Manolo Millares was a self-taught artist born on 17 February 1926 in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. He is best known for his experiments with burlap (a material used in funerary ceremonies in the Guanche tradition in the Canary Islands). The artist’s rough handling of the burlap sacking is an expression of the existential anguish wrought by the brutal wars that vitiated Europe during the last century.
Millares was one of the founders of LADAC (The Archers of Contemporary Art). He first exhibited his work in a polemical LADAC exhibition in the Canarian Museum of Las Palmas. His first solo show was held in 1951 at the Galeries Jardí in Barcelona and later that same year he participated in the 1st Biennial of Hispano-American Art in Madrid.
In 1953 the artist married Elvireta Escobio and they settled in Madrid. In 1957 Millares founded the El Paso group (a revolutionary artistic association to promote art under the dictatorial rule of Franco) and participated in the 4th São Paulo Biennial, from which MoMA acquired one of Millares paintings. In 1958 he was invited to participate in the 19th Venice
Biennale, where he exhibited eight paintings in the Spanish Pavilion.
1960 marked a turning point in Millares’s professional career. Frank O’Hara, curator at MOMA and a great admirer of his work, invited the artist to show four large-scale paintings at the museum. That same year Millares had solo exhibitions at the Pierre Matisse Gallery (New York) and Galerie Daniel Cordier (Paris), and showed five arpilleras (burlap paintings) at the Guggenheim Museum (New York) as part of the exhibition Before Picasso / After Miró.
In the years that followed, such institutions as the Tate Gallery in London, The Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires, the Galleria Nazionale in Rome and the Reina Sofía in Madrid acquired works by Millares for their permanent collections.
Manolo Millares died in Madrid on 14 August 1972.