Piero Manzoni was born in Soncino near Milan on July 13, 1933. He studies law at the Accademia die Brera as of 1951 and takes private drawing classes as of 1953, discontinuing his law studies a year later, in order to go to Rome to study art and philosophy. In 1955 he continues his studies in Milan.
During his study years he makes traditional landscape and portrait paintings. As of 1955 he begins to experiment with new materials. A year later he starts to use objects of utility, such as scissors or keys, dipping them into paint and pressing them onto the canvas so that they leave an impression behind. After a short informal period with Impasti with oil and tar, he makes his first "Achromes" in 1957 - white, structured canvasses that he immerses with glue and kaolin. A visit of an exhibition with monochrome works by Yves Klein inspires him to do so, but it is also the work of Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana that impresses him. He continues to make the "Achromes" over the following years, in 1960 he integrates felt, cotton and also polystyrene, in 1961 wool and rabbit fur and in 1962 even loafs of bread and rocks.
Piero Manzoni is co-author of numerous manifestos on art: In 1956 he signs the manifesto "Per la Scoperta di una zona d'immagini" (For a discovery of a world of images). He and Lucio Fontana join the Gruppo Nucleare in 1957, they publish the manifesto "Per una pittura organica" (For an organic painting). He also signs the writing "Contro lo Stile" (Against the Style) for the "Gruppo Nucleare Internazionale".
As of 1959 he works more and more conceptual. He creates the group of works called "Linee di lunghezza variabile" (Lines of a variable length) - paper rolls with different length, with a black line printed on them and sealed in a container with a label indicating date and duration of making. He starts his artistic co-operation with Enrico Castellani and Agostino Bonalumi the same year. They found the Galleria Azimut, run by Manzoni and Castellani and publish the vangard magazine "Azimuth".
In 1960 Piero Manzoni organizes an exhibition of "Edible Sculptures", signing eggs with his thumbprint giving them away to the visitors for consumption. He makes the "Living sculptures" in 1961 - nude models or also artist colleagues who he also signs and declares them as sculptures. Piero Manzoni deliberately hints at the artist's action as an act of creation and also at Christian ideas. The most provoking work is a work with 90 tins of "Merde d'artista" (Artists' Shit).
The artist is in close connection with the circle of "Nouveau Réalistes" around Yves Klein, but also with the "Fluxus" movement. He is in touch with the German "Zero" group, in Italy he has strong influence on the "Arte Povera".
Piero Manzoni dies on February 6, 1963 in Milan.