Critics’ Picks

View of “Giulio Paolini: FINE,” 2017.


Giulio Paolini

Galleria Christian Stein | Milan
Corso Monforte 23 Milan
November 10, 2016–April 29, 2017

Galleria Christian Stein | Pero
Via Vincenzo Monti, 46
November 10, 2016–April 29, 2017

Galleria Christian Stein has been a sympathetic supporter of Arte Povera, first in Turin and then in Milan. For his show, in celebration of the gallery’s fiftieth anniversary, Giulio Paolini has chosen the title “FINE” (End). The image that appears on the announcement is a closed curtain, a choice more suitable for a farewell than an anniversary. In fact, word is out that the gallery is rethinking its status and mission. Whether this is true or not, the feeling of an ending, of a final review, pervades the show, particularly in its Milan location, which features a large ad-hoc installation (FINE, 2016). It is a sort of raft laden with objects from Paolini’s studio—his worktable, a ladder, an overturned armchair—precariously piled up along with reproductions of works by others (Watteau, for example) that have inspired the artist throughout his career, white canvases, frames, and an empty music stand. This is a classic Paolinian self-reference to the artist’s tools but now pervaded by an unusual, almost dramatic urgency. In the long text that accompanies the show, the artist polemically defends his idea, pursued for more than half a century and now (in Nietzschean fashion) unfashionable, of art that is indifferent to social and political causes, closed off in the contemplation of its own enigmatic essence. “Mi limito a dire che l’arte fa da sé, non sa che farsene di noi e si manifesta senza interlocutori e intermediary,” he writes. (I limit myself to saying that art acts on its own, doesn’t know what to make of us and appears without interlocutors and intermediaries.) The second part of the show, in Pero (both are curated by Bettina della Casa), features a broad selection of works that focuses on Paolini’s output from the 1970s to the 2000s. Here, a few large installations, particularly Hic et nunc (Le Radeau de la Méduse) (Here and Now [The Raft of the Medusa]), 1991, an abstract evocation of Géricault’s famous painting, are alone worth a visit.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.