National Museum of Women in the Arts
Mirella Bentivoglio
March 28 1922 - present
Photograph of Mirella Bentivoglio, 2002, by Ruggero Passeri, courtesy of the artist
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
mee-REH-lah behn-tee-VOH-lyoh
Work Type/Media:
Books and manuscripts, Performance Art , Photography, Sculpture
Artistic Role(s):
Book Artist, Collagist, Performance Artist, Photographer, Sculptor, Stone Carver, Visual Poet
Artist's Biography:
Mirella Bentivoglio explores the relationship between language and image in her art. "Language is not only bureaucracy and power," she explains, "it belongs to history, to a domestic history where women had a large part. It is the women who give language to the human being in his first years of existence."

Born in Klagenfurt, Austria to Italian parents, Bentivoglio grew up in Milan. Having studied languages in Switzerland and London as a young woman, she used her father's extensive library as a home-based university during World War II. Her course of artistic study was determined by both parents. "My mother was alwaysa bit jealous of my father's books," Bentivoglio recalls, "and by extension, of my relationship with him. She wanted me to paint, whereas my father encouraged my reading and writing. I hope that through the creation of artists' books and works of visual and concrete poetry, combining image and language, I have finally made peace between them."

Two symbols have dominated Bentivoglio's work since the 1970s: the egg and the tree. She sees the egg as a symbol of unity and equality between the sexes, because, she asserts, "we never know if an egg will contain a male or a female life." The tree represents her connection to the earth and nature, which she feels need our protection now more than ever. In honor of her commitment to the earth and to ensure the durability of her work, Bentivoglio's unique books are often made from materials that cannot be easily destroyed, such as stone, metal, and wood.

Bentivoglio is not only a book artist, she is also an art critic and curator, a researcher, a sculptor, and a performance artist. Her research has brought recognition to many women artists, and she has organized exhibitions in Europe, Australia, Japan, and North and South America. She currently resides and works in Rome.

Other Occupation(s):
Activist, Art Critic, Author, Curator , Essayist, Journalist, Poet, Researcher, Traveler, Writer
Place(s) of Residence:
Where Trained/Schools:
University of Sheffield, Sheffield, England (1938-1939) University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England (1938-1939)
Related Visual Artists:
collaborated with Gisella Meo friend of Elisabetta Gut friend of Alba Savoi
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Premio per la Carriera dal Presidente della Repubblica Italiana, Rassegna Internazionale d'Arte Contemporeanea, Sulmona, Italy (2002) Library Research Grant, The Getty Research Institute, Santa Monica, CA, USA (1997) Premio Paola e Lucia Molin, Centro Piovese d'Arte e Cultura, Padova, Italy (1993)
Earliest exhibition:
Bentivoglio, Galleria Schwarz, Milan, Italy (1971)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Book as Art XII: Artists' Books from the Permanent Collection
Book as Art II
Book as Art III
Book as Art VI
Book as Art IV
Book as Art V
The Visual Poetry of Mirella Bentivoglio
Insomnia: Landscapes of the Night
Book as Art XV
The Book as Art: Twenty Years of Artists' Books from the National Museum of Women in the Arts
The Book as Art
Artist retrospective(s):
The Visual Poetry of Mirella Bentivoglio, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC, USA (1999)
Litolattine, 1998
A Malherbe
Book (from "Litolattine")
The World after September 11, 2001: A Reinforced Book