Agostino Bonalumi 1958 – 2013

Palazzo Reale is one of the most important public art venues in Milan. Over the past few years, it has welcomed outstanding exhibitions, showcasing the masterpieces of great artists such as Van Gogh, Klimt, and Manet. For this reason, it is very encouraging to see that the coming season is mostly dedicated to contemporary Italian artists, using this prestigious setting to promote relevant figures of the city’s own art milieu. In a previous post, I presented the works by Alik Cavaliere currently on display in the Sala delle Cariatidi. Today, I would like to talk about the first anthological show of the painter Agostino Bonalumi (1935 – 2013), which will occupy the rooms of Palazzo Reale until the 30th of September.

Bonalumi’s art challenges the traditional boundaries between painting and sculpture. Working with canvasses, he creates three-dimensional constructions which defy the Greenbergian notion of painting as a medium defined by flatness. As one walks through the exhibition, this painter’s artistic quest unravels in a neat progression, showing his experimental attitude through a myriad of different materials and formal combinations. As the American Minimalists in the 1960s, Bonalumi tells us that he is not making “neither painting nor sculpture” (as Donald Judd declared in “Specific Objects”) but something that aspires to occupy an aesthetic dimension on its own.

I attended the exhibition’s press preview as part of my current job at an auction house in Milan and I was able to enjoy the space with relatively few people around me. The curatorial team, directed by Marco Meneguzzo, made an excellent job in the display pf the works. The number of pieces is outstanding and yet each of them is able to shine independently. Bonalumi’s art is characterised by bold, monochrome surfaces which are projected toward the viewer, generating a dynamic perception of the space. In this regard, the show collects not only paintings but also installations and sculptures made of canvas hardened with special resins. Therefore, it presents Bonalumi as a complete artist, whose career covered over sixty years of continuous self-criticism and stylistic evolution. Indeed, he continued working up until the very end, when he died in 2013.

Bonalumi 1958 – 2013 is a must-see of this Milanese summer, if anything because of the amazing works of art which have been brought together for this special occasion. While Bonalumi is a relatively well-known artist with good market quotations, this show is a great occasion to expose him to a broader public of non-specialists. In this regard, the works of art speak for themselves and they have been arranged in a way that allows them to do so at their best. The result is commendable and promises to foster new debate about the relevance of Italian painting in the broader field of contemporary art.

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Alessandro M. Rubin Written by:

Cambridge student of art history. Passionate early-modernist, curious about contemporary art and aesthetic theory.

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