Born September 27, 1919, in Ulassai (Sardinia), Maria Lai is one of the great names of the international art world. From a young age, she demonstrated a passion for art and creativity until she became established as one of the most significant artists on the Italian art scene in the postwar period. An eclectic artist, Maria Lai gave voice to her artistic vein through weaving, embroidery, writing, sculpture, and drawing. Her search for new forms of expression led her to embrace conceptual art and explore new modes of artistic expression.
A key aspect of Maria Lai’s art is her strong connection to territory and community. Her works often involve the active participation of local residents, encouraging collaboration and the sharing of stories and traditions. This creation of a sense of belonging and collective identity highlights the power of art as a tool for connection and social transformation. With Legarsi alla montagna (1981) and the involvement of the entire village of Ulassai, she created the first relational artwork in Italy, disrupting the traditional relationship between the author and viewer of the work, transforming the audience into the true creator of an artistic act.
One of the distinctive features of Maria Lai’s work is her preponderant use of textile art. Lai was a pioneer in combining conceptual art with the tradition of Sardinian textile crafts. She used threads, cloth and fabrics to create artworks that explore the concept of connections between individuals, memory, and time. Her innovative approach broke new ground in the field of visual arts, pushing the boundaries of traditional art.
Maria Lai passed away in Cardedu on April 16, 2013. The artist was celebrated in 2017 at both the 57th Venice Biennale and Documenta 14, at the double venues in Athens and Kassel, and in 2018 she was featured in the major monographic exhibition Il filo e l’infinito at Palazzo Pitti in Florence.
In 2018, M77 presented A proposito di Maria Lai: a solo exhibition of the artist’s work.