Emilio Tadini

between Archaeology and Metaphysics


May 9 – July 9, 2024

Emilio Tadini

between Archaeology and Metaphysics

May 9 – July 9, 2024

Galleria Gracis is pleased to present the upcoming exhibition set in the spaces of Piazza Castello 16, dedicated to the work of Milanese artist Emilio Tadini (Milan, June 5, 1927 – September 25, 2002).

A multifaceted artist and writer, Tadini explored a multitude of themes throughout his career, usually grouped into cycles, in a constant desire to narrate the contemporary reality around him.

The exhibition project focuses on a series of works grouped under the title Archeologia and Archeologia con de Chirico, created by Tadini in the early 1970s. In these works, the artist’s fascination with metaphysical atmospheres and the work of the master of Volos emerges. His dreamlike visions embrace the profound sense of de Chirico’s work, pushing to the extreme consequences the discourse initiated with the Vita di Voltaire, a cycle featured in an exhibition at the Marconi Foundation in 2019.

Metaphysics is the path that Tadini follows to trace his artistic journey, and it is the tool through which he transcends the dualism between socialist realism and informal art. He arrives, thus, at a new expressive form that allows him to focus on the human figure, at a time when it is being ousted from artists’ work.

Tadini began his artistic career with a fairy-tale painting style, clearly influenced by surrealism, and the synthesis he achieved in the late 1960s was precisely thanks to the adoption of a metaphysical reading key: the pictorial material lightens, the images become less crowded, the backgrounds become clear and often monochromatic, suggesting a more ideal than realistic space.

Tadini, in fact, moves beyond the nostalgia of the Greek master for the Renaissance space: it becomes evanescent, multidimensional, containing within it different spaces and different instants simultaneously. As Guido Ballo noted in 1966, in the catalog of the exhibition at the Galleria il Punto in Turin, Tadini needs to stage reality, but the hallucinated reality of dreams, an extremely personal middle ground between surrealism and metaphysics. An allusive space, a probable “crime scene” in which the artist delivers seemingly unrelated elements, whose interconnection generates a narrative that, however, only the visitor can decode. Tadini’s characters act in an allusive context, they are ironic figures, faceless as they are psychologically impenetrable, preventing us from empathizing with them. Everything is ambiguous and everything is possible.

The same enigma strikes us in the act of contemplating Giorgio de Chirico’s muse, made inquietanti precisely by their mystery, by their random placement in a space so desolate as to seem unreal. Tadini himself, then, overturns these random positions infinitely in his works, generating new disturbing relationships, all possible but none certain. And he captures, quoting it throughout the cycle, another element from de Chirico’s work, the tribal mask, which contains within it the sense of placing oneself within a tradition, in a coherent evolutionary path that from archaeology and the classical, arrives at de Chirico as a linear process. For this reason, masks that inspired Tadini’s works and surrounded him in his Milan studio have been included in the exhibition, on loan from the Casa Museo Spazio Tadini.

Also on display is a bronze version of de Chirico’s Archaeologists, a subject to which the artist dedicated many works. The archaeologist as an individual who transcends time, travels through it, reactualizes the past, repositioning history in the present. He retrieves fragments of a civilization, estranging them from their context and reactualizing them. Likewise, Tadini acts, recovering de Chirico’s symbologies and bringing them to the present time, rediscovering history and placing it here and now.


Born in Milan in 1927, Tadini earned a degree in literature and soon distinguished himself among the most vibrant voices in the cultural debate of the post-war period. In 1947, he made his debut in “Il Politecnico” by Elio Vittorini, followed by intense critical and theoretical activity on art. In 1963, his first novel “Le armi l’amore” was published, followed by “L’opera” in 1980, “La lunga notte” in 1987, “L’insieme delle cose” in 1991, and “La tempesta” in 1993. From the fifties onwards, he combined his literary work with painting, and he first exhibited in 1961 at the Galleria del Cavallino in Venice, where the painter Tancredi Parmeggiani purchased one of his works. From the outset, he developed his work into cycles (Vita di Voltaire, L’uomo dell’organizzazione, Color & Co., Archeologia, Città italiane, Profughi). Throughout his career, Tadini developed a unique artistic style that blended surrealist and metaphysical elements with a profound reflection on literature and philosophy. The style is characterized by the fusion of figurative and abstract elements, where forms and human figures merge into a symbolic universe full of meaning. While American pop art was celebrated at the XXXII Venice Biennale in 1964, Tadini turned to the stylistic-narrative formulations of British pop by Richard Hamilton, David Hockney, Eduardo Paolozzi, and Ronald B. Kitaj. Until the mid-seventies, he formulated an original version of pop language, where outlined contours and spread color for sharp surfaces conveyed symbolism rich in references to Freudian psychoanalysis. He attended classes at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brera and frequented the Bar Giamaica, a crucible of intellectuals and artists, forming deep friendships with painters Alfredo Chighine, Alik Cavaliere, Cesare Peverelli, the brothers Guido and Sandro Somarè, and Valerio Adami, with whom he inaugurated the first exhibition at Studio Marconi in 1965. Towards the end of the decade, he became one of the most sensitive voices for the renewal of figurative painting. As a critic, he introduced the work of artists most akin to him in various catalogs, such as Chighine (Il Milione gallery, 1958), Adami (Naviglio gallery, 1959), Alik Cavaliere (Bergamini gallery, 1959), and others.
His constant reflection on the topicality of historical avant-gardes inspired central cycles of the seventies, where elements taken from advertising graphics and comics coexisted with the ironic juxtaposition of objet trouvé of Dadaist derivation. Tadini dedicated Paesaggio di Malevič (1971) to Suprematism, while de Chirico’s metaphysics was central to works such as Archeologia (1972-1973), Ulisse & Co. (1973), and Magasins Réunis (1973).
In 1978, Tadini exhibited at the Venice Biennale the large cycle entitled Museum of Man (1974), and in the 1982 edition, the series Disordine di un corpo classico which inaugurates a phase of his work characterized by the alteration of traditional forms of the human body. From 1992, he began an intense collaboration with the Corriere della Sera as an art critic and editorialist.
In 1993, he won the Strega Prize with “La tempesta,” a novel imbued with literary and art-historical references that marks its full maturation in an expressionist sense. Tadini also served as president of the Academy of Fine Arts in Brera from 1997 to 2000.
He passed away in Milan on September 25, 2002. In 2008, his son Francesco Tadini and journalist Melina Scalise founded the Spazio Tadini association in his honor, incorporating the artist’s studio into the family’s typography spaces. In 2015, Spazio Tadini became a House Museum in the Storie milanesi circuit, which collects 15 places in the city where characters (artists, writers, designers) who have contributed artistically and culturally to the city have lived.

Emilio Tadini between Archaeology and Metaphysics
May 9 – July 9, 2024

Galleria Gracis opening hours: Monday-Friday, 10AM-1PM | 2-6 PM

Saturday by appointment

Free entrance

T +39 02 877 807; gracis@gracis.com