Enrico Castellani - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, October 5, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Galleria La Nuova Città, Brescia
    Galleria Fumagalli, Bergamo
    Collection A&M, Bologna
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    Perugia, Centro Espositivo Rocca Paolina, Oltre La superficie, 14 July - 2 September 2001, p. 61 (illustrated)
    Moscow, The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Enrico Castellani. Variazioni sul metodo, 2 December 2005 - 15 January 2006, p. 76 and p. 120 (illustrated)

  • Literature

    Renata Wirz and Federico Sardella, eds., Enrico Castellani: Catalogo ragionato, Opere 1955 – 2005, vol. II, Milan, 2012, no. 406, pp. 428 – 429 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Through an ordered amalgamation of positive peaks and negative troughs, Superficie bianca strikingly exemplifies Enrico Castellani’s vision of minimalism and restrained elegance. Painted white, the canvas is imbued with a strong sense of dynamism, creating a vital energy that ripples across the canvas’s surface, asserting the work’s presence before the viewer. Superficie bianca defies two-dimensionality in accordance with the ethos of the ZERO movement and that put forward by Castellani and Piero Manzoni in their Azimuth journal and gallery, founded in 1959, which propelled Milan to the forefront of ZERO activity. Both Castellani and Manzoni explored the potential of light, surface, space and time, conceiving an iconic and radically unique artistic language that allowed the artist to break away from movements such as Taschism and Art Informal.

    The discombobulating effect of the interplay of light and shadow resulting from the juxtaposition between concavity and convexity in Superficie bianca forces the viewer to confront the physicality of the artwork. The surface of the work both draws the viewer in, as a traditional painting would, whilst simultaneously reaching out to break into the viewer’s space. Castellani rejected the notion of an artwork as merely an illusionistic window and instead presents the work as possessing a physicality of its own, inhabiting a real space within this world. The viewer is transported into the complex yet soft geographies of Superficie bianca and the monochrome surface draws attention to the visual potentialities of an absence of colour, subsequently allowing for the viewer’s entrance into a limitless and timeless realm of sublimity. In this skilfully executed tabula rasa Castellani has freed art from the restrictions of narrative constraints demonstrating the previously latent creative possibilities of surface and form. The spatial and formal artistic investigations that have dominated Castellani’s impressive oeuvre culminate in the chiaroscuro of this energetic and hypnotically monochrome landscape.

    As one of Italy’s most influential artists, Castellani also holds a pivotal position in twentieth century art history internationally, lauding the work of artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Yves Klein and Lucio Fontana. A catalytic figure in the European post-war avant-garde and viewed by Donald Judd as the father of minimalism, Castellani pushed against artistic boundaries in an attempt to coalesce painting, sculpture, architecture and space. Castellani radically altered traditional conceptions of art abandoning notions of mimesis in favour of a more self-referential artistic form. Superficie bianca is a stunning example of the artist’s iconic and expansive series of ‘surfaces’. Castellani called these ‘baldachins’, which were created by systematically working a nail gun across monochrome canvases. The result is a work that oscillates between relief sculpture and painting, and this blurring of artistic mediums fluctuates in rhythm to the changing interplay of light and shadow across its undulating surface. Castellani remarked upon the surfaces of these artworks, asserting that they display an ‘indefinitely repeatable rhythm…necessary in order to give the works themselves the concreteness of the infinite’ which, therefore, allows the work to transgress time in order to satisfy a ‘spiritual need’ (Enrico Castellani, 'Continuitá e nuovo', Azimuth, Milan, no. 2, 1960, n.p).


Superficie bianca

signed, titled and dated ‘Castellani “Superficie bianca” 1975’ on the overlap
acrylic on shaped canvas
70 x 91 cm (27 1/2 x 35 7/8 in.)
Executed in 1975, this work is registered in the Archivio Castellani, Milan, under no. 75 – 011.

£250,000 - 350,000 

Sold for £200,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 6 October 2017