John Giorno

B. 1936, NEW YORK, NY

Best known as a poet and performance artist, John Giorno rose to prominence in 1960s New York, where he would continue to have a wide-ranging impact on cultural life for six decades. He starred in Andy Warhol’s film Sleep in 1963 and soon began to draw on Pop art’s sensibilities to reimagine contemporary poetry. While Giorno published twenty printed volumes, as well as a memoir, he also helped devise and promote new mediums for experiencing poetry. In 1968 he debuted Dial-a-Poem, allowing audiences to hear recorded readings via telephone. Around that time, in order to continue to advance innovative ways of bringing poetry to the public, he formed Giorno Poetry Systems, collaborating with luminaries such as Laurie Anderson, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsburg, Philip Glass, and Patti Smith. Giorno expanded his nonprofit in 1985 to include the AIDS Treatment Project, an organization offering assistance to individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS.


Giorno produced his first Poem Painting in 1989 and soon after, in 1991, began collaborating on Poem Prints with Durham Press, eventually completing thirty screenprint editions. Like their painted counterparts that he made into the 2010s, Giorno’s printed poems feature concise passages of text permeated with humor, an acerbic wit, eroticism, and tenderness.  


After his death in 2019, the John Giorno Foundation was established to preserve and further Giorno’s multifaceted practice, including his poetry, visual art, and activism, as well as his advocacy for the Nyingmapa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Giorno’s work is represented by Sperone Westwater, New York. 


Throughout his career Giorno performed, published, and exhibited internationally, including in seminal group exhibitions, such as Information at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1970) throughout his career. Solo exhibitions include presentations at Galerie Almine Rech, Paris/Brussels (2009, 2010, and 2012); Elizabeth Dee, New York (2015 and 2017); the gallery of Cahiers d’Art, Paris (2017); Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich (2017); and Sperone Westwater, New York (2019). In 2015 Giorno’s husband, the artist Ugo Rondinone, curated a retrospective titled I ♥︎  John Giorno at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, which traveled in 2017 to thirteen venues across New York City.