Lot 14
  • 14

Enrico Castellani

450,000 - 650,000 GBP
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  • Enrico Castellani
  • Superficie Gialla No. 2
  • signed, titled and dated 1964 on the stretcher
  • acrylic on shaped canvas
  • 140 by 100cm.; 55 1/8 by 39 3/8 in.


The Artist

Luciano Pistoi, Turin

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1995


Ancona, Premio Marche 1964, VIII Mostra Nazionale di Arti Figurative, 1964

Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Nul Negentienhonderd Vijf en Zestig, 1965, p. 4, illustrated

Milan, Galleria dell'Ariete, Enrico Castellani, 1965

Rome, Arco d'Alibert, "Pittura-Oggetto" a Milano, 1966, n.p., illustrated

Bergamo, Galleria dei Mille, Enrico Castellani, 1976

Turin, Villa Remmert, Artisti, Parole, Immagini dal 1960 al 1968, 2007


Renata Wirz and Federico Sardella, Enrico Castellani, Catalogo Ragionato, Tomo Secondo, Opere 1955-2005, Milan 2012, p. 356, no. 165, illustrated


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate, although the overall tonality is slightly warmer in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. Close inspection reveals some fine hairline cracks surrounding the depressed nail heads in isolated places. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultra-violet light.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

From 1959 Enrico Castellani dedicated his practice to the pursuit of the absolute via a minimal and introspective schema of intervention restricted purely to the physical properties of the canvas’ surface. During the early 1960s this inquiry developed along two parallel lines; one in which the flat monochrome surface was modulated only by the convex and concave relief of canvas stretched over sequentially arranged nails, and the other in which Castellani began to "contrast real 'painting-objects' with their own situation of autonomous, self-contained, elements" (Gillo Dorfles, 'Enrico Castellani', in: Exhibition Catalogue, Venice, Catalogo della XXXIII Esponzione Biennale Internazionale d'Arte, 1966, pp. 103-04). Belonging to the former, Superficie Gialla No. 2 is a vibrant example from the body of work that garnered Castellani international acclaim and recognition as a European innovator in the emerging Minimalist discourse.

In the wake of the abstract gesture of Art Informel and the virile heroism of Abstract Expressionism, Castellani explored the reductivity of 'non-painting' as praxis for entering a new dimension and accessing expression beyond representational tradition. Indebted to his artistic forbearers and pioneers of a progressive nihilism of painting, latterly Piet Mondrian and contemporaneously Lucio Fontana and Alberto Burri, Castellani looked to expose a phenomenological inner-language through a heightened dedication to the very elemental components of ‘painting’. While aligned with the contemporaneous aims of Yves Klein and the Zero Group, it was Piero Manzoni and Agostino Bonalumi with whom Castellani shared the greatest artistic affinity, co-founding the legendary Azimut Gallery and Azimuth journal together in 1959. Nonetheless, where Manzoni sought plastic expression for a renunciation of artistic agency, and Bonalumi scrutinised the sculptural dimensionality of the canvas through his ‘painting-objects’, Castellani focused his attention on the immateriality of light and shadow to impart endless spatial experiences.

Towering in undulating waves of primary yellow, Superficie Gialla No. 2 espouses the seemingly infinite potential for spatial encounters via a schema of protrusions and depressions in the canvas’ surface. Chiming with Donald Judd’s mature work some years later, Castellani invites the viewer not only to scrutinise the space of the work of art itself, but also the ambient space of its surrounding environment. In this regard, changes in lighting impart an almost distortive and vertiginous effect that borders concurrent developments in Op-Art as pioneered by Bridget Riley during the early 1960s. Significantly however, the three-dimensionality of Castellani’s work ruptures any notion of illusionism as associated with the two-dimensional; instead the pictorial composition and variation between light and dark is dependent upon the use of a nail gun on both sides of the canvas in collusion with external lighting. Castellani’s ‘paintings of light’ thus produce exquisite effects that alternate and modify, imbued with an autonomy and life of their own through a dialogue with ambient space. Superficie Gialla No. 2 consummately embodies this tension between immateriality, environmental factors, and art as object that would come to set the tone for Arte Povera from the mid-1960s and set the pace for Minimalism in America during the 1970s.