Claudio Abate.

Claudio Abate (1943–2017)

Photographer Claudio Abate, best known for his images of artworks by avantgarde artists working in Rome, has died. His family confirmed his passing to Exibart on August 3.

Born in Rome on August 2, 1943, Abate was the son of a painter who was a friend of Giorgio de Chirico. In 1955, Abate began his career as a photographer’s assistant before he opened his own studio on Via del Babuino, the hub of Rome's artistic community, at only fourteen years old. Abate joined the Press Service Agency at the age of sixteen—and from 1961 to 1963 he was the assistant of Erich Lessing, a leading Magnum member and Life magazine photographer.

In 1959, Abate met Carmelo Bene, the actor, writer, and director, who was a prominent figure of Italian avantgarde theater and cinema. Beginning in 1963, for the next eleven years Abate documented Bene’s film and stage productions. During this period Abate also collaborated with Sipario magazine, documenting the evolution of the Roman art scene with his photographs of artists such as Jannis Kounellis, Eliseo Mattiacci, Fabio Mauri, and Pino Pascali.

As the photographer’s reputation became known outside of Italy, he began to work with international artists and venues including Galerie Michael Werner in Germany, the Neuen Wilden artists, and Joseph Beuys’s widow, who invited Abate to document the numerous works that Beuys arranged in the Landesmuseum of Darmstadt shortly before his death. In the late 1980s, Abate moved his studio and home to Rome’s San Lorenzo district, where he continued to collaborate with emerging artists such as Nunzio di Stefano and Piero Pizzi Cannella.

During his career, Abate also experimented with black and white photograms, which he called “Contatti con la superficie sensibile.” These works were exhibited in a show curated by Achille Bonito Oliva at the Incontri internazionali d’Arte at Palazzo Taverna in Rome in 1972. Oliva also curated a later show of Abate’s works at MART (Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Rovereto) and at the French Academy in Rome.