Giulio Paolini
©️ archivio Paola Ghirotti

Giulio Paolini

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Few artists working today have interrogated the medium and meaning of art more completely than Giulio Paolini. Paolini is often mistakenly associated with the Arte Povera movement. While he participated in a number of their exhibitions in the late 1960s, his art has a unique orientation that is not easily categorized or contained in the movement. Many of Paolini’s works are inspired by masterpieces of Art history and are created to make the viewer question what they are seeing. His art questions the very nature of Art and the role of the Artist. Early works such as Young Man Looking at Lorenzo Lotto (1967) and Mimesis (1975-1976) announce Paolini’s intention to use his profound knowledge of the history of Art to pose riddles and to present his work as part of a long continuum – with each artist and artwork interacting both with the past and the future. His works are composed of diverse media; painting, photography and sculpture, all of which create a poetic and introspective space. Paolini’s thought-provoking and playful work can also be seen in his stage design for theatre and operas. He has exhibited globally and most recently, in 2022, had a solo exhibition, When is the present?, at the Museo Novecento in Florence.

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Few artists working today have interrogated the medium and meaning of art more completely than Giulio Paolini.
Born in Genoa in 1940, Paolini has lived most of his life in Turin. He showed artistic promise from an early age, winning an art competition at the age of eight, later studying graphic design and photography at the State Institute of Industrial Technology.
In 1960, he produced his first major work, Geometric Drawing, a piece that used the language of design – using a few simple but measured marks to map out a basic inter relationship of forms. Interested in the human cognitive structure that defines "painting," he pursued painting itself, attracting critical praise with his first solo exhibition in 1964.
Paolini is often mistakenly associated with the Arte Povera movement that was spearheaded by his close friend and critic, Germano Celant. While he participated in a number of their exhibitions in the late 1960s, his art has a unique orientation that is not easily categorized or contained in the movement.
Many of Paolini’s works are inspired by masterpieces of art history and are created to make the viewer question what they are seeing. His art questions the very nature of Art and the role of the Artist. Early works such as Young Man Looking at Lorenzo Lotto (1967) and Mimesis (1975-1976) announce Paolini’s intention to use his profound knowledge of the history of Art to pose riddles and to present his work as part of a long continuum – with each artist and artwork interacting both with the past and the future.
He says, “I have always been convinced, and increasingly so now, that every artistic image, every appearance of something that we attribute to the history of Art is always something that is connected to something else.”
His works are composed of diverse media; painting, photography, and sculpture, all of which create a poetic and introspective space. Often Paolini is in some way present – his feet, his back, his shadow – yet he is never fully revealed. He explains, “I have always avoided putting my person in what I do, I have always kept my distance…but discreet does not mean absent.”
Paolini’s thought-provoking and playful work can also be seen in his stage design for theatre and operas. He has exhibited globally and in 2022, had a solo exhibition, When is the present?, at the Novecento Museo in Florence.

Biography

  1940 Born in Genoa, Italy
  1954-59 Study at the Giambattista Bodoni State Industrial Technical Institute for Graphic and Photographic Arts
  1960 First work on canvas, Disegno geometrico
  1961 Invited to exhibit the XII Premio Lissone
  1964 First solo exhibition, Galleria La Salita, Rome
  1967 Invited to the main show of Arte Povera
  1969 Sets and costumes for Bruto II by Vittorio Alfieri, Teatro Gobetti, Turin
  1970 Venice Biennale
  1971 Biennale de Paris
  1972 Documenta 5
  1973 Honorable Mention at the 12th Bienal de São Paulo
  1974 Solo exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York
  1979 Biennale of Sydney
  1981 DAAD Artist-in-residence, Berlin
Group Exhibiiton, Identité italienne at Centre national d’art et de culture Georges Pompidou, Paris
  1988 Solo exhibition at Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome
  1997 First visit to Japan for touring the group exhibition“Arte Italiana 1945-1995 - Il visibile e l’invisibilee”
  2000 Drawing class at the Salzburg International Summer Academy of Fine Arts, Austria
  2002 Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France
  2004 Founded The Fondazione Giulio e Anna Paolini
  2006 Franco Abbiati Prize for the set designs for the opera Die Walküre (2005) by Richard Wagner
  2015 Honorary Member of the Brera Fine Arts Academy, Milan
  2020 Retrospective exhibition on the 80th anniversary of his birth at Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Italy
  2022 Solo Exhibition at Museo Novecento, Florence