The figure of the African-American singer from the golden era of jazz, who died in 1959 after a troubled life, is condensed in a portrait in which her salient features - the blood-red mouth with full lips, evoking her warm and sensuous vocal tone, the black of her skin, transcending the purely bodily aspect to signify the social condition of that time, which for blacks was still difficult – are sublimated in a modern totemic fetish with a marked erotic appeal. Hanging on the wall, it calls to mind the image of the coloured man hung from a tree by whites, described in one of her most distressing songs, Strange Fruit. In a Rome where American Pop Art was already gaining attention before its official recognition at the Venice Biennale in 1964, this work met Mediterranean culture, speaking to us of a mass civilisation that seemed to turn everything into merchandise and objects of consumption, almost incapable of going beyond the skin of things.


  • Title: Homage to Billie Holiday
  • Creator: Pino Pascali
  • Creator Lifespan: 1935 - 1968
  • Creator Nationality: Italian
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Rome
  • Creator Birth Place: Bari
  • Date: 1964
  • Physical Dimensions: w120 x h164 x d22 cm
  • Date of acquisition: 1985
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Vittorio Rubiu, Rome
  • Provenance: Fondazione Guido ed Ettore De Fornaris, on deposit at GAM - Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin
  • Type: Paintings
  • Rights: All rights reserved, GAM - Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Turin
  • Medium: Enamel on canvas, on wood

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