Agostino Bonalumi (Italian, 1935-2013) Giallo 1967

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Lot 11AR
Agostino Bonalumi
(Italian, 1935-2013)

Sold for £ 110,500 (US$ 152,318) inc. premium
Agostino Bonalumi (Italian, 1935-2013)

signed on the reverse
shaped canvas and vinyl tempera

120 by 95 by 20.5 cm.
47 1/4 by 37 3/8 by 8 1/16 in.

This work was executed circa 1967.


  • This work is registered in the Archivio Bonalumi, Milan, under no. sd-017, and is accompanied by a photo-certificate of authenticity.

    Galleria d'arte Studio f.22, Palazzolo sull'Oglio
    Galerie Michael, Heidelberg
    Bankhaus Carl F. Plump & Co AG Collection, Bremen
    Sale: Ketterer Kunst, Berlin, Perspective 45/97: Contemporary Art Part II, 31 October 1997, Lot 293
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

    Burnished like the image of a golden sun and poised in a formal balance of exquisite delicacy Giallo, from circa 1967 is one of Agostino Bonalumi's most intensely sensual works. In some places sinuous and vibrant and in others featureless and stark, Giallo blurs the boundaries between painting and sculpture, breaking out from two into three dimensions in a fascinating landscape of concave and convex, volume and space. It creates shadows as it curves, soft inclines broken by crisp, hard contours.

    Born in 1935 in the town of Vimercate, only a few kilometres from Milan, Agostino Bonalumi originally intended to study technical and mechanical design. Dissatisfied with the direction he was taking, it was probably his proximity to what was at that time a hotbed of the creative avant-garde which finally inspired Bonalumi to leave his studies, and instead turn his attention towards art. Bonalumi's talent was evident and celebrated almost immediately to the extent that he was offered his first solo exhibition at Milan's Galleria Totti at the tender age of twenty-one.

    Not much later he made the acquaintance of Enrico Baj, also visiting his studio, where he was to meet Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani – the founders of the legendary and hugely influential Azimut gallery in Milan, where Bonalumi would later exhibit. United by their opposition to the current trend for Informalism, a movement largely concerned with the gestural potential of painterly abstraction, these artists formed a new vision for the future of art, one which called into question the very elements of painting on canvas, and which pushed them, quite literally, in new directions. In such esteemed company, and with such bold intentions, it is certainly no surprise that Bonalumi was to quickly become a major player in the field of Italian art in the second half of the Twentieth Century, a true pioneer whose work was to earn him an international reputation.

    Today Bonalumi is best-known for his archetypal shaped canvases, a technique often referred to using the Italian term estroflessione, meaning to invert, or turn inside out, which we see used to such great effect in the present work. It was a technique also explored by his compatriot and contemporary Enrico Castellani. Whilst the gently peaked surfaces of Castellani's paintings served as a leitmotif for his practice and remained similar throughout his career, Bonalumi's surfaces were more varied, and he investigated a myriad of different forms and shapes. Like Castellani, he explored vivid colour and it is undoubtedly this aspect of Giallo which is most arresting, its auriferous yellow tone glowing with the power of a blazing sun. Created from layers of vinyl tempera painted onto a shaped canvas, the surface of Giallo (which simply translates as 'yellow') is flawless, and, as it curves over into eternity, apparently endless. Beneath hides a complex structure which surely owes much to the artist's original technical training, a carefully constructed stretcher which pushes the canvas into shape, but for the viewer it is the overall impression of that facade which is key. Bonalumi's work concentrates on materiality above all else, and relies upon a complete understanding of the media at hand. The artist's own description of his artistic process reveals again his technical approach to his creations: "My work has never been about indulging a material for the sake of it. It's the result of an active interest in materials themselves, the intelligence of the materials" (the artist in: Carlos Basualdo, Agostino Bonalumi: All the Shapes of Space 1958-1976, Milan 2013, p. 9).

    Giallo dates from the artist's most fruitful period, a time when he was producing some of his most innovative works. Its distinctive form demonstrates clear links with his Blu abitabile (literally 'habitable blue'), an enormous installation of similarly shaped elements developed for a prominent exhibition entitled Lo Spazio dell'Immagine (the Space of the Image) held at the Palazzo Trinci in Foligno that same year. Perhaps inevitably for such a provocative work of art, Giallo with its strange, otherworldly forms, poses more questions than it answers. But then, Bonalumi would have had it no other way. Significant on numerous levels, as a work of art Giallo is audacious and imposing, and as an art historical object, it is an important record of a pivotal moment in the evolution of Modernist abstraction.
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