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“The Shape of Gold”, Paolo Canevari “Monuments to Memory (Golden Works)”, 2019

12 Jan 2021 - 10 Feb 2021

Paolo Canevari

Monuments to Memory (Golden Works), 2019

gold leaf on wood

140 x 90 cm


BUILDINGBOX dedicates the 2021 season to the theme of gold in contemporary art with the annual exhibition project  The Shape of Gold curated by Melania Rossi. The exhibition aims to offer an overview of the use of golf in contemporary artistic research by presenting the works of twelve artists who allude or use the noble metal in different ways and practices. The installations will be visible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the window in via Monte di Pietà 23.


Opening the exhibition, from January 12th to February 10th 2021 is Paolo Canevari (Rome, 1963) who presents a series of Golden Works, works belonging to the Monuments to Memory cycle.

Paolo Canevari calls his poetics “Baroque Minimalism”, a contradiction in terms that underlines the artist’s non illustrative intent, despite dealing with the various aspects of reality through intensely physical, material works.

The Golden Works presented in BUILDINGBOX are part of the cycle Monuments to Memory [Monumenti della Memoria] that the artist started in 2011-2012 as a radical response to the everyday visual pollution that also affects the art world. For these gold monochromes, Canevari removed himself from the equation, appointing an artisan for the manual application of the gold leaf, an ancient technique used both in Europe and Asia. The silhouettes recall ancient altarpieces, but do not show any references to saints or religious parables: there is nothing for our gaze to grasp except for our own reflection. They are like the echo of a painting, a memory of a painting.

Canevari has chosen not to take part in the contemporary Babel of images, locating his content in the absence of image, as if summoning the spirit of the things in a golden visual silence. What might seem paradoxical frees the work from any kind of conditioning or pre-established message; the form becomes content, and the material – gold – itself conveys meaning. Without other information to go on, the gold leaf panel forces us to use our imagination, offering a free space where our mind can evoke images, experiences, dreams.

Canevari says: “My aim is to make the physical possession of art disappear, like an illusionist, and to bring art back to its spiritual essence, to the elevation of thought as artwork”.



For 2021season BUILDINGBOX is presenting The Shape of Gold, an exhibition consisting of twelve monthly appointments curated by Melania Rossi.

The show sets out to offer a broad overview of the use of gold in contemporary art, with twelve installations that reference the “king of metal” using different media and techniques.


Called “the flesh of the Gods” by the ancient Egyptians, and symbolizing discord in Greek mythology, in the Christian world gold became both an emblem of divine manifestation and an incarnation of earthly vanity and human vices.

One thing is clear: through the centuries, this natural element has maintained its lofty expressive value in both religious and secular settings. In figurative art, gold has gathered a host of metaphors that go from the divine to the diabolic, from spiritual to material, from perfection to corruption. Its symbolic power even extends to allusions to absence, the denial of space/time and gravity.



In the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance painters used gold to represent what went beyond the tangible sphere, transcending humankind. The mystic aura created by ancient techniques such as the gold background, golden luster and gilding still represent the essential starting point for artists wishing to use this element in their works.

What kind of appeal does gold have in the modern world? How is it used in contemporary art?

All golden and gleaming, the works and site-specific installations by the artists selected by Melania Rossi (in real or fake gold, or bronze, brass, plastic, ceramics, glass and paper) inevitably evoke the historical artistic tradition, while bearing the traces of each artist’s personal poetics.

Indeed each artist offers a unique perspective on this noble metal, exploring its beguiling alchemy or opting for an irreverent approach. Some, viewing gold as a color, have studied its pictorial properties; others, considering it a plastic material, have investigated its sculptural potential; others have set out to subvert the mythological, philosophical and literal meanings of gold over the ages.


The Shape of Gold is therefore an exhibition of exceptions: here, all that glitters is indeed gold.

The exhibition will feature one installation per month for twelve months, viewable 24/7 in the BUILDINGBOX window. An ongoing exploration of different, outstanding interpretations of aurum, that noble, rare, eternal metal, incorruptible in its purest form.




Biographical notes


Paolo Canevari (Rome, 1963) is known for using different media, such as drawing, video, sculpture and installations. His aim in his works is to convert the passive state of mind into an energetic, creative act. His pieces are underpinned by reflections on the impermanence of art, the meaning of sculpture and the relationship of the work with the contemporary social context. Since the early 1990s his material of choice has been rubber tires, and black has been his chosen color. His modus operandi sets out to revisit everyday life and the most intimate aspects of memory, mingling symbols and icons, pop culture, historical representation and political consciousness. His poetics combines the expressive modes that developed from the 1960s onwards and knows no boundaries of genre or subject. In 2011, with the series Monuments of Memory, he began to explore the traditional languages of painting, drawing and sculpture.

Canevari’s first solo show was in New York, where he lived from 1989 to 1990. Since the 1990s he has exhibited in numerous international group exhibitions in Los Angeles, Paris, Kiev, Vienna, Frankfurt, Dublin, Geneva, Taiwan, Liège, and at events such as the Rome Quadriennale (1999), the Venice Biennale (2007), the Quadrilateral Biennial of Rijeke, Croatia (2014), and the Bangkok Biennale, Bangkok (2018). In the 2000s he held important solo exhibitions at venues including: Center for Academic Resources, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok (2000); Galerie Cent8, Paris (2001); Siena, Palazzo delle Papesse (2001); Galleria Christian Stein, Milan (2001, 2002, 2005, 2010, 2013); MoMA P.S.1, New York (2004); Sean Kelly Gallery, New York (2006); MART – Museum of Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto (2006); MACRO – Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome (2007); MoMA – Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010); Luigi Pecci Center for Contemporary Art, Prato (2010); GNAM – National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome (2010), and The Drawing Center, New York (2011). In 2015, the artist inaugurated the permanent work Souvenirin the space of the Olnick Spanu Art Programin Garrison, New York.

His work has interested writers of the caliber of Andrea Camilleri and Valerio Magrelli, and critics and curators such as Alanna Heiss, Klaus Biesenbach, Chrissie Iles, Brett Littman, Germano Celant. The latter, in particular, dedicated an important monograph to Canevari published by Electa (2010) and included the artist in Arts & Foods. Rituals since 1851 (Triennale di Milano, EXPO 2015).

His works are held in renowned private and public collections including: Luigi Pecci Center for Contemporary Art, Prato; MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York; Louis Vuitton pour la Creation, Paris; Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Miami; MACRO, Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome; MART, Museum of Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto; Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg; National Institute for Graphics National Chalcography, Rome; GNAM National Gallery of Modern Art, Rome; Perna Foundation, Capri, and MAXXI, National Museum of XXI Century Arts, Rome.