Italian artist, born in Genoa. He trained as a graphic artist and became associated with Arte Povera. However, he was already a well-established figure by the time that the tendency was identified in the late 1960s and of all the artists connected with it, he was the most cerebral and his work has sometimes been considered closer to Conceptual art. One preoccupation was an exploration of the basis of art and representation. His earliest documented work, Geometric Design (1960), was a small canvas divided by a horizontal, a vertical, and two diagonals, the grid used by artists to ensure the transfer of accurate proportions. A further feature is the frequent reference to classical antiquity and Renaissance art, something shared with Michelangelo Pistoletto. This challenged both modernist notions of progress and the materialist consumerist culture which was threatening to sweep away the past in postwar Italy. The viewer of Paolini's work is always bound in time and history. Presumed Portrait of Pyrrhus (1963) is a two-sided picture. On what would normally be the front (the supports are less visible), one sees only a grid drawn on white. On the other side on the rough hardboard there is pasted a photograph of the bust in question, together with the artist's signature, address, and the date. Questions are raised about what we are expected to look at—how we distinguish relevant and irrelevant information from a work of art. What does it imply for our ideas about likeness when we presume the identity of a bust? There is a major installation by Paolini in the Musée des Beaux‐Arts in Lille.
F. Poli, Giulio Paolini (1992)