Marino di Teana, born in southern Italy in 1920, fled to Buenos Aires at the age of sixteen. He started his career as a mason and worked his way up to the position of construction manager before enrolling in night classes in architecture. Although he would remain passionate about the subject throughout his life, di Teana changed his course of study after gaining entry to the exclusive Escuela Superior de Bellas Artes. He proceeded to serve on the staff of the university as a professor after graduating with the highest honors.
In 1953, with the help of a scholarship provided by the French embassy in Argentina, di Teana was able to resettle in Paris. Once there, however, he was homeless. He slept in public gardens and supported himself with odd jobs until he befriended a community of artists and intellectuals living in the district St Germain-des-Près, which he encountered while taking classes at Le Corbusier in Sèvres-Babylone. This community introduced his work to the Denis René Gallery, where di Teana would exhibit successfully throughout the 1960s.
Di Teana finally achieved the level critical praise his artwork deserved when, in 1962, he won a competition held by the company Saint-Gobain calledSculpture pour une Usine(Sculpture for a Factory). His large scaleConquête de l'Espace (Conquest of Space)was chosen from more than 100 other entries, and was judged by a prestigious jury composed of, among others, Ossip Zadkine, Serge Poliakoff, and Alberto Giacometti.
This triumph made di Teana’s work desirable amongst companies and communities looking to commission large scale sculptures. In the twenty years after he finishedConquête de l'Espacedi Teana produced over 40 large scale sculptures throughout Europe, one of which,Liberté(Liberty), in Fontenay-sous-Bois, is one of the largest steel sculptures on the continent, standing 21 meters high.
Public commissions of this kind exemplified di Teana’s best known sculpture. Much of his work was dedicated to the great architects he respected most; and his massive sculptures, which were, by and large, imagined as modern buildings and cityscapes, always fit with their architectural surroundings.
The other driving force behind di Teana’s sculpture was his innovative conception of negative space, which he understood as a work's pre-eminent element. This space was not merely a goal, butthegoal in his creation of form, and di Teana’s great task, as he saw it, was to allow the space he created to “circulate” and move freely in, and throughout, his work.
By the 1970s di Teana was shown frequently and prominently throughout France. In 1974 he was exhibited at the Commanderie de Braux Sainte-Cohière in the Marne; in 1975 in a traveling exhibition put on by the Saint Etienne, Reims, Montbéliard; and in 1976 in a retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris.
After this decade of exhibitions Marino di Teana’s career was marked by a succession of large international exhibitions, retrospectives, and honors. In 1982 he represented Argentina at the 40th Venice Biennale and in 1997 he represented France in the International Symposium of Arts and Sciences in Seoul, South Korea. The Saar Museum in Saarbrücken, Germany held a retrospective of his works in 1987, and in 2009 he was the guest of honor at the international sculpture triennial of Poznań, Poland. He was awarded the Honorary Diploma of the 14th Triennial in Milan; a Grand Silver Medal from the French Academy of Architecture; was appointed a member of the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture of Argentina (Buenos Aires); and made a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.
His work resides in the Tome in Japan, the Museum of Contemporary Art of the City of Paris, the George Pompidou Center, the National Contemporary Art Museum in Korea, and The New Contemporary Art Museum MAC/VAL.
Marino di Teana died in 2012 in Périgny-sur-Yerres, France where he had lived since the mid-1960s. Today his work lives on through the The Marino di Teana Association, run by his son Nicolas Marino Di Teana.