Enrico Castellani | Original prints, lithographs, etchings and illustrated books


"I think it is illegitimate and pretentious to want to deform the space in a definitive and irreversible way, with the presumption moreover of wanting to affect reality: it is at best a useless operation. At most it is permissible to structure it in such a way as to make it perceptible and sensorially usable; the space at the bottom interests us and worries us because it contains us."

(Enrico Castellani)



Enrico Castellani (Castelmassa, 4 August 1930 - Celleno, 1 December 2017) was an Italian painter, considered one of the most important figures of European art of the second half of the twentieth century.

Born in Castelmassa, in the province of Rovigo, he studied art, sculpture and architecture in Belgium until 1956, when he graduated from the École Nationale Superieure. The following year he returned to Italy, settling in Milan, here he became an active exponent of the new art scene.

In particular, he formed friendships and collaborations with Piero Manzoni, with whom he formed an artistic association that intrigued commentators of the time for the contrast between their personalities: so much was volcanic, disheveled and playful Manzoni as Castellani was serious, distinguished and thoughtful.

After first informal experiences, inspired by American action painting and especially by Mark Tobey, recognizing this kind of art as mature for overcoming, he elaborates with the collaboration of the Azimuth magazine he founded with Manzoni, a new beginning, which proposes the total elimination of the previous artistic experience, based on a new pact with social progress.

This reset is carried out by Manzoni, Castellani and Bonalumi with the use of monochrome canvases (often totally white) extruded with various techniques in order to create lighting effects and changing shadows with the inclination of the light source. It was a completely original experience and considered to be of fundamental importance in the history of abstract twentieth century art, not only with regard to the Italian scene, but above all the international one, whose echo influenced and inspired Donald Judd that in an article in 1966 he defined Castellani as the father of minimalism.

If Piero Manzoni chose kaolin and cotton for his famous "Achromes" as preferred materials, Castellani starts a very rigorous study and analysis of the possibilities provided by the extroflexion of the canvas through the use of nails and ribs inserted behind the canvas.

It is in 1959 that Castellani realizes his first relief surface, giving life to a poetics that will be his constant and rigorous stylistic code and defining what the critics has called "different repetition", considered by many critics of extreme purity, where the accurately repetition of the full and empty spaces given by the rhythmic extroflexions of the canvas is an ever new, even if coherent and intense path. Since then its progress continues to develop in the field of extroflexion, but in its compact and coherent production we find some works that deviate sharply from the relief surfaces, revealing much on themes dear to Castellani such as time, rhythm and space .

Even in the rare works on paper Castellani has managed to realize his very personal style of rhythmic extroflections.

In 1967 he created "Ambiente bianco" for the exhibition "The space of the image", at Palazzo Trinci, in Foligno; in 1968, on the occasion of "Il teatro delle mostre", at the La Tartaruga gallery in Rome, "Il muro del tempo" was presented; in 1969 he produced "Spartito" and in 1970 "Obelisco". From its debut up until today there are a series of important exhibitions in public and private spaces.

He took part in the Venice Biennale in 1964, in 1966 (with a personal hall), in 1984 and in 2003. In 1965 he took part in the collective exhibition "The Responsive Eye" at the MoMA in New York and at the VIII Biennial of Sao Paulo in Brazil. In 1970 he took part in the collective "Vitality of the negative in Italian art", curated by Achille Bonito Oliva, at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome. In 1981 he participated in "Identité Italien, L'art en Italie depuis 1959", curated by Germano Celant, at the Center Pompidou in Paris.

In 1983 he was at the Palazzo Reale in Milan for the exhibition "Arte Programmata e cinetica 1953-63"; in 1994 he was invited to the exhibition "The Italian metamorhosis" at the Salomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Among the most recent exhibitions we remember the personal exhibitions in the Galleria Lia Rumma in Milan in 1999 and those in the Galleria Fumagalli in Bergamo in 1997 and 2001. In 2001 he was invited to the group "Materia / Niente", curated by Luca Massimo Barbero, at the Bevilacqua Foundation La Masa di Venezia and "Italian Belvedere - Trend Lines in Contemporary Art 1945/2001", curated by Achille Bonito Oliva, at the Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw. An important anthological exhibition curated by Germano Celant was staged at the Prada Foundation in Milan in 2001 and at Kettle's Yard in Cambridge in 2002, the year in which he also presented his work in the Franca Mancini Gallery in Pesaro and Greta Meert in Brussels .

In 2004 he exhibited in Paris in the Galerie of Meo and in 2005 at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, in Moscow, he set up an exhibition curated by Bruno Corà. In 2006 he exhibited at the Galleria Lia Rumma in Naples and at the Auditorium in Rome. In 2009 a series of recent works combined with a large group of historical works are proposed by Haunch of Venison in New York in an exhibition curated by Adachiara Zevi while in the London office of the same gallery the works of Castellani are exhibited in dialogue with those of Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and Günther Uecker. On October 13, 2010 Enrico Castellani receives from the Prince Hitachi, Honorary Patron of the Japan Art Association, the Praemium Imperiale for painting, the highest artistic recognition at the international level. In 2012, Castellani participates with seven other artists (Getulio Alviani, Pablo Atchugarry, Fernando Botero, Piero Guccione, Marcello Lo Giudice and Thomas Ruff) to the project "Save the Mediterranean Sea" in collaboration with Christie's London and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation , for the salvation of our seas.

The works of Castellani, in the art market, are among the most sought after and expensive among those of the Italian twentieth century, with prices that have exceeded one million dollars and are regularly traded in the most prestigious auctions such as the famous "Italian Sales" of London.