• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 12245

    Post-War & Contemporary Art Day Auction

    7 October 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 326

    Agostino Bonalumi (b. 1935)

    Bianco (White)

    Price Realised  


    Agostino Bonalumi (b. 1935)
    Bianco (White)
    signed and dated ‘Bonalumi 77’ (on the reverse)
    shaped canvas and vinyl tempera
    51 ¼ x 39 ½in. (130.3 x 100.4cm.)
    Executed in 1977

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    Christie’s is delighted to offer an important collection of works from a distinguished Italian collection with highlights by Enrico Castellani, Giuseppe Penone, and Pier Paolo Calzolari. Coming into prominence in the 1960s, these artists were part of a generation who sought to strip back art to its most basic principles in the aftermath of the Second World War. United by their use of dark monochrome tones, the artists’ colourless surfaces played a crucial role in the search for a new ground zero for painting and sculpture. By limiting their palettes in this way, they were able to emphasize the materiality of the canvas, allowing the previously unexplored elements of light and movement to redefine the picture plane. In Penone’s Pelle di grafite-riflesso di alurgite (2008) a vast black background is swathed in an intricate pattern of luminous convoluted lineation that reflects the light in an ephemeral array of patterns. The charcoal hue of Castellani’s Superfici Grafite (2007) provides the foundation for the artist’s three-dimensional explorations, while the mixed media assembled in Calzolari’s Untitled (1989) emphasize the purity of his natural elements, rendered in subdued tones of black and white. Along with their contemporaries – most notably Lucio Fontana and Piero Manzoni – these artists reinvigorated the Italian art scene during the Post-War period, paving the way for the international development of Minimalist and Conceptual art.

    mi sorprendo
    mi sorprendo che mi stringo
    al mio ristagno
    come la mano al morso
    che la inchioda

    I’m surprised
    I’m surprised that I’m tied
    To my stagnation
    Like the hand to the bite
    That grips it

    (A. Bonalumi, Agostino Bonalumi. Da te ascolto tornare le cose, 2001)

    Rippling waves of obtruding forms poetically expand from the vast, pristine white surface of Agostino Bonalumi’s Bianco. Executed in 1977, it is a pure and lyrical example of the Extroflections, or estroflessioni, that the artist first began during the 1960s. In a formal investigation of the physical properties of the canvas, Bonalumi shapes vinyl tempera across a riveted structure, generating a rhythmic tension between the embossed interruptions of form and light. His painstaking, near-clinical arrangement of structural forms imbues the voluminous surface with an architectural quality that challenges the acceptance of the flat canvas as a ritual prerequisite for painting. Described by the artist as ‘picture objects’, the Extroflections immerse the viewer in a sensory field of undulating forms that transcend two-dimensionality and invite meditation upon the materiality of the canvas itself. Coming to prominence amidst the parallel aesthetics of the Zero group and the Nuove Tendenze movement, Bonalumi was part of a generation who sought to transcend personal and existential expression in order to examine the fundamental properties of physical matter. The rejection of the painterly hand in favour of structural manipulation was championed by Bonalumi, Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani in their journal Azimuth, in which they demanded ‘images which are as absolute as possible, which cannot be valued for that which they record, explain and express, but only for that which they are to be’ (P. Manzoni, ‘For the Discovery of a Zone of Images’, Spring 1957, Azimuth 2, 1960). Bonalumi’s white canvases, in particular, speak directly to this notion. ‘Colour does not exist’, the artist explains. ‘It is light and this also means that the form emerges from light’ (A. Bonalumi, quoted in F. Pola, Agostino Bonalumi: All the Shapes of Space 1958-1976, London 2013, p. 190).

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


    Private Collection.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    F. Bonalumi and M. Meneguzzo, Agostino Bonalumi catalogo ragionato 1950-2013, vol. II, Milan 2015, no. 720 (illustrated, p. 493).


    Sant’Elpidio a Mare, Galleria Real Arte, Bianco Italiano e…, 2016.

    Post Lot Text

    The present lot is recorded in the Agostino Bonalumi Archive, Milan, under no. 77-006 and is accompanied by a photo certificate.