reina Sofía in Madrid. Four years later in 2004 a national scandal arose in his name at the Centro Cultural Recoleta in Buenos Aires, where the artist had his first major retrospective exhibition. During the forty days that the exhibition lasted, 70,000 visitors passed through the art center, 1,000 articles were printed, and countless manifestations arose both against and in defense of the artist and his work; this mass outpouring of attention solidified Ferrari as one of the most important artists of Latin America.