Mimmo Rotella

8 1⁄2, 1963
Photo emulsion on canvas
98 x 80 cm
38 5/8 x 31 1/2 in
Signed on the upper right on verso: “Rotella”

€ 220,000.00


  • The artist
  • Private collection
  • Cardi Gallery, Milan-London


  • 2007, Germano Celant, Mimmo Rotella, Skira, Milan; n. 261, p. 548, ripr. p. 261.
  • 2010, Volker Feierabend (curated by), Mec Art. Arte oltre la fine della pittura. Kunst nach dem ende der malerei, Silvana Editoriale, Cinisello Balsamo; n. 163, ripr. p. 308.
  • 2016, Milan, Cardi Gallery, Mimmo Rotella. Blanks, 19 September – 22 December, curated Antonella Soldaini; exhibition catalogue, text by Antonella Soldaini, Veronica Locatelli; p. 19, ripr. p. 19.


  • 1999, Nizza, Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Mimmo Rotella. Rétrospective, 10 December 1999 – 3 April 2000, curated by Gilbert Perlein; exhibition catalogue, text by Gilbert Perlein, Pierre Restany, Eric Troncy, Skira, Milan; n. 82, p. 132, fig. 82, ripr. p. 77.
  • 2016, Locarno, Museo Casa Rusca, Rotella e il cinema, 12 March – 14 August, curated by Rudy Chiappini, Antonella Soldaini; exhibition catalogue, text by Antonella Soldaini; ripr.
  • 2020, London, Cardi Gallery, “MIMMO ROTELLA Beyond Décollage: Photo Emulsions and Artypos, 1963-1980”, 3 March – 12 December 2020, curated by Antonella Soldaini.


Mimmo Rotella (1918, Catanzaro – 2006, Milano) was a multifaceted artist and poet famous for his invention of the “décollage”, the act of tearing or removing layers of advertising posters to create new meaning through unexpected visual juxtaposition. Rotella used found imagery in the form of advertising posters, which he appropriated from streets and urban environments, especially in Rome. Back in the studio, he would mount these posters on to canvas, and rip and tear away at each layer, resulting in a final product of high culture that transcended the ephemeral nature of its parts.

“8 ½”, 1963 is a very early example of the use of photographic reproduction on canvas within Rotella’s practice, a technique which he begun working with in 1963 and can be considered a natural progression – or rather, reversal, of his creative, layering processes of “décollage”. The process, which he addresses as “reportage”, involves choosing images, photographing them, projecting the blown-up negatives onto a canvas chemically treated with photographic emulsion to fix the image and when required, colouring. The “reportage” process doesn’t just refer to the technique – namely, the multi-stage transferral of images from one medium to another – it comments on the content of the works, bringing to the fore the artist’s interest in exploring the communication and the media. These canvases are indeed recordings of contemporary events and their media dissemination, at once communicating and commemorating the images they capture. They play between temporal dimensions; speaking of something contemporary to the making of the work, of the reality of a document appropriated by the artist and through whose gesture is already blurring into memory.

Rotella employed the photographic reproduction technique, in a quest for “mechanical painting” mainly for two main categories of works: the socio-political reportages and the portraits. The subject of the first are pages or clippings cut from magazines or newspapers, then photographed. He still uses posters and proofs in these works, and they become even more objective in forming the artist’s iconography of the present.
For the portraits – on which he started working in 1965 – the subject is instead photographed directly by the artist, while the other stages of the process remain unchanged. There is a third category, which could be interpreted as a subcategory of the socio-political reportages, that portraying the world of cinema – and especially Fellini’s films alongside Hollywood classics and their divas – subject of several of his “reportages”.

The use of photographic reproduction is particularly effective in “8 ½” (1963) as it relies on the blueish toning of the film to recollect and render the atmosphere, somewhat suspended between dream, memory and hallucination of 8 ½ one of Federico Fellini’s masterpieces, from 1963, and one of the most iconic films of all time. Rotella’s piece reinforces the demystification of the shiny superficiality of cinema that is apparent in Fellini’s movie. Fellini assigned the role of director Guido Anselmi, who wants to make an epic science fiction movie no longer seem capable of writing, to actor Marcello Mastroianni. The film successfully merges temporal and psychological dimensions, combining the slow loss of consistency of his character’s reality with the hallucinatory experience of the spectator, forced to face a realm of blurred borders, constantly overexposed and almost surrealistic; a world where nothing is true, yet anything is possible.

The image appropriated by Rotella is collaged from one of the film’s main scenes – known as the “harem scene” – when Guido is hosting a surreal dinner party bringing together all the women he has been somehow sexually involved with. It is a chauvinist delirium with whipping and stool, combating women in a dance. The frame chosen by Rotella portrays Guido in the act of whipping – yet cropping the arm and suspending the narrative – his gesture directed against Saraghina, the grotesque character embodying the quintessentially devilish whore.
Nostalgia is a pertinent word as, above all else, Rotella’s works are the physical manifestation of memory as a layering of realities, acting almost as time capsules to a different age and place. Playing with images, modulating them like in a visual orchestra, Rotella gave life to a series of intertwined icons of Italy.