Paola Pivi was born in 1971 in Milan, where she studied at the Milan Art Academy out of a desire, as she puts it, “to learn to draw.” Pivi’s work quickly took a conceptual turn, using photography, sculpture, and performance in multimedia works that also frequently include collaborations with both people and live animals. Like Pivi’s sculptures made from overturned vehicles and airplanes, her works that entail unwitting live animal collaborators—a crocodile emerging from a lake that’s been covered in whipped cream, two circus zebras transported to a park in the snow-capped mountains of Italy, and so on—produce surreal sights that are visually reminiscent, as Geoff Lowe has written, of “an advertisement for something that hasn’t been advertised yet.” Pivi focuses on creating such strange, wry, and often humorous scenarios; the interactions they produce, and the documentation of those interactions, constitute her art. In her recent work, photo portraits of the Dalai Lama, feathered polar bear sculptures, and industrial plumbing equipment have been made the subject of similar digressions from the everyday.
Pivi has had solo exhibitions at Shanghai’s Rockbund Art Museum, New York’s Doris C. Freedman Plaza at Central Park, Milan’s Museo del Novecento and Museo del Risorgimento and Palazzo Mordano, London’s Tate Modern, and Frankfurt’s Portikus, among others. She received the Golden Lion Award at the 1999 Venice Biennale. Pivi lives and works in Anchorage, Alaska.