Ettore Spalletti, who died aged 79 on 11 October 2019, was revered in Italy and celebrated abroad as the ‘painter of light’. The artist leaves behind an indelible imprint on the collective conscience, in the signature palette of gentle blues, greys and pinks he used to slowly and methodically cover his sculptures and canvases. He found inspiration in the Renaissance frescoes of Masaccio and Piero della Francesca, from whom he borrowed the powdery blues and pinks often employed in his own work. Known for his minimalist installations of sculptures and paintings, Spalletti employed subtle aspects of colour and geometry aiming to immerse the viewer in a full sensory experience. Beginning around 1976, Spalletti made his luminous canvases and painted sculptures by working in a mode that was simultaneously classical and Minimalist: using a mix of pigments and chalk, the artist typically added one thin layer around the same time every day for upwards of two weeks before sanding down the surface to reveal a powdery, glowing plane of color. These lustrous hues covered not only traditional rectangular surfaces but also columns, floors, walls, and shaped supports. As a man Spalletti may have been contemplative and quiet, but that didn’t mean that as an artist he was detached. He was equally inspired by the people he met as he was by the mountains and the Adriatic coastline – landscapes that informed the atmosphere and light in his works, not unlike Turner, who Spalletti admired. Our St. Moritz exhibition pays hommage to the embracing warmth in his works, whether it’s strips of gold-leaf applied to canvas and panels or the fleshy-pink tones that the artist said refer to the human figure.
In 2014, Spalletti was the subject of a three-part Italian retrospective housed in some of the country’s most distinguished institutions: MAXXI in Rome, the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina in Naples, and the Galleria di Arte Moderna in Turin. His work has been featured in the Venice Biennale four times: Spalletti represented Italy in 1997 and was included in curated exhibitions in 1982, 1993, and 1995. He also appeared in Documenta twice, in both 1982 and 1992. Over the past forty years Spalletti’s works have been shown in solo exhibitions in Essen (Museum Folkwang, 1982), Ghent (Museum Van Hedendaagse Kunst, 1983), Rennes (Halles d’Art Contemporain, 1988), Frankfurt (Portikus, 1989), Munich (Kunstverein, 1989), Amsterdam (De Appel, 1989), Paris (Musée d’Art Moderne de the Ville de Paris, 1991), New York (Guggenheim Museum, 1993), Antwerp (Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, 1995), Strasbourg (Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, 1998), Naples (Museo di Capodimonte, 1999), Madrid (Fundación La Caixa, 2000), Leeds (Henry Moore Foundation, 2005), Rome (Académie de France, Villa Medici, 2006; Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, 2010), Kleve (Museum Kurhaus Kleve, 2009), Venice (Palazzo Cini, 2015). In 2014 the most complete retrospective of his work, entitled Un giorno così bianco, così bianco, was shown in a museum circuit consisting of MAXXI in Rome, GAM in Turin, and Museo Madre in Naples. He has created two permanent installations of particular emotional impact: the Salle des dèparts, for the Hôpital Poincaré de Garches, Paris, in 1996, and the Cappella di Villa Serena in Città Sant’Angelo, Pescara, in 2016.