Giulio Paolini (Italian, born 1940) Vis-à-Vis (Alessandro) 1992
Lot 15AR W
Giulio Paolini
(Italian, born 1940)
Vis-à-Vis (Alessandro)
Sold for £ 92,500 (US$ 120,685) inc. premium

Lot Details
Giulio Paolini (Italian, born 1940) Vis-à-Vis (Alessandro) 1992 Giulio Paolini (Italian, born 1940) Vis-à-Vis (Alessandro) 1992
Giulio Paolini (Italian, born 1940)
Vis-à-Vis (Alessandro)

plaster casts and wooden plinths

Each cast: 56 by 26 by 12 cm.
22 1/16 by 10 1/4 by 4 3/4 in.

Each plinth: 130 by 30 by 15 cm.
51 3/16 by 11 13/16 by 5 7/8 in.

This work was executed in 1992, and is from an edition of 7.


  • This work is accompanied by a photo-certificate of authenticity signed by the artist.

    Galleria Eva Menzio, Turin
    Galerie Hans Mayer, Düsseldorf
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2003

    Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Museum of Art Helena Rubinstein Pavilion for Contemporary Art, Three Artistic Generations in Contemporary Italy, 1993-1994, p. 53, another example illustrated in black and white
    Vienna, Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Kommentar zu Europa 1994, 1994, p. 215, another example illustrated in colour
    Genoa, Galleria Locus Solus, Giulio Paolini, 1994, p. 65, no. H1, another example illustrated in colour
    Valencia, Palau dels Scala, Comentario Sobre Europa 1994, 1994-1995, p. 89, another example illustrated in colour
    Sarzana, Fortezza Firmafede, Il mito e il classico nell'arte contemporanea italiana 1960-1990, 1995, p. 108, no. 7, another example illustrated in black and white
    Brussels, Institut supérieur pour l'étude du langage plastique, De Narcisse à Alice. Miroirs et reflets en question, 2008, p. 37, another example illustrated in colour

    Michaela Unterdörfer, Die Rezeption der Antike in der Postmoderne: Der Gipsabguß in der italienischen Kunst der siebziger und achtziger Jahre, Weimer 1998, p. 208, no. 64, fig. 9, another example illustrated in black and white
    Anna Ottani Cavina, Ester Coen, Ginevra Grigolo and Giulio Paolini, Giulio Paolini, Bologna 2008, p. 91, another example illustrated in black and white
    Maddalena Disch, Giulio Paolini. Catalogo ragionato: Tomo secondo 1983-1999, Milan 2008, p. 722, no. 707, another example illustrated in colour

    One of history's greatest heroes, Alexander the Great has inspired countless artists, writers and mythmakers across the ages. A fearless warrior, a great tactician, a mighty ruler and a man possessed of a timeless beauty, his exploits are the stuff of legend. The subject of Greek marbles, Roman mosaics, medieval Persian miniatures, Neo-classical sculptures and, as we see here, contemporary installations, his face appears in many of the world's greatest works of art.

    As such, Vis-à-Vis (Alessandro) from 1992 by Giulio Paolini, which was executed the same year the artist was shown for the fourth time at Documenta in Kassel, is one of the most recent examples of an age-old tradition. As a stunning piece of sculpture both heavily conceptual and starkly beautiful, it more than holds its own in such distinguished company.

    Repeatedly acknowledging his own Italian heritage and referencing the pervasive artistic legacy of his home nation as well as that of Greece, Giulio Paolini has often returned to the imagery of classical sculpture in his work. In 1971 he presented broken shards of ancient sculptures in works such as Proteo and Proteo (II); that same year he also created a monumental installation entitled Early Dynastic, the gallery space dominated by four columns, each supporting a minute version of itself. In 1975 the subject returned, this time in a series of cast classical heads placed in opposition to one another in a series of works entitled Mimesi. This repetition of classical forms, carved faces aligned in a mute dialogue, finds perhaps its fullest expression in Vis-à-Vis (Alessandro) of 1992 belonging to this series, in which a cast taken from an Hellenistic bust of Alexander the Great has been sliced in two, each half positioned on a pedestal against the wall, the two profiles facing one another head on. This work implies an impossible conversation between two sides of the same coin, two halves of the same brain; the creative and rational aspects of humanity engaged not in crisis but in harmony. Flawless, white and tacitly powerful, the resultant installation is also subversive, and strangely beguiling.

    As well as its unmistakeable interest in the classical tradition, Vis-à-Vis (Alessandro) also features many of the other major themes which have concerned Paolini throughout his distinguished career. As one of the leading lights of the Arte Povera movement, he often experimented with material, making much from very little. In this case, he has re-appropriated a familiar marble sculpture, recreating it in carefully cast plaster as was common in the eighteenth-century, effectively producing a piece of Post-Modern neo-Neoclassicism. The role of the artist is also called into question by Vis-à-Vis (Alessandro), with an iconic image not only reproduced, but also deconstructed and altered in unexpected ways. Part of the classical tradition certainly, but also a total inversion of that same tradition, this is a work of art which defies expectations. As the extensive exhibition history for the present work suggests this sculpture represents a major element of Paolini's body of work, but more than that, Vis-à-Vis (Alessandro) can be viewed as another step in the transmission of artistic ideas across the generations. Fragmentary in its completeness, elegant and philosophical, citing the past, present and future, Giulio Paolini's Vis-à-Vis (Alessandro) is a work of art which represents all ages and none. Rarely has classicism seemed so challenging, or so timelessly profound.
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first £175,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £175,001 to £3,000,000 the Hammer Price
12.5% from £3,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalogue.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Lot symbols
AR Artists Resale Right

Goods subject to Artists Resale Right Additional Premium.

W Shipping & handling restrictions apply

Objects displayed with a "W" will be located in the Bonhams Warehouse and will only be available for collection from this location.

  1. Amy Thompson
    Specialist - Contemporary Art
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 5864
Similar Items