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Mimmo Rotella (1918-2006)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more WORKS FROM A PRIVATE ITALIAN COLLECTION, LOTS 103, 104
Mimmo Rotella (1918-2006)

Invitiamo il Papa

Mimmo Rotella (1918-2006)
Invitiamo il Papa
signed, titled, dated and dedicated “‘Rotella a Bill ricercatore di “today” Roma 14-9-1960 “invitiamo il Papa” collage (1960)” (on the reverse)
décollage on canvas
50 3/8 x 37in. (128 x 94cm.)
Executed in 1960
W. Demby Collection, Rome (acquired directly from the artist).
Netta Vespignani, Rome.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1995.
P. Restany, Rotella: dal décollage alla nuova immagine, Milan 1963, no. 29 (illustrated with incorrect orientation, unpaged).
G. Celant, Mimmo Rotella, Milan 2007, p. 542, no. 161 (illustrated with incorrect orientation, p. 180).
G. Celant, Mimmo Rotella, Catalogo ragionato Volume primo 1944-1961 Tomo II, Milan 2016, p. 669, no. 1960 009 (illustrated in colour, p. 422).
Mimmo Rotella Manifesto, exh. cat., GNAM Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Roma, 2018-2019, p. 385 (historical installation view, p. 388).
Catania, Fondazione Brodbeck Arte Contemporanea, Collezione Paolo Brodbeck. Pittura italiana 1949/2010, 2010.
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.

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Barbara Guidotti
Barbara Guidotti

Lot Essay

‘Here in Rome it is nine o’clock in the morning. The sun has finally come out and my Rotella collages have begun to dance like gorgeous jungle flowers’.
William Demby

‘The opaque, carnal surface that had enabled Informel and Action painting, gave way to a dazzling, shifting surface on which images of consumption and seduction – which characterised the language of cinema and advertising, fashion and industry – followed in succession’
Germano Celant

‘For me the poster is not important just for its own sake but also for its relevance to the present. Its colour, that is, assumes a new meaning (and today “images” are what tale on new meaning for me) in that it is able to introduce something really new into my daily relationship with the street’
Mimmo Rotella

Born out of the very fabric of 1960s Rome, Mimmo Rotella’s Invitiamo il Papa is one of the artist’s famed décollages or affiches lacerées, a work which is composed of myriad pieces of paper, each torn, cut or peeled from the advertising posters and ephemera that adorned the city’s ancient walls. The 1950s and 60s in Rome saw an effervescence of art, cinema and fashion. Billboards and advertising posters proliferated the Eternal City, pasted atop one another, jostling for attention and seducing Rome’s inhabitants with slick, glossy images of everything from food or luxury goods to the new stars of the silver screen. Rotella used these as his artistic material, cutting and tearing these pieces from the streets, before returning to his studio and pasting them onto canvas to create the carefully composed works, of which Invitiamo il Papa is a large example. This work was dedicated to William Demby, an American writer and journalist who, after being stationed in Italy during the Second World War, returned to Rome where he lived for many years. Demby’s most famous novel, The Catacombs (1965), opens with a poetic description of one of Rotella’s works, which could possibly be Invitiamo il Papa.
Rotella returned to Rome following a two year stay in America in 1952. Under the spell of the rapidly modernising city, he soon abandoned easel painting, realising that Rome itself offered myriad potential for artistic creation. ‘Every morning I would go out and look at the walls covered with advertising posters’, Rotella recalled, ‘No cinema yet. They were industrial advertising posters. The torn posters fascinated me. After a two-year crisis it was like a revelation: this was it, this was the new message I had to communicate. So in the evening I would go out, I’d take down those posters and put them under my bed’ (Rotella, quoted in G. Celant, Mimmo Rotella, Milan, 2007, p. 512).
Just as the signs and symbols of consumerism and mass-media collided with ancient ruins of the city, the Cinecittà posters pasted upon centuries-old walls, so Rotella wanted to blur the boundary between high and low art. In bringing the metropolis into his work, he created a radical form of art that was entirely based on a new material reality. In Invitiamo il Papa, fragments of colours, letters and words simultaneously appear and disappear into the myriad layers of paper that constitute the surface, a reflection of the inherent ephemerality of the paper posters that lined the city’s walls. All signs of the artist’s hand and the subjective, gestural expression that dominated much of 1950s post-war art are gone, replaced by the physicality of the raw materials themselves. ‘I tear the posters’, Rotella explained, ‘first from the walls, then from the support: how much style, how much imagination and how many interests accumulate, clash and alternate between the first and last tear. It’s not a question of abstract colours being contrasted, but of colours with their own energy, their own spirit, their own vitality, so to speak’ (Rotella, quoted in G. Celant, ibid., p. 28).

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