Nelson Leirner was born in São Paulo in 1932. He is a Brazilian painter, designer, installation artist and teacher. Leirner is considered a controversial artist and he aims at questioning behavioral strategies in an experimental way.
From 1947 to 1952, he lived in the United States, where he studied textile engineering at the Lowell Technological Institute, in Massachusetts, leaving before completion. On returning to Brazil, he studied painting under Joan Ponç (1927 – 1984), in 1956, and briefly attended the Atelier-Abstração [Studio-Abstraction], of Flexor (1907 – 1971), in 1958. In 1966, he founded the Grupo Rex [Rex Group], together with Wesley Duke Lee (1931), Geraldo de Barros (1923 – 1998), Carlos Fajardo (1941), José Resende (1945) and Frederico Nasser (1945). In 1967, he held the Exhibition-Non-Exhibition event, a happening that marked the end of the group, in which he offered his works for free to the public.
In the same year, he sent a stuffed pig to the 4th Modern Art Salon of Brasília and publicly questioned, through the Jornal da Tarde [Evening Newspaper], the standards of judgment that led the jury to accept the work. He produced his first multiples, with canvas and zipper mounted on a frame. He was also one of the first artists to use billboards as supports for artworks. For political reasons, he closed the special room dedicated to him at the 10th Bienal Internacional de São Paulo [São Paulo International Biennial], in 1969, and turned down an invitation for the 1971 edition. In the 1970s, he created allegories of the contemporary political scene in a series of drawings and engravings. In 1974, he exhibited the series, A Rebelião dos Animais [The Rebellion of the Animals], with works harshly criticizing the military regime, for which he was awarded a prize from the São Paulo Art Critics Association – APCA, for best proposal of the year. In 1975, the APCA commissioned him a work to be delivered as a prize to recipients but it was rejected on the grounds that it had been made in Xerox, leading artists to skip the ceremony in protest.
From 1977 to 1997, he taught at the Armando Álvares Penteado Foundation – Faap, in São Paulo, where he played a significant role in the education of several generations of artists. He moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1997, supervising the basic course of the Visual Arts School of the Lage Park – EAV/Parque Lage, until the following year.
Nelson Leirner has had numerous gallery and museum exhibitions, including at the MAK Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art and at the Galeria Vermelho. Many works by the artist have been sold at auction, including 'Homenagem a Fontana I' sold at Phillips New York 'Latin America' in 2013 for $359,000. There have been many articles about Nelson Leirner, including 'Lacma Celebrates Soccer's World Cup' written by Adam Elder for The Wall Street Journal in 2014.