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A Painting

Photo emulsion on canvas

40 x 60 cm

Fictitious name and imaginary title (variable from one edition to another) on the verso, upper stretcher bar, left

1 Edition “Edgar Bogojawlensky”: Fondazione Giulio e Anna Paolini, Turin
2 Edition “Estelle Masselin”: Present whereabouts unknown
3 Edition “Evert Palme”: Private collection, Switzerland
4 Edition “José Alfonso Berkeley”: Private collection, Como
5 Edition “Ahmed Barka”: Private collection, Rome
6 Edition “Arabella Florio Stewart”: Fondazione Giulio e Anna Paolini, Turin
7 Edition “Mehemet Kalahari”: Massimo De Carlo, Milan
8 Edition “Arcadio Llorente”: Fondazione Giulio e Anna Paolini, Turin
9 Edition “David Knowles”: Noire Collection
10 Edition “Jacques Louis Morel”: Magliano Collection, Milan
11 Edition “Orlando De Luna”: Giorgio Marconi Collection, Milan
12 Edition “Donna Harrison”: Private collection, Milan
13 Edition “François Philidor”: Fondazione Giulio e Anna Paolini, Turin
14 Edition “Augusto Bonghi”: Present whereabouts unknown
1 Edition “Edgar Bogojawlenksy”: gift of the artist, 25 October 2012, archive no. GPO-0204
6 Edition “Arabella Florio Stewart”: gift of the artist, 25 October 2012, archive no. GPO-0204
8 Edition “Arcadio Llorente”: gift of the artist, 25 October 2012, archive no. GPO-0204
13 Edition “François Philidor”: gift of the artist, 25 October 2012, archive no. GPO-0204

Un quadro was conceived as a group of fourteen photo canvases all of which bear the black and white image of Giulio Paolini’s first work, Disegno geometrico (1960, GPO-0001), however, signed and titled each time on the verso with the name of a fictitious author and an imaginary title. The ink inscriptions at the left of the upper stretcher bar, read as follows: “Edgar Bogojawlensky / Amore e Psiche”, “Estelle Masselin / Orto botanico”, “Evert Palme / Il ponte dell’Arsenale a Venezia”, “José Alfonso Berkeley / Apparizione”, “Ahmed Barka / Mercato tunisino”, “Arabella Florio Stewart / Interno a Mirabeau”, “Mehemet Kalahari / Zorah”, “Arcadio Llorente / “Illusion perdue”, “David Knowles / Gustaham decapita Farshidward”, “Jacques Louis Morel / Cigno trasformato in cigno”, “Orlando De Luna / Figura astratta”, “Donna Harrison / Prospect park”, “François Philidor / Equivalents”, “Augusto Bonghi / Immagine di un dialogo”.1 The multiplication of the image of Disegno geometrico and its association with various authors expands and confirms the universal value of that first work, further developing a conceptual reflection on the identity of a painting, its interpretation, its definition, its author.
Un quadro I wanted to attribute to my first work a certain universal nature, that is, to cause to stem from that moment not just my subsequent work, but also a sort of incontrovertible value of the same image”,2 the artist affirms. Elsewhere, again in reference to Disegno geometrico as cited in Un quadro, Paolini remarks: “The impossibility of the definition (because that painting is that painting, its potential extension or reduction), the endless interpretative equivalences of a dimension that is nonetheless always the same (the categorical existence of the painting as such)”.3 As part of the first presentation of Un quadro in Milan in 1971, Paolini instead wrote as follows in the catalogue: “Un quadro, painted in 1960, transcends the residual meaning of this text. No one can describe a picture. Two pictures, at times, reveal a painter to himself. Can a picture describe a picture? If I were able to imagine the future of art, I wouldn’t be able to distinguish it from what it looks like at present. I might think, therefore, that I had already imagined it, but the hypothesis would be so impulsive as to convince me to coincide with the past. If art has no future, and it obviously has no past, then in the present it has nothing other than the illusion of these two terms.”4
Omitting the signature and date from the canvases of
Un quadro, thus favouring a state of switched identity, has to do with Paolini's interest in Jorge Luis Borges, which first began around 1970, also visible in other works from that same year.
Un quadro has never been displayed in its entirety. In the first exhibitions of the work the artist showed from six to eight editions. In 2003, on the occasion of his solo show at the Fondazione Prada in Milan, Paolini included four canvases in a pattern of rectangles drawn on the wall, ten of which were completely outlined – thus recalling, along with the four paintings, the fourteen original works – while the others remained open towards the exterior and thus incomplete. In 2018, for a group show in Florence, the artist instead conceived a wall drawing with rectangles arranged haphazardly, so that they recalled the other editions of Un quadro, or a further, potentially unlimited multiplication of the same image.

1 The names of the authors and relative titles which were formulated by playfully combining the names of people and places, and the titles of literary works and paintings, are in part implicitly linked to personal references, and in part to rhetorical word games. An example of this is “Arabella Florio Stewart”, which comes from the name Alexandra Stewart, one of the artist’s favourite actresses at the time, while the title “Interno a Mirabeau” [Interior in Mirabeau] refers to a small house in Southern France that Paolini would have liked to purchase, but couldn’t afford. “Ahmed Barka” cites two typical Arabic names, while the title “Mercato tunisino” [Tunisian Market] evokes the painting by Wassily Kandinsky Blue Rider in Tunisian Market. Similarly, “Mehemet Kalahari” combines an Arabic name with that of a savannah in Southern Africa, while the title “Zorah” alludes to the girl portrayed by Matisse in some of the masterpieces he made during his Morocco period. “Arcadio Llorente” combines the utopian Arcadia with the Spanish adjective that means “weeping”, while the related title, “Illusion perdue” alludes to the title of Balzac’s novel Les Illusions perdues [Lost Illusions] (1837-43).
2 G. Paolini in G. Celant, Giulio Paolini (New York: Sonnabend Press, 1972), pp. 94-95 (revised translation, republished in Giulio Paolini 1960-1972, edited by G. Celant [Milan: Fondazione Prada, 2003], p. 294), reprint (Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale, 2019), pp. 94-95.
3 G. Paolini in Note di lavoro, in the version published in Id., Idem (Turin: Giulio Einaudi editore, 1975), p. 43, new edition (Milan: Electa, 2023), p. 69. On several occasions Paolini joined this phrase with the words that follow in this entry.
4 G. Paolini in Giulio Paolini. Un quadro, exhibition catalogue, Milan, Galleria dell’Ariete, 1971, n. pag.

1971 Milan, Galleria dell’Ariete, Giulio Paolini. Un quadro, from 14 January, not repr.; six editions.
1971 Rome, Galleria La Salita, Giulio Paolini. Un quadro, from 2 March; seven editions.
1971 Turin, Galleria Notizie, Paolini, Pistoletto, Salvo, from 9 June, repr.; eight editions.
1973 Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, X Quadriennale Nazionale d’Arte. 3: La ricerca estetica dal 1960 al 1970, 22 May - 30 June, repr. pp. 362-363 (detail); four editions.
1977-78 Sanremo, Villa Comunale Ormond, La traccia del racconto. 21 artisti italiani contemporanei, December 1977 - January 1978, not repr.
2003 Milan, Fondazione Prada, Giulio Paolini 1960-1972, 29 October - 18 December, cited in the checklist of exhibited works p. 403, repr. pp. 338-339 (exhibition view Milan 1971), 341 (detail); editions “Edgar Bogojawlensky”, “Arabella Florio Stewart”, “Arcadio Llorente”, “François Philidor”; installation with wall drawing.
2014 New York, Dominique Lévy Gallery, “Hypothesis for an Exhibition”, 8 July - 16 August, col. repr. p. 39 (recto and verso of the work exhibited), repr. p. 124 (b/w exhibition view Milan 1971 and colour exhibition view Milan 2003), referred to in the text by B. Yasar p. 37; edition “Ahmed Bharka”.
2018 Florence, Palazzo Strozzi, Nascita di una Nazione. Tra Guttuso, Fontana e Schifano, 16 March - 22 July, col. repr. pp. 284-285, referred to in the text by F. Pola pp. 139-140; editions “Edgar Bogojawlensky”, “Arabella Florio Stewart”, “Arcadio Llorente”, “François Philidor”; installation with wall drawing.
G. Paolini in G. Celant, Giulio Paolini (New York: Sonnabend Press, 1972), pp. 88-91; republished in Giulio Paolini 1960-1972, edited by G. Celant (Milan: Fondazione Prada, 2003), p. 294; reprint (Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale, 2019).
G. Paolini in the interview with A. Bonito Oliva, "Dentro il linguaggio", in Paolini: opere 1961/73, exhibition catalogue, Milan, Studio Marconi, 1973, n. pag.; republished in Giulio Paolini. La voce del pittore – Scritti e interviste 1965-1995, edited by M. Disch (Lugano: ADV Publishing House, 1995), p. 153.
G. Paolini in Giulio Paolini. Atto unico in tre quadri, exhibition catalogue, Milan, Studio Marconi (Milan: Gabriele Mazzotta editore, 1979), p. 46; original text published in Giulio Paolini. Un quadro, exhibition catalogue, Galleria dell’Ariete, Milano 1971, including a paragraph from the Note di lavoro published in Id., Idem (Turin: Giulio Einaudi editore, 1975), p. 43, new edition (Milan: Electa, 2023), p. 69.
G. Paolini in the interview with H.U. Obrist, in Giulio Paolini. Museum in Progress (Vienna: Eiserner Vorhang 2002/2003, 2002), n. pag.
L. Vergine, "Arte come difesa", in L’uomo e l’arte, December, 1971; republished in L. Vergine, L’arte in gioco (Milan: Garzanti Editore, 1988), p. 35, not repr.
"Giulio Paolini", in Data 2, no. 2 (Milan), February, 1972, repr. pp. 30-34.
G. Celant, Giulio Paolini (New York: Sonnabend Press, 1972), pp. 88-91, repr. no. 82 pp. 88-89; republished in Giulio Paolini 1960-1972, edited by G. Celant (Milan: Fondazione Prada, 2003), pp. 292, 294; reprint (Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale, 2019).
T. Trini, "Giulio Paolini", in Art press 4 (Paris), May-June, 1973, p. 16, not repr.
M. Volpi Orlandini, "L'artista dell'avanguardia che piace allo storico dell'arte", in Bolaffiarte 31 (Turin), June-July, 1973, p. 85, not repr.; republished in Giulio Paolini (Parma: Università di Parma, Centro Studi e Archivio della Comunicazione, Parma 1976), p. 84.
T. Trini, “Giulio Paolini, un decennio. Parte seconda: Un disegno geometrico e la geometria di un disegno”, in Data 3, no. 9 (Milan), Autumn, 1973, p. 40, not repr.; republished in Tommaso Trini. Mezzo secolo di arte intera. Scritti 1964-2014, edited by L. Cerizza (Milan: Johan & Levi Editore, 2016), pp. 111, 112, not repr.).
G. Dorfles, Ultime tendenze nell’arte oggi. Dall’Informale al Neo-oggettuale. Nuova edizione aggiornata e ampliata (Milan: Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore, 1973), pp. 133-134, not repr. (idem in the 19th edition Milan 2003).
I. Calvino, "La squadratura", in G. Paolini, Idem (Turin: Giulio Einaudi editore, 1975), p. XIV, repr. pp. 54-55; republished in French in Opus International 59 (Paris), May, 1976, repr. p. 39; in Italian in Semiotiche della pittura. I classici. Le ricerche, edited by L. Corrain (Rome: Meltemi editore, 2004), p. 236, not repr.; new edition (Milan: Electa, 2023), pp. 15-16, repr. pp. 80-81.
M. Fagiolo, "Glossario", in Giulio Paolini, op. cit. (Parma: 1976), p. 15, repr. no. 123.
D. Filippucci, "Titolo", in Il Laboratorio 9 (Perugia), pp. 7, 12, 16, 21, 27, not repr.
Giulio Paolini. Atto unico in tre quadri, exhibition catalogue, Milan, Studio Marconi (Milan: Gabriele Mazzotta editore, 1979), repr. p. 46.
Le Stanze, exhibition catalogue, Genazzano, Castello Colonna (Florence: Centro Di, 1979), repr. n. pag. (exhibition view Milan 1971).
D. Elliott, "Paolini's early work: language and dialectic", in Giulio Paolini, exhibition catalogue, Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum and Oxford, The Museum of Modern Art, 1980, p. 7, repr. pp. 26 (exhibition view Milan 1971), 27 (recto and verso of the edition "Edgar Bogojawlensky").
M. Wechsler, in Giulio Paolini. Werke und Schriften 1960-1980 (Lucerne: Kunstmuseum Luzern, 1981), n. pag., repr. n. pag. (exhibition view Milan 1971).
C. Ferrari, "Giulio Paolini", in Luoghi del silenzio imparziale, exhibition catalogue [In labirinto], Milan, Palazzo della Permanente (Milan: Giangiacomo Feltrinelli Editore, 1981), p. 110, not repr.
Identité Italienne. L’art en Italie depuis 1959, edited by G. Celant (Paris-Florence: Centre Georges Pompidou and Centro Di, 1981), p. 344, not repr.
E. Franz, "Del bello intelligibile – Die geistige Schönheit", in Giulio Paolini. Del bello intelligibile, exhibition catalogue, Bielefeld, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, 1982, p. 7, repr. (exhibition view Milan 1971); republished in Pratiques. Réfléxions sur l’art 2 (Rennes), [November], 1996, p. 40, repr.
Arte italiana 1960-1982, exhibition catalogue, London, Hayward Gallery, 1982, repr. p. 173 (erroneously dated "1961").
R. De Fusco, Storia dell’arte contemporanea (Bari: Editori Laterza, 1983), p. 382, not repr.
Giulio Paolini, vol. Images/Index (Villeurbanne: Le Nouveau Musée, 1984), repr. pp. 32-33 (exhibition view Milan 1971).
Il modo italiano, exhibition catalogue, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, 1984, vol. 1, repr. p. 123 (exhibition view Milan 1971).
Giulio Paolini. "Tutto qui" (Ravenna: Agenzia Editoriale Essegi, 1985), repr. no. 19 (exhibition view Milan 1971).
L. Busine, Les Doublures de Giulio Paolini (Brussels: Edition Lebeer-Hossmann, 1986), pp. 17-18, 22-25, repr. pp. 19 (exhibition view Milan 1971), 20-21 (recto and verso of the edition "Edgar Bogojawlensky").
Giulio Paolini, exhibition catalogue, Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 1986, vol. 4, repr. p. 25 (exhibition view Milan 1971).
C. Owens, "Giulio Paolini", in Giulio Paolini, exhibition catalogue, New York, Marian Goodman Gallery, 1987, n. pag., repr. no. 9 (recto and verso of the edition "Edgar Bogojawlensky").
G. Paolini, Suspense. Breve storia del vuoto in tredici stanze (Florence: Hopeful Monster editore, 1988), repr. pp. 106-107 (exhibition view Milan 1971).
F. Poli, "Note di lettura", in Id., Giulio Paolini (Turin: Lindau, 1990), pp. 29, 36, not repr.; republished in Giulio Paolini. Von heute bis gestern / Da oggi a ieri, Graz, Neue Galerie im Landesmuseum Joanneum (Ostfildern-Ruit: Cantz Verlag, 1998), pp. 47, 59, 61.
Giulio Paolini. "Una collezione ‘60/’80" (Milan: Studio Marconi, 1990), repr. pp. 76-77.
Roma in mostra 1970 1979. Materiali per la documentazione di mostre azioni performance dibattiti, edited by D. Lancioni (Rome: Edizioni Joyce & Co., 1995), cat. no. 75 pp. 38-39, not repr.
M. Disch, "L'atto espositivo. Appunti sul lavoro di Giulio Paolini", in Giulio Paolini. Von heute bis gestern / Da oggi a ieri, op. cit. (Ostfildern-Ruit: 1998), pp. 113, 115, repr. p. 233 (exhibition view Milan 1971).
A. Zevi, Peripezie del dopoguerra nell’arte italiana (Turin: Giulio Einaudi editore, 2005), p. 336, not repr.
G. Maffei, Arte Povera 1966-1980. Libri e documenti / Books and documents (Mantua: Corraini Edizioni, 2007), p. 126, not repr.
F. Poli, Arte contemporanea. Dall’informale alle ricerche attuali (Milan: Mondadori Electa, 2007), repr. p. 222 (with incorrect caption).
L. Conte, "Date e luoghi del grand tour: Giulio Paolini a Roma", in Risonanze #2. Giulio Paolini & Fabio Vacchi, exhibition catalogue, Rome, Spazio Risonanze, Auditorium Parco della Musica (Cinisello Balsamo: Silvana Editoriale, 2008), p. 160, not repr.
M. Disch, Giulio Paolini. Catalogo ragionato 1960-1999, vol. 1 (Milan: Skira editore, 2008), cat. no. 204 pp. 214-215, col. repr. (recto and verso of the edition "Edgar Bogojawlensky") and b/w repr. (exhibition view Milan 1971).
R. Ferrario, Giulio Paolini. Un viaggio a distanza (Busto Arsizio: Nomos Edizioni, 2009), p. 69, repr. p. 70 (verso of the edition "Edgar Bogojawlensky").
A. Portesio, “'Quello che per il pittore è la squadratura della tela, per lo scrittore è l’incipit'. L’arte di Giulio Paolini raccontata da Italo Calvino. Con un’intervista a Giulio Paolini", in Avanguardia 14, no. 40 (Rome), June, 2009, pp. 77, 84, repr. p. 81.
F. Pola, "Media immateriali per materializzare il tutto. Fotografia e film nell'Arte Povera", in Arte povera 2011, edited by G. Celant (Milan: Mondadori Electa, 2011), p. 604, not repr.
I. Splendorini, "Apocryphie, tautologie et vertige de la multiplication. Se una notte d'inverno un viaggiatore et l'œuvre de Giulio Paolini", in Italies. Revue d'études italiennes 16 (Aix-en-Provence), [Autumn], 2012, pp. 329-333, 338-339, not repr.
G. Guercio, "Incipit immacolati: l’opera, l’artista e la sovranità dell’arte", in Giulio Paolini, exhibition catalogue, Rome, MACRO Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Roma and London, Whitechapel Gallery (Rome: Quodlibet Edizioni, 2014), pp. 65, 67, repr. p. 61 (recto and verso of the edition "Edgar Bogojawlenski").
F. Pola, "L’immagine mediata", in Imagine. Nuove immagini nell’arte italiana 1960-1969, exhibition catalogue, Venice, Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Venice: Marsilio Editori, 2016), pp. 195-196, not repr. (reproduction of the work on the invitation card of the solo show at Galleria La Salita, Rome 1971).
D. Viva, "La storia in abisso. Letteratura, fotografia e passato", in S. Bann et al., Il passato al presente. In tema 2 (Turin-Mantua: Fondazione Giulio e Anna Paolini and Corraini Edizioni, 2016), p. 48, not repr.
D. Lancioni, "Può un’eccellente opera d’arte contemporanea essere ornamentale o decorativa?", in Predella. Journal of Visual Arts 37, October, 2016, p. 184, not repr.
D. Viva," La finzione dell’esordio: Sandro Chia alla Galleria La Salita, Roma 1971", in Studi di Memofonte 21 (Florence), biannual online journal, 2018, pp. 92-93, not repr.
F. Belloni, Giulio Paolini. Disegno geometrico, 1960. In collezione 6 (Turin-Mantua: Fondazione Giulio e Anna Paolini and Corraini Edizioni, 2019), pp. 12, 14, 22, 68, repr. pp. 16-17 (exhibition view Milan 1971).
M. Disch, "The Author, the Work and the Viewer: The ‘Performative’ Dimension in Giulio Paolini’s Work", in Entrare nell’opera. Processes and Performative Attitudes in Arte Povera, exhibition catalogue, Vaduz, Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein (Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2019), p. 188, not repr.; in the German edition published in 2021 p. 81, not repr.
A. Cortellessa, “I rivali invisibili. Paolini e Calvino, evoluzioni fra le cornici”, in Giulio Paolini. O.D.E., exhibition catalogue, Monforte d’Alba (Cuneo), Castello di Perno (Alba: Fondazione Mancini Carini, 2022), pp. 89-90, not repr.
D. Viva, “Molteplicità e ritratto: sovrapposizioni autoriali fra Italo Calvino e Giulio Paolini”, in California Italian Studies 12, no. 1 (Berkeley), biannual online journal, [October], 2023, p. 2, col. repr. p. 3.
A. Cortellessa, “La cornice e le stelle”, in G. Paolini, Idem (Milan: Electa, 2023), pp. 135-136, repr. pp. 80-81.
B. Benedetti, “Anni luce. Cronistoria di un esordio”, in Giulio Paolini. Et in Arcadia ego, exhibition catalogue, Verona, Galleria d’Arte Moderna Achille Forti (Imola: Manfredi Edizioni, 2024), p. 80, not repr.
Entry by Maddalena Disch, 17/05/2024