Lot 9
  • 9

Agostino Bonalumi

300,000 - 400,000 GBP
626,500 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Agostino Bonalumi
  • Bianco
  • signed and dated 66 on the reverse; signed and dated 66 on the wooden frame
  • shaped canvas and vinyl tempera


Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1966


Milan, Galleria del Naviglio, 462a Mostra del Naviglio, 1967, n.p., illustrated

Catalogue Note

A leading figure in the theoretical and liberal quest to transform the dialectic of painting that proliferated during the 1960s, Agostino Bonalumi is regarded as one of the forerunners in the innovation of the ‘shaped canvas’. Through a unique dialogue with their surroundings, his salient extroflexions transcend the traditional notion of representation, creating an advanced spatial experience. Housed in Gio Ponti’s visually entrancing architectural structure since 1969, Bianco epitomises the synthesis between the object and its environment, reflecting Bonalumi’s engagement with architecture evident in his 1968 solo exhibition at the Dortmund Museum and his room at the Venice Biennale in 1970. The purity and integrity with which Bianco hovered within the minimal interior of Lo scarabeo sotto la foglia is testament to the artist's appreciation for the minimalist principles explored in Ponti’s entrancing architectural space, as well as Giobatta Meneguzzo’s prescient collecting vision.

A complete white surface transformed by a central sphere and co-ordinately shaped convex cylinders, Bianco endures as a model of symmetry and simplicity. Its sinuous edges elegantly cascade into the surrounding space, accessing a new dimension beyond traditional representation. A duality of tension and sensuality is deployed here to create an overall effect that is as dynamic as it is mesmeric. Incorporating shaped relief elements into the back of his canvas Bonalumi transgressed the lateral limitations of the stretcher bars, creating an organic, humanised geometry of intrinsic forms. Alberto Fiz described this as the "poetics of expansion, where the work, set to spill into the surrounding space, becomes itself a setting, a tangible place, a physical experience" (Alberto Fiz quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Catanzaro, Museo Marca, Agostino Bonalumi, 2014, p. 23).

Inspired by Lucio Fontana’s radical transgression of the two-dimensional picture plane, Bonalumi engaged in a practice that focused on the physical nature and materiality of the canvas. Embracing the purist aesthetic of his contemporaries Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani he co-founded the influential gallery Azimut in Milan along with its corresponding journal in 1959. With a practice centred on the monochrome canvas, the artists were closely aligned in their means of expression and medium. However, where Castellani manipulated his canvas to achieve a homogenised pattern activated through a rhythm of light and dark, Bonalumi concentrated his inquiry on the adaptation of form. As he explained: “The difference between Castellani and myself is that he carves out a work and research space from within the operation itself, whereas in my case there is also an attention to the exterior, and the fact that the nature of art for me consists in data – meaning what may be read unambiguously – but also of appearance, what is elusive” (Agostino Bonalumi quoted in: Exhibition Catalogue, Catanzaro, Museo Marca, Agostino Bonalumi, 2014, p. 21). Establishing an illusionary geometry that resonated within its surroundings, Bonalumi explored the rift between the mental image and reality. He challenged the conventional notions of vision and perception and presented an image of suspension and uncertainty, inviting the viewer to scrutinise the work of art, but also the concept of seeing itself.