Born in Libya to an Italian family, he approached the world of art at a very young age, working with his father, archaeologist and restorer at the Etruscan Museum of Valle Giulia, in Rome. The first works are informal paintings that he exhibited in his first solo show, at the Appia Antica gallery in Rome, in 1959. In 1960 he exhibited with Lo Savio, Angeli, Festa and Uncini at the La Salita gallery in Rome: now abandoned the informal experience, presents great monochrome canvases, which will become the screens on which fragments will then appear, clues to the new civilization of consumption, such as the famous Esso and Coca-Cola brands.
In 1961 he won the Lissone Prize and held a solo show at Plinio De Martiis’ La Tartaruga Gallery. The following year he is in New York, where he meets Pop Art artists and exhibits at the Sidney Janis Gallery. In 1964 he was invited to participate in the Venice Biennale. In 1965-66 he worked on the cycle of works dedicated to Futurism ( The revisited Futurism ). In the following years, his work focuses mainly on photography, videotape, cinema. In 1971 he made a documentary film entitled Non-human human , which boasts the presence of several prominent figures, including Carmelo Bene, Mick Jagger, Alberto Moravia, Sandro Penna, Keith Richards.
Passionate student of new techniques, he is among the first to use the computer to create works. The link with the television image has become stronger since the end of the 1960s: Schifano works by projecting still images directly onto emulsified canvas, and intervening with touches of color. However, in the 1980s and 1990s there was also a glorious rebirth of “pure” painting in his work. Among the most important exhibitions: the Venice Biennale, 1978, 1982, 1984 editions; Center Pompidou in Paris, 1981; Italian Art of the 20th Century ( London , Royal Academy, 1989); The Italian Metamorphosis (New York, Guggenheim Museum, 1994). After his death, in 2001 the Municipal Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome dedicated an anthological exhibition to him. In 2008 a major retrospective took place at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome.