Maria Lai (Ulassai, 27 September 1919 – Cardedu, 16 April 2013) is today one of the great names of the international art scene.
One of the most unique and profound voices of Italian Post-War art, Maria Lai (Ulassai, 1919 – Cardedu 2013) was born in Sardinia, the second biggest island in the Mediterranean located west of the Italian peninsula. Though her early artistic endeavors took her elsewhere, she was always drawn back to the customs and folklore of her island and on the lives and voices of the women who lived there. Through the re-reading of stories and materials from the Sardinian tradition the artist articulated her artistic practice through a wide variety of media including weaving, embroidery, sculpture, and writing. Each of her works reflects the intense echo of an ancient relationship that recalls the dawn of narration and poetry.
Lai’s seminal work, Legarsi alla montagna, a collective performance which saw the pioneering involvement of the inhabitants of the Sardinian village of Ulassai into a unique human and aesthetic experience that took place in 1981, is considered the first example of Relational Art at a global scale. The cathartic and healing power of art has always been at the center of the artist’s work.
Maria Lai spent the last years of her life in Sardinia in a small village near Cardedu.
In 2006 she inaugurated the Museum of Contemporary Art Stazione dell’arte which includes numerous works of her creation, the result of years of study and research.
The artist was celebrated in 2017 at both the 57 Venice Biennale and Documenta 14, in the two venues of Athens and Kassel, and in 2018 she was the protagonist of the important monographic exhibition Il filo e l’infinito at Palazzo Pitti in Florence.