Mark di Suvero was born in 1933 in Shanghai, China. His father was a naval attaché for the Italian government. With the outbreak of World War II, di Suvero immigrated to San Francisco, California with his family in February 1941.
Di Suvero graduated the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in philosophy in 1957. After graduating, di Suvero moved to New York City in 1957 to pursue a sculpting art career. He worked part-time in construction and began to incorporate wooden timbers from demolition buildings, tires, scrap metal and structural steel into his work. His style is associated with the abstract expressionism movement, but directly evokes the spirit of the Russian post-revolution constructivism.
Di Suvero gained an almost instant recognition among the art critics with his first solo exhibit at the Green Gallery in the fall of 1960. After his show, Arts Magazine's editor Sidney Geist wrote, “From now on nothing will be the same. One felt this at di Suvero's show. Here was a body of work at once so ambitious and intelligent, so raw and clean, so noble and accessible, that it must permanently alter our standards of artistic effort.”
In 1975, his sculptures were exhibited in the Tuileries Garden in Paris. In 1976, the Whitney Museum of American Art housed a retrospective exhibition of di Suvero's smaller structures, while the city of New York exhibited some of his larger sculptures all around town. More recently, di Suvero received a Medal of the Archives of American Art by the Smithsonian Institution, and received a National Medal of Arts, from President Barack Obama.
Di Suvero currently lives in the Astoria, Queens neighborhood of New York City with his wife, Kate Levin.
Mark di Suvero is a lifelong activist for peace and social justice, and has demonstrated a generous commitment to helping artists. In 1962, he co-founded Park Place Gallery, the first artists' cooperative in New York City. In 1977, he established the Athena Foundation to assist artists to realize their ambitions. In 1986, he established Socrates Sculpture Park at the site of a landfill on the East River in Queens, New York. Through his leadership, a 4.5 acre parcel was transformed by a coalition of artists and community members into an open studio and exhibition space. To date, the park has hosted the work of over 900 artists.
Di Suvero received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Contemporary Sculpture from the International Sculpture Center in 2000 and the Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities in 2005. In 2010, di Suvero was a recipient of the Smithonian Archives of American Art Medal, as well as the National Medal of the Arts. In 2013, di Suvero received the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Sculpture.