press release

On 29 October the Fondazione Prada will inaugurate a major retrospective exhibition devoted to Giulio Paolini (b. Genoa, 1940) in its space at Via Fogazzaro 36, Milan.

Curated by Germano Celant in collaboration with the artist, the exhibition comprises around fifty works executed between 1960 to 1972: coming from various public and private collections, these are displayed together for the first time.

The historical and theoretical basis of the exhibition may be found in a project for an installation entitled Ipotesi per una mostra (‘Hypothesis for an Exhibition’) conceived by Paolini in 1963. This retrospective focuses on the artist’s output from his solo show in Rome in 1964 until the one in New York in 1972, when the first monograph providing an in-depth analysis of his work was published.

‘It should be pointed out – Paolini has to say – that the works in this exhibition date from the earliest period of my long career, but this doesn’t mean that the installation simply reflects what has already been seen: some of the stylistic features underlying this show seem to be outside time (or out of place). In particular, while, on the one hand, these works seem to find their voice here, on the other they seem to arrange themselves around the silence and void of a central primary nucleus. The works on display really rotate round something that doesn’t exist or seems not to exist yet: I’m referring to the project for what was to have been my first exhibition, “Ipotesi per una mostra” in 1963 (a project that at the time, for practical reasons, wasn’t realised and that has now been made visible here).’

Born in Genoa in 1940, Paolini is now based in Turin and Paris. From the early 1960s he established himself as one of the exponents of the international avant-garde, undertaking, from the outset of his career, an erudite inquiry into the conventions of looking at artworks and the relationship between the artist, the work and the spectator that was intended to stress the tautological and self-referential nature of artistic practice. In 1967 he participated in the first exhibition of Arte Povera, analysing the methods and tools of the artistic process from a conceptual point of view. Distinguishing himself for his great rigour that leads him to eliminate every value extraneous to the concept and definition of art, Paolini investigates the art of the past through the use of reproductions and fragments, with reference to such artists as Lotto, Poussin, Bronzino, Ingres and Watteau. Works such as Senza titolo (1960), Senza titolo (1961), Senza titolo (1961), Senza titolo (1962), Senza titolo (1964) and Monogramma (1965), in which materials like paper, canvas, a tin of paint, wooden stretchers and brushes appear, attest to the artist’s interest in the primary elements of the creative process and his determination to remain within the structural rules of the artistic language. On the other hand, in E (1963), Giovane che guarda Lorenzo Lotto (1967), L’ultimo quadro di Diego Velasquez (1968), L’invenzione di Ingres (1968) and Poussin, che indica gli antichi come esempio fondamentale (1968) Paolini addresses the problems associated with the theme of representation and the importance of this in the history of art. Thus he makes use of reference to the art of the past with photographic reproductions of the works of the old masters in which he develops the theme of the duplicate or copy.

In 1964 Paolini had his first show in Rome, which was followed by exhibitions both in Italy and abroad, including a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1974, where he received his first international recognition. He took part in the Venice Biennial in 1970, when a room was devoted to his work, and in 1997, with a large work placed on the façade of the Italian pavilion. He has also participated on various occasions in the Documenta at Kassel. He is the author of numerous writings that have appeared in catalogues and journals; some of these have been published in book form, as in the case of Idem, with an introduction by Italo Calvino (1975).

The book published by the Fondazione Prada on the occasion of this exhibition has been conceived as a rich collection of the artist’s writings, critical essays and reviews dating from the period taken into consideration, alternating with illustrations of works and drawings, and recent texts by the artists, as well as photographs relating to the more personal aspects of Paolini’s life.


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Giulio Paolini