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Enrico Castellani was born in Castelmassa, Rovigo, in Italy on August 4, 1930. He moved to Brussels in 1952 where he studied painting and sculpture at the Académie des Beaux Arts before graduating in architecture at the École Nationale Supérieure de la Cambre in 1956. He returned to Milan, where he worked for an architecture firm until 1963. In 1959 Castellani created his first relief painting. Together with Piero Manzoni he was an active member of the Zero group. He founded the Azimuth magazine and a gallery of the same name to present his own work and that of artists who shared similar artistic interests. It was there that he held his first solo exhibition in 1960. In the same year, three of his relief surfaces where exhibited in the Monochrome Malerei exhibition at the Städtisches Museum Leverkusen and, together with Manzoni, he exhibited at the Galleria la Tartaruga in Rome. In 1962, once again with Manzoni, he exhibited at the Galerie Aujourd’hui in Brussels and took part in the Nul exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. In 1963 Castellani held a solo exhibition at the Galleria dell’Ariete in Milan and in 1964 he showed three canvases at the Venice Biennale, as well as taking part in the Guggenheim International Award in New York.
In 1965 he exhibited his large White Surface at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, as part of an international exhibition titled, The Responsive Eye. His works were chosen to represent Italy at the 8th São Paulo Bienal and at Trigon 65, Burggarten/Palmenhaus in Graz. In 1966 he received the Golin Prize for the works he exhibited in a solo exhibition at the Venice Biennale and spent time in the U.S., where he held his first American solo exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery, New York. In 1967 he was commissioned to create a piece of environmental art for the Lo spazio dell’immagine exhibition in Palazzo Trinci in Foligno; the piece was partially destroyed whe the exhibition closed and Castellani created a second version in 1970 as part of Vitalità del negativo nell’arte italiana 1960/70 exhibition at Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome.
After a brief period of exile in Switzerland, Castellani returned to Italy in 1973 and moved to the village of Celleno, near Viterbo. In recent years the value and impact of his work has been recognized and validated internationally. His work was rarely exhibited during the final decades of his life; worthy of mention are his solo and retrospective exhibitions at the Galleria Lia Rumma in Milan in 1999 (inaugurating the gallery’s venue in Milan); at Fondazione Prada in Milan in 2001; at Kettle’s Yard at Cambridge University and at the Galerie Greta Meert in Brussels in 2002; at Galerie Di Meo in Paris in 2004; at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow in 2005; at the Galleria Lia Rumma in Naples in 2006; and at Haunch of Venison Gallery in New York in 2009 and 2012. On 13 October 2010 Castellani was awarded the Praemium Imperiale for painting. Enrico Castellani died in Viterbo on December 1, 2017.