Italian Artist Chiara Fumai Dies at 39

Her fiercely feminist lectures involving magic, ghosts, and the occult earned her international acclaim.


The Italian artist Chiara Fumai was found dead on Wednesday, August 17, in Galleria Doppelgaenger, a commercial gallery based in the city of Bari, Italy. According to La Reppublica, the cause of death appears to be an overdose of prescription drugs.

Her London gallerist, Pierre d’Alancaisez from Waterside Contemporary,posted a message on Facebook yesterday, saying:

“I’m deeply saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Chiara Fumai. Chiara was an extraordinary force—committed to her practice and not afraid of its risks. It was a privilege to work with her at Waterside.”

The work of the 39-year-old artist had garnered international acclaim in the last decade thanks to her powerful lecture-performances that explored themes of radical feminism, the occult and esotericism, language, and representation via the infamous archetype of the “female psychic.”

In her pieces, Fumai would channel various controversial entities, combining their voices and stories into new and loaded narratives.

Born in 1978 in Rome and based in Milan, Fumai participated in the widely acclaimed dOCUMENTA (13), where she staged a group performance on the roof of the Fridericianum, channeling the feminist activist Carla Lonzi, founder of Rivolta Femminile, and two 19th-century female attractions at P.T. Barnum’s American Museum: the slave Zalumma Agra, dubbed The Star of the East, and the bearded lady Annie Jones. The piece was produced with the support of the Fiorucci Art Trust.

Milovan Farronato, director of the Fiorucci Art Trust, posted an emotional farewell to Fumai on Instagram:

“Thank you for having been a friend, a guide, a powerful source of inspiration. For having taught me to dance with the spirits, for having revealed me secrets of knowledge I did not know, for your beautiful words that will be forever within me. Hope to see you in astral soon.”

Chiara Fumai with Harry Houdini, Free like the Speech of a Socialist Volcano Extravaganza, 2011. Courtesy of the artist and Fiorucci Art Trust Photograph Matthew Stone.


Fumai participated in exhibitions all over the world, including at MARCO, MAXXI, and Nomas Foundation, all in Rome; DRAF in London; CA2M in Madrid; and Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin.

Writing for La Reppublica, the Italian writer and curator Antonella Marino said that Fumai had left New York, where she had been doing a residency, to go to Bari “to cope with a personal crisis” from which she seemed to be recovering.

Fumai was also preparing a show set for November at the Rino Costa Gallery in Valenza, and told the writer that she was planning to move to Brussels at the end of the year.

by Lorena Muñoz-Alonso


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