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Pirro Cuniberti (1923–2016)

Pirro Cuniberti, a designer famous for the highly sought-after “PR” floor lamp made for the firm Sirrah in 1970, as well as a painter of delicate and eccentric abstractions whose later works call to mind Giorgio Griffa and his hero, Paul Klee, died on Friday, March 4.

Cuniberti graduated from Bologna’s Academy of Fine Arts in 1948, where he studied under Giovanni Romagnoli and Giorgio Morandi. That same year he went to work for motorcycle manufacturer Ducati in their publicity department. Also that year, he went to the first Venice Biennale after World War II to see the work of Vincent van Gogh (whose work he discovered as a soldier during the war), and instead came upon Paul Klee—an experience so transformative to him as an artist that he referred to Klee from then on as his “daddy.” In 1957 he had his first solo exhibition at the Circolo Culturale in Bologna.

Other major exhibitions for Cuniberti include the Quadriennale of Rome in 1965 and 1972; the XII Premio Spoleto in 1966; a survey at the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara in 1991; and another survey at Bologna’s Museo Archeologico in 2003, which ended up traveling to the Casa del Mantegna in Mantova that same year. His first major solo exhibition in the United States was at New York’s ESSO Gallery in 2008.