Giulio Paolini (b. 1940)
Giulio Paolini (b. 1940)

Indice delle opere inscritto in un motivo decorativo

Giulio Paolini (b. 1940)
Indice delle opere inscritto in un motivo decorativo
signed and titled 'Giulio Paolini indice delle opere inscritto in un motivo decorativo' (on the stretcher bar)
acrylic and graphite on canvas
78 3/4 x 118 1/4 in. (200 x 300.3 cm.)
Painted in 1972.
The Estate of Ileana Sonnabend, acquired directly from the artist
By descent to the present owner
G. Celant, Giulio Paolini, New York, 1972, p. 112 (illustrated).
M. Volpi Orlandini, "L'artista dell'avanguardia che piace allo storico dell'arte," Bolaffiarte, Turin, June-July 1973, p. 85 (illustrated).
G. Bolaffi, ed., Catalogo nazionale Bolaffi d'arte moderna no. 9, Turin, 1974, p. 109 (illustrated).
G. Paolini, Images/Index, Villeurbanne, 1984, p. 133 (illustrated).
G. Paolini, Suspense. Breve storia del vuoto in tredici stanze, Florence, 1988, p. 29 (illustrated).
F. Poli, Giulio Paolini, Turin, 1990, no. 22 (illustrated).
Giulio Paolini. Von heute bis gestern/Da oggi a ieri, exh. cat., Neue Galerie Graz at the Universalmuseum Joanneum, 1998, p. 237 (illustrated).
Minimalia: An Italian Vision in 20th Century Art, exh. cat., MoMA PS1, New York, 1999, p. 95 (illustrated).
Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2001, p. 280 (illustrated).
M. Disch, Giulio Paolini: Catalogo ragionato, Tomo primo 1960-1982, Milan, 2008, pp. 248 and 934, no. 240 (illustrated).
Spoleto, Chiesa di San Nicolò, 420 West Broadway at Spoleto Festival: 33 artists shown; by Leo Castelli, Andre´ Emmerich, Sonnabend, John Weber, XV Festival dei Due Mondi, June-July 1972, n.p. (illustrated).
New York, Sonnabend Gallery, Giulio Paolini, November-December 1972.

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Saara Pritchard
Saara Pritchard

Lot Essay

By the late 1960s, Giulio Paolini had established himself as a leading exponent of Arte Povera. However, it was in the beginning of the subsequent decade that Paolini fully developed a distinctive mode of investigating the larger institutional systems of art and art history. Executed in 1972, Indice delle opere inscritto in un motivo decorativo (Index of works inscribed in a decorative pattern) represents one of Paolini’s most conceptual works. Employing an abstract vocabulary, the present work engages with the discourse of art historical tradition while dynamically questioning that discourse to express a progressive artistic vision. Through a self-imposed limited economy of means, Indice delle opere inscritto in un motivo decorativo poses complex questions about the past and its relationship with the present.
The muted gold undertones of Paolini’s poetic canvas harken back to the gilded frescos that defined the great works of Giotto and a rich subset of Classical masterpieces that followed. However, the link between old and new is not straightforward: as the canvas retains Western art’s fundamentals—carrying all of the weight of Italy’s glorious art history—it simultaneously departs from its traditions in posing meaning as an unanswerable question. The conceptually work asks whether historically saturated meaning and significance can be reduced to visual decoration. Precocious and sophisticated, the present lot is a paragon of the artist’s deep commitment to investigating the conditions of “seeing” in conceptual art-making. The piece elegantly invests minimalism with great intellectual rigor, a characteristic of Paolini’s work that has maintained his distinctive position in the lexicon of the Italian avant-garde.
In Indice delle opere inscritto in un motivo decorativo, Paolini forged an “ideal mirror, which reflects phenomena, but also lets us see that which constitutes it... a work whose fate it is to widen the endless visionary series of discoveries that inspire the unfathomable path of art” (G. Paolini, quoted in Giulio Paolini, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, 1980, p. 4). To the leading Arte Povera creator, it was the circular reading that this conceptual mirror could enact or produce that was “the most subtle strategy of modern art, which defines itself as art and also proceeds from the art itself” (G. Paolini, quoted in ibid). Enacting this strategy with conceptual and visual brilliance, Indice delle opere inscritto in un motivo decorativo produces a fertile ground for fresh thought and new sight.

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