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Grand tableau antifasciste collectif at the 12th Berlin Biennale

Updated: Jun 10

Opening on June 10 and throughout the summer, the 12th Berlin Biennale -Still Present! - will involve audience, guests and contributors on an intensive programme across six different venues, conceived by French artist Kader Attia who in the course of his career has consistently explored the legacy of colonialism on non-Western cultures.


"The Berlin Biennale has established itself as an open space that experiments, identifies and critically examines the latest trends in the art world" said the artist who, born in France and grew up between Paris and Algiers, within the 12th Biennale is aimed to examine the role of the arts as a form of repair, care and social resistance.


The audience who will visit the KW Institute for Contemporary Art during the event will have a chance to see a masterpiece: the Grand tableau antifasciste collectif [Large collective antifascist painting], a monumental painting (4x5 meters) realized in Milan in 1960 by the artists Antonio Recalcati, Enrico Baj, Erró, Gianni Dova, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Roberto Crippa, all coming at the time from the Avant-garde background.


Antonio Recalcati, Enrico Baj, Erró, Gianni Giancarlo Dova, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Roberto Crippa, Grand tableau antifasciste collectif [Large collective antifascist painting], 1960

Painting and collage on canvas

400 × 500 cm

© Antonio Recalcati, Erró, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Roberto Crippa / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022; Heirs Enrico Baj, Gianni Dova


Grand tableau antifasciste collectif was born as an impressive work of protest against the colonial war in Algeria (from 1954 to 1962 the conflict opposed the French army and Algerian independence fighters), executed by the artists in Roberto Crippa’s Studio in Milan on the wake of the emotion aroused around the news of a hateful crime perpetrated by the French army against a young woman activist from the Algerian National Liberation Front – wrongly accused of a bomb attack at the Algiers University.


As referenced by the title of the painting, the artists worked collectively during a happening, each contributing to a specific detail of the composition yet being able to convey a homogeneous style, both expressionist, dramatic and grotesque. The result of the common efforts was a war painting, a painting of history, on the line of illustrious precursors such as Goya and Picasso.

It was exhibited at Galleria di Brera on June 5, 1961 along with other works by Brauner, Fontana, Matta, Michaux, Rauschenberg, Twombly, Tinguely. On June 14 it was confiscated by the Italian authorities (the accusation was offense to religion and obscenity) and stored for 24 years in the repositories of the Court of Milan: artist Jean-Jacques Lebel - whose contribution is recognizable in the female silhouette in the top left - originally placed a photo of the Pope and a Cardinal on the two Generals figures painted by the colleague Enrico Baj on the foreground.


Grand tableau antifasciste collectif – whose reappearance in 1985 was followed by a troubled history of searching for a definitive Museum destination in France – comes today from the permanent collection of the Musée d'Art Moderne e Contemporain in Strasbourg.


For further infos on the 12th Berlin Biennale : https://12.berlinbiennale.de/