Cythère, 1982-83


Colour photo print in broken glass frame, fractured plaster cast

Framed photo print 102 x 128 cm, overall dimensions 210 x 128 x 65 cm

FER Collection

A colour photograph of the open sea, framed by a metal frame with a glass sheet that is broken at the centre, is associated with the fragmentation of a plaster cast of the bust of the Hermes of Praxiteles, ruined on the ground.
The work is the first of a series of twelve works with the same title, made from between 1983 and 1994 (GPO-0483, GPO-0491, GPO-0503, GPO-0838, GPO-0522, GPO-0560, GPO-0575, GPO-0591, GPO-0634, GPO-0640, GPO-0675, GPO-0721), which are distinguished by the photograph (the various marine views were taken at different times) and by the intervention matched with the breaking of the glass. Each of the twelve episodes – the number refers to the hours in the day or the months in the year, understood as the maximum temporal dilation and index of cyclicity – evokes the inexorable, albeit unappeasable desire to conquer Cythera, the mythical island where Aphrodite (Venus for the Romans) was born, the ideal and notoriously unattainable destination. “A gesture, considered irremediable, instead resurfaces to design the distance from the horizon", wrote the artist with regard to the broken glass with the sea serving as a backdrop.
1 The French title amplifies the resonance of the idyllic echo, causing the painting by Jean-Antoine Watteau, L’Embarquement pour Cythère (1717), as well as some of the lines by Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine, to resound.2

1 G. Paolini, Suspense. Breve storia del vuoto in tredici stanze (Florence: Hopeful Monster editore, 1988), p. 177.
2 Cf. Charles Baudelaire, Voyage à Cythère, 1855 (in Les fleurs du Mal); Paul Verlaine, Cythère, 1869 (in Fêtes galantes).

View of the sea taken by Mario Sarotto in Sardinia, 1982.
Hermes and the Infant Dionysos, 350-330 BC, marble, h 215 cm, Archaeological Museum, Olympia.

1983 Milan, Galleria Christian Stein, Giulio Paolini, 19 January - 1 March.
1984 Milan, Studio Marconi, Giulio Paolini, from 9 February, not repr.
1984 Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, Ein anderes Klima. Aspekte der Schönheit in der zeitgenössischen Kunst / A different Climate: Aspects of Beauty in Contemporary Art, 25 August - 5 October, cited in the checklist of exhibited works p. 67 (erroneously dated “1984”), col. repr. p. 10 (second state, with the elements erroneously installed on the floor).
1986 Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Giulio Paolini, 20 September - 2 November, cited in the checklist of exhibited works vol. 4 no. 36 p. 52 (cited with incorrect date “1984”), col. repr. vol. 3 p. 33 (second state), referred to in the text by G. Inboden vol. 1 pp. 22-23.
2009 Goslar, Mönchehaus Museum, Palais des Mirages. Werke aus der Sammlung FER, 9 May - 12 July, col. repr. p. 45 (second state).
G. Paolini, Suspense. Breve storia del vuoto in tredici stanze (Florence: Hopeful Monster editore, 1988), p. 177.
G. Celant, Arte Povera. Storie e protagonisti / Art Povera. Histories and protagonists (Milan: Electa, 1985), col. repr. p. 225 (erroneously dated “1982”; first state); idem in the reprint included in Id., Arte Povera. Storia e storie (Milan: Mondadori Electa, 2011).
T.F. Conti, “Giulio Paolini. Stacco permanente”, in Titolo 2, no. 4 (Perugia), Spring, 1991, p. 8, not repr.
M. Disch, “Giulio Paolini. Hors-d’oeuvre”, in Giulio Paolini. La voce del pittore – Scritti e interviste 1965-1995, edited by Id. (Lugano: ADV Publishing House, 1995), p. 126, not repr.
M. Unterdörfer, Die Rezeption der Antike in der Postmoderne: der Gipsabguss in der italienischen Kunst der siebziger und achtziger Jahre (Weimar: VDG Verlag und Datenbank für Geisteswissenschaften, 1998), pp. 35-36, 113, cat. no. 46 p. 144 (erroneously dated “1982-84”), repr. no. 23 p. 215 (second state).
Kunst sammeln, edited by G. Adriani (Karlsruhe/Ostfildern-Ruit: Museum für neue Kunst and Hatje Cantz Verlag, 1999), col. repr. p. 147 (erroneously dated “1984”; second state).
M. Disch, “Le sette stanze dell’esposizione. L’opera delle opera”, in Giulio Paolini. Premio Internazionale Koinè 2000 alla carriera, exhibition catalogue, Verona, Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea Palazzo Forti (Milan: Electa, 2001), p. 54, repr. (second state).
M. Disch, Giulio Paolini. Catalogo ragionato 1960-1999, vol. 2 (Milan: Skira editore, 2008), cat. no. 483 p. 495, col. repr.
Sammlung FER Collection, exhibition catalogue, Ulm, Stadtregal, 2009, repr. (loose entry, erroneously dated "1984").
P. Repetto, “Oltre il visibile”, in Giulio Paolini. O.D.E., exhibition catalogue, Monforte d’Alba (Cuneo), Castello di Perno (Alba: Fondazione Mancini Carini, 2022), p. 41, not repr.
Entry by Maddalena Disch , 29/03/2023