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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more A CENTURY OF ART: THE GERALD FINEBERG COLLECTION

Superficie bianca

Superficie bianca
signed, titled and dated ‘Enrico Castellani Superficie bianca 1968’ (on the stretcher)
acrylic on shaped canvas
27 1/2 x 39 1/2in. (69.9 x 100.2cm.)
Executed in 1968
Private Collection, Milan.
Luhring Augustine, New York.
Private Collection, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008.
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.
Further details
This work is registered in Archivio Fondazione Enrico Castellani, Milan, under no. 68-046.

Brought to you by

Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Interim Head of Department

Lot Essay

Superficie bianca (1968) is an elegant early example of Enrico Castellani’s Superfici (Surfaces), hybrids of painting and sculpture that are among the most pivotal works of Italy’s post-war avant-garde. Constructed using the innovative technique which had defined the artist’s work since 1959, the white surface of the canvas is transformed by a carefully arranged series of nails that alternately push and pull against the material from behind. They form a rippling, shadowed pattern of peaks and troughs that shifts according to the ambient light. In this treatment of the canvas, Castellani sought to create an autonomous, seemingly authorless object that was devoid of narrative or illusion, and instead interacted dynamically with the forces of space, light and time. While he worked in a variety of monochrome hues, his white surfaces offer the purest articulation of these ideas. With its expansive grid-based relief—which sees the distance between the nails swelling subtly towards the lower edge, as if pulled by gravity—the present work exemplifies the intricacy Castellani achieved in his Superfici, while maintaining a fundamental, pristine sense of balance.

Like his friend Piero Manzoni, with whom he co-founded the short-lived but influential Azimut gallery in Milan in 1959, Castellani departed from the painterly, gestural qualities of Art Informel to strip back art to its most elemental principles, radically reimagining the picture plane for a new era. In the wake of their mentor Lucio Fontana, whose seminal slashed canvases had broken with centuries of pictorial tradition, these artists conceived of the canvas not as a mere flat support, but as an object in and of itself. Castellani’s undulating Superfici began with experiments using hazelnuts compressed behind a stretched canvas, and evolved into ever-more elaborate configurations of convex and concave points. The artist’s star rose internationally throughout the 1960s. In 1965 he was included in the celebrated Op Art survey The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and he held his first solo exhibition in the city at the Betty Parsons Gallery the following year. He represented Italy at the Venice Biennales of 1964 and 1966, and in 1968—the year the present work was made—was featured in documenta 4 in Kassel, Germany. After this decade of intense activity, he would move in 1973 from Milan to the small hamlet of Celleno, remaining there for the rest of his life.

The Superfici operate in three dimensions, transcending the categories of painting, sculpture and even architecture. Donald Judd, who himself aimed to create he called ‘specific objects’ that blurred these boundaries, regarded Castellani as the father of Minimalism. The Minimalists learnt not only from the Superfici’s formal purity, but also from their real-time engagement of the viewer’s temporal and physical experience. Their constant interactions with space and light mean that each surface never appears the same from one moment to the next, but is made new with every encounter. While bounded by the edges of the canvas, Superficie bianca’s field of positive and negative motion—each nail answering another, swelling and sinking in harmony—conveys the possibility that the surface is just part of a much larger whole, and suggests an expansion towards infinite, unlimited space.

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