Giuseppe (Pinot) Gallizio (1904-1964) worked for most of his life as a pharmacist in Turin. Like many people (including me) who come late or by an otherwise circuitous route to the art world, many of its practices and assumptions struck him as utterly absurd; even more so as he began to participate in them. Gallizio was a founding member of the International Situationists (society of the spectacle masking the degrading effects of capitalism, Guy Debord, the 1968 French uprisings, détournement, dérives, etc: it’s far too large a subject to cover in a single blog post…) and in his art works he tried to cultivate a sense of play and creativity in the face of the capitalist imperative to recuperate, neutralise, and monetise even something as indefinable as art.
One of his projects was industrial paintings, abstract works on scrolls that were designed to be sold and cut on the spot like any other commodity, such as the original blank canvas it was painted on. The paintings themselves aren’t actually very good or interesting, but that isn’t the point of them. He was making fun of the idea of art as a unique object or a finite resource; judging by the photos on the left, he was having a lot of fun doing it too. What a suave gent. I have to admit that on a few occasions I’ve rocked this bushy moustache and bow tie look at art openings. There’s a post on Yves Klein coming up soon; he favoured similar outfits as well and he also always looks like he’s having a great time in all the photos of him I’ve seen. I’m definitely going to apply myself to perfecting the late 50s/early 60s Continental look now. Like Klein, Gallizio was ahead of his time with his thinking on capitalism, commodification and intellectual property in the art world and in Western society in general.
From In Praise of Pinot Gallizio by Michéle Bernstein, 1958, translated by John Shepley:
“Aware of the problems that truly affect us, in this interregnum between civilizations in which we find ourselves caught, Gallizio forsakes painting — whether respectably figurative or abstract, or action painting, and in any case as modern as in 1930. He extends it into other realms, all the realms on which he touches with an extraordinary inventive spirit. They follow one another in succession and are called chemical experiments, resins, resin painting, scented painting. In 1955, Gallizio was one of the founders of the Experimental Laboratory of the Imaginist Bauhaus.
It is then that he perfected, at the cost of unremitting labor and the lengthy patience of genius, the discovery we wish to speak of, one that will deliver the final blow to the little glories of the easel: industrial painting.
Gallizio produces painting by the meter.
Not a reproduction of the Mona Lisa stretched across fifty meters of wallpaper. No, his painting by the meter is original, its reproduction is forbidden, its process patented.
Its cost price beats all competition. Its sale price too: Gallizio is honest.
His production is unlimited. No more speculators on canvases: if you have money to invest, be content to buy shares in the Suez Canal.
His sales take place preferably outdoors. Also in small shops and large department stores: Gallizio dislikes galleries.
It is hard to grasp all at once the myriad advantages of this astonishing invention. At random: no more problems of size — the canvas is cut before the eyes of the satisfied customer; no more bad periods — because of its shrewd mixture of chance and mechanics, the inspiration for industrial painting never defaults; no more metaphysical themes — industrial painting won’t sustain them; no more doubtful reproductions of eternal masterpieces; no more gala openings.
And, of course, soon no more painters, even in Italy.
Obviously one can laugh, and classify this phase of art as an inoffensive joke, or as bad taste. Or get indignant in the name of eternal values. One can pretend to believe that easel painting, which isn’t doing so well these days, won’t get any worse.
The progressive domination of nature is the history of the disappearance of certain problems, removed from “artistic” — occasional, unique — practice to massive diffusion in the public domain, until finally they tend even to lose any economic value.
Faced with this process, the reactionary inclination is always to restore value to old problems: the authentic Henri II sideboard, the fake Henri II sideboard, the forged canvas that isn’t signed, the excessively numbered edition of something or other by Salvador Dali, top quality in all realms. Revolutionary creation tries to define and spread new problems, new productions that alone can have value.”
Unfortunately with hindsight we know that the art industry and capitalism appear to have no limits to the subversions or resistance they’re willing and able to recuperate, going far beyond Guy Debord’s worst nightmares. Perhaps even more sadly, the image of Gallizio’s industrial painting scroll (left) comes from somebody’s private collection in Turin. In other words, Gallizio’s industrial painting was not split up and sold on the street to housewives as he would have wanted; it ended up rendered into another valuable, unique object, another museum piece, another inviolable, curated relic of the holy artist.