In 2005 he took part in the exhibitions Miracolo a Milano (Miracle in Milan) at Palazzo della Ragione in Milan and Il paesaggio italiano contemporaneo (Contemporary Italian landscape) at Palazzo Ducale in Gubbio (Umbria). In the same year, the Fondazione Mudima, Milan, dedicated a first retrospective to the artist, entitled Il disagio della pittura (The hardship of painting), in which Papetti showed the last twenty years of his painting through a selection of works ranging from the figures viewed from above in the spirit of Testori, to his latest paintings, on the theme of the city. Six months later came the show entitled Il ventre della città (The belly of the city): quick portraits of urban landscapes, a “fast passage” through streets and piazzas before people and buildings within which life appears to flow motionlessly and in which windows represent the passage between inside and outside, from intimate and secret life to that forcibly shared in the chaos of a fast-paced space. Scanned images of times and places fundamentally represented in the exhibition through the two opposed themes, outside/inside.
Throughout these years, Papetti has regularly retraced his steps, revisiting his past pictorial cycles. His interest in the subject of industrial archaeology has led him to continue researching the subject and his methods, and to the production of a series of paintings devoted to the former Renault factory, exhibited in 2007 at the Musée des Années 30 in Paris, in a show entitled Ile Seguin. In 2007 Vittorio Sgarbi invited him to take part in the show Arte italiana 1968-2007. Pittura (Italian art 1968-2007. Painting) at the Palazzo Reale in Milan. Also in 2007 he took part in the exhibition La nuova figurazione italiana. To be continued... (New Italian figuration. To be continued…) at the Fabbrica Borroni in Bollate (Milan).
Alessandro Papetti was born in 1958 in Milan, where he lives and works.
The years between 1980 and 1986 were a time for studying and for Papetti’s first solo shows, were followed by participation in group exhibitions held in Italian public spaces from 1988 onwards. Between 1988 and 1990, the focus of his paintings was the theme of Ritratti visti dall’alto (Portraits as seen from above), a cycle to which Giovanni Testori devoted an article on the “Corriere della Sera” in 1989. This wide-angle view of reality was followed by a cycle of paintings, created between 1990 and 1992, entitled Reperti (Exhibits), with a greater focus on detail, a sort of analytical study of form, and on the marks left by time in workshop and the interiors of factories. As a natural consequence, from 1992 Papetti pursued an in-depth study of industrial archaeology, as testified by the 1996 exhibition at the Musei Civici di Villa Manzoni in Lecco, among others.
From 1992, he began participating in exhibitions in public spaces and several art fairs in Europe and the United States. From 1995 he worked in Milan and Paris. In 1995 he met writer and biographer James Lord, who wrote an important critical text about him in 1996. During that period Papetti’s paintings pursued in parallel the themes of interiors and portraits, and paid particular attention to an in-depth study of nudes, these themes were those selected for the exhibition La forza dell’immagine. La pittura del realismo in Europa (The strength of the image. The painting of realism in Europe), held in 1996 at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, and for Sui generis curated by Alessandro Riva and held in 2000 at the PAC in Milan. These studies, added to his need to “get out”, to situate himself in relation to the “container” with a different psychological attitude, lead him from 1998 to produce the paintings in the cycle Acqua (Water), exhibited for the first time in 1999 at the Galleria Forni: bodies suspended in motionless swimming pools or, as in the series Il bagno di notte (Bathing at night), caught in the moment before they plunge into the blackness of a sea lit only by livid, lunar light. These are among his first images of figures represented outdoors.
Memorable among the exhibitions devoted to this theme is Reperti (Exhibits), held in 2003 at the Galleria dello Scudo in Verona. Then came the time of Cantieri navali (Shipyards): industrial ports, dry docks and gigantic hulls, the bodies of ships expressed in all their grandeur and fragility. Between 2003 and 2004 the artist was invited to take part in several museum exhibitions, such as the show devoted to Giovanni Testori at the Palazzo Reale in Milan or the exhibition La ricerca dell’identità (Research for identity) commissioned by Vittorio Sgarbi and shown in several different public spaces in Italy.
In 2009, he participated in the group exhibition L’anima dell’acqua (The soul of water) at Ca’ d’Oro in Venice, curated by Angelo Crespi, Elena Fontanella, Cosimo Damiano Fonseca and in the exposition No landscape. La sparizione del paesaggio (No landscape. The disappearance of landscape), curated by Luca Beatrice and held at the Fondazione Bandera in Busto Arsizio (Varese).
In September 2009 his personal show Il ciclo del tempo (The cycle of time) was hosted in Milan’s Palazzo Reale, this was an installation of three paintings mounted on circular structures 3.3m in height and with a diameter of 8m; spectators were invited to enter inside to see the canvasses on the themes of water, the woods and wind. The exhibition was curated by Achille Bonito Oliva.
In 2010 the Italian Institute of Culture in Tokyo held the first personal exhibition of the artist in Japan, entitled Spazi dinamici (Dynamic spaces), and the Buschlen Mowatt of Vancouver set up a new personal exhibition called Indagine sul movimento (Investigation on movement). In the same year the Villa Manin in Passariano di Codroipo (Udine) hosted a personal exhibition called Occhi e lune (Eyes and moons), curated by Marco Goldin.
In 2011 he was invited to participate in the Italian Pavilion of the Biennale of Venice entitled L’arte non è cosa nostra (Art is not cosa nostra) and curated by Vittorio Sgarbi. He also participated in the Pavilion of the Republic of Cuba, entitled Cuba mon amour.
In September 2011 he installed two of the three circles from Il ciclo del tempo (The cycle of time) at the Auditorium in Rome, and in April 2012 his personal exhibition Le fabbriche dell’utopia (The factories of utopia) was held at the prestigious Museum of Architecture – MUAR in Moscow. At the end of the same year, the solo exhibition Autobiografia della pittura (Autobiography of painting) was shown at the Galleria Contini in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Luca Beatrice wrote a critical essay for the catalogue.
During springtime 2013 he held many important solo exhibitions abroad, the first at the Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg, then in Berlin at the Halle am Wasser of the Hamburger Banhof, a show curated by Frederik Foert and Gianluca Ranzi, and in July in Paris, at the Mairie du Ier Arrondissement.
At the beginning of 2014 the artist participated in the exhibition Doppio sogno (Double dream) at Palazzo Chiablese in Turin, curated by Luca Beatrice. Luca Beatrice also curated of the exhibition La pelle attraverso (The skin through), which was inaugurated in June at Palazzo della Penna - Centro di Cultura Contemporanea in Perugia, in which large paintings on paper and on canvas investigate the skin’s ultimate boundaries.
In May and June 2015 he took part in Italia docet. Laboratorium, a collateral event to the 56th Biennale of Venice. In November he presented in Rome, at Istituto Centrale per la Grafica of Palazzo Poli, the exhibition Io abito qui (I live here); the catalogue included essays by Massimo Recalcati, Pia Capelli and Fabio Fiorani. On the same occasion Sky Arte produces a documentary about his latest pictorial research.
In April 2016 Papetti inaugurated a solo exhibition at the CIRCA Gallery in London. In May he took part in the exhibition The Art Point of View in Mantua at the Casa del Mantegna, promoted by the Mantua Campus of the Politecnico of Milan. In September he exhibited twenty new paintings of industrial interiors at the Quadreria Bovara Reina in Lecco.
Over the last fifteen years, Papetti has exhibited his works at major international art fairs and collaborated with several foreign galleries.