Guglielmo Achille Cavellini (1914-2014)
Claudio Costa: Az evolúció a neandervölgyi embertől Cavelliniig (1972)


July, 1979

Dear Enemies, For some time now, I've been thinking of writing you a letter in which to express my gratitude. If it hadn't been for your hostility towards me I might never have decided to embark upon the adventure of self- historicization, the adventure of substituting myself for the entirety of the system of art world officialdom. My gesture began as a gesture of anger and self-defence. You simply didn't want to admit that « the famous collector » was an artist as well. But time itself has demonstrated that I have always been an artist who was interested in purchasing the work of certain of his artist friends and colleagues. By now almost ten years have passed since the day I first decided to be my own historian. When I began, you took my actions as a kind of sophomoric prank, as nothing more than an impertinence. But for me it was a choice that I made very decisively and with a feeling of great precision; it was a very important decision in my life as both a man and an artist – a man and an artist with an intense and active experience of the entire historical period that extends from the new beginnings undertaken in 1946 immediately after the war right down to the dramatic and chaotic decline that we are going through today. I have been one of the seismographs of the period I live in; I've been aware of all of its qualities and defects; I've observed the behaviour of the critics and the market; I saw the « art boom » and I saw its collapse; I've seen the rampant proliferation of the galleries and the arrogance of all the Big Shots, cliques, and various « Experts ». I've had to suffer being maligned by evil and jealous tongues, and to buffer through the flood tide of presumption and arrogant provincialism. The feeling it all gave me was of constantly growing bile and disgust. And then it suddenly made sense to « do it yourself ». From that moment on, it became clear that anything and everything was permitted to me and my imagination immediately quickened and caught fire. In 1971 I invented the manifestos for the shows that will be held in my honor on my hundredth birthday in 2014 in all the major museums of the world. Then came a series of seven honorary Cavellini Postage Stamps printed by the French Republic. Twenty-five of the most famous men of all of History then dedicated one of their books to me and I wrote each of them a letter to express my gratitude. As a still living artist I also prepared a photographic documentation of my life, from birth to the moment of my greatest fame, and published it in a catalog called « Cimeli » that was then sent out in thousands of copies all over the world with the idea that every copy was a one-man show for the person who received it and read it in his living-room. It stands to reason, of course, that a show I held in this period in one of Milan's thousands of art galleries went entirely unobserved. And that is why I decided that there was no longer any sense in following the rules of the art system. I've set up my centennial celebration in advance, established the facts of my biography without waiting for the approval of generations to come, sent out thousands of « living-room exhibitions », and set up other stimulating operations as well; and all of this immediately excited the interest of an extraordinary number of people throughout the world, and most particularly of many young artists. It made absolutely no difference to them whether I was old or young, rich or poor, collector or artist, Italian or American. (But in Italy the idea of « the famous collector » continues to have roots that it is difficult to extirpate.) And the living-room shows continued one after the other: « Analogies », in 1975, « Twenty-five Paintings from the Cavellini Collection », in 1976, « Nemo propheta in patria », in 1978; and all of them were sent all around the world. I also published pages from the Encyclopedia concerning my past, present, and future. I've flooded the world with stickers (which have become entirely uncontrollable, unpredictable and extremely efficacious permanent one-man exhibitions), postage stamps, Commandments, and post cards. And all of this printed material began to stimulate a postal exchange with enormous numbers of new artist friends throughout the world. By now I've sent out thousands of « Round-Trip Operations » that are numbered and accompanied by my centennial stamps, and the stamps are cancelled by my rubber stamps with my slogans. (Every «Round Trip Operation » is a work of art that I send out through the mail as a gift, and I always advise people to have them framed and hang them up on the wall. And now I'm also sending out authorizations to organize centennial celebrations of my birth in various museums throughout the world). I think I must be the only artist in all of art history to have given away so many works of art. This is certainly in the sharpest possible contrast with the « system's » way of doing things and I hope that this constitutes a kind of demystification of the art market. And I also think I must be the first artist to reveal himself completely and to tell all the four winds of his boundless ambition and his aspirations to fame and history. These are things that everyone has always dreamed in private. Presumption and megalomania have always had to be repressed and art always had to be considered something very serious. Tradition has never put up with ironic, de-mystifying, and impertinent styles of behaviour such as mine. But time had come for a change; it was time to modify the ways we go about making art; it was time for a clean break with the past. And for a great many people, my process of « self- historicization » is already synonymous with liberation and freedom from the past. It is only with the passage of time, in fact, that I've truly been able to understand the importance of the models of behaviour I've invented. This is an understanding that grows each day with the mail I get: it is always full of testimonials of praise and esteem. (By now I have received hundreds and hundreds of works of art made out of the-materials that I myself have sent to people: the stickers, stamps, Commandments, post cards, pages from my catalogs, and so forth. I've had them all mounted and framed and they're all to go into a Cavellini Museum that is now being, organized. The collection will be truly extraordinary, something entirely unique, new, and totally different from all the others; it's sure, one day, to become something that will have to be carefully studied). All of these young artists think of me as a kind of new Messiah, a source of inspiration and ideas, a symbol of liberation, a dismantler of the art institutions. My message as an artist has touched their imaginations and given them the courage to search out new areas of activity. And if I didn't now have the proof that my message has not been useless, I wouldn't make an attempt to publicize this new phenomenon, which is a phenomenon that it would certainly be a grave mistake to overlook. Criticism has always been cautious and suspicious with respect to artists which seem to be an entirely new kind of « case ». The artistic facts that bring about fundamental changes in the history of art and of culture in general are looked upon askance by the militant critics since they disturb the rhythms and rules of the system. They'll want to fit me too into the class of the « artist who has to be watched for a while ». They'll want to see how I hold up with time, whether or not my message appears and disappears like a meteor, whether or not it will go beyond something simply personal to become universal. But in the meanwhile, Cavellini Research Centers have already sprung up like mushrooms in Canada, in Holland, in America, in Israel, and even in Italy. And before long there will be others too. The « Cavellini Case » has already been the cause of round-table discussions where it has had to be admitted that the process of self- historicization is a true artistic invention; it's the practical realization of ideas that were proposed theoretically by the Dadaists and the Futurists. These are movements that the critics have been « watching for a while » for over seventy years. But with the current crisis of ideas that we're going through, the recognition of their historical importance becomes absolutely necessary. With his Ready-mades, Marcel Duchamp already gave notice of the final crisis of what he called « retinality » as well as of all the traditional ways of making art. He was also the first figurative artist to refuse from the beginning to the end to see himself and his work integrated into the art world. But it was of course inevitable that he finally be integrated into history. To be consistent with the spirit of my work, I too should refuse to be integrated into the art system. But I still remain an artist and the development of my work and my style (what they call the « personality of the artist » and his « linguistic autonomy ») led me to create a « movement » that I've called « self- historicization ». And if this movement, like the movements that preceded it, is to end up as another link in the long chain of art, it's inevitable that I too be integrated into the system, just as happened with Duchamp. And so I've decided to make annual publication of my diary (starting with 1975) and thus to give a day by day narration of the way my adventure in art was born and continues to grow; it should also be quite a help for my future biographers; biographies are so frequently fragmentary and badly informed. By now it's a historical certainty that THE CONTEMPORARIES ARE ALWAYS WRONG (and at least part of the reason is that they don't have the vantage point of those who follow them). And so they're all going to have to be careful not to make the same mistakes with me that their predecessors made with others. My « case » is still a very different « case » from any other « case ». And it comes into being at a particularly interesting moment of historical transformation. In these last eighty years artists have searched so thoroughly through the field of art as to have discovered all of its most hidden and secret corners. Everything has already been said, and everything has already been done. It's absurd by now to trace one's steps once again through all the same streets, or to repeat all of the same experiences. Thus my message has also been an indication of a new and different way in which it may be possible to make art. And if you look through my « living-room shows » one sees almost immediately that « the language of art » has been entirely refurbished. And thus, anyone who wants to offer a judgement is going to have to do so in terms of entirely new standards. And now the younger artists of the world have opened up a dialog that goes outside of their own private studios and even outside of their countries. They have finally discovered a felicitous situation of liberation and they are no longer constrained to live in isolation. This situation is entirely new; it is happening right now; it is still developing and sooner or later everyone is going to have to take account of it. In the same way, my process of « self- historicization » is already a historical fact and a source of great interest to many people of the younger generation. And the future belongs to them. And so now you see why I felt the need to offer my gratitude to all of my enemies; the collaboration they've offered me in the creation of my art was surely involuntary but it has also been very important.


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