Milan Celebrates Enrico Baj on the 100th anniversary of his birth

At Palazzo Reale from 8 October 2024 to 9 February 2025, an exhibition dedicated to the international artist, curated by Chiara Gatti and Roberta Cerini Baj

Milan is celebrating Enrico Baj (Milan, 31 October 1924 – Vergiate, 16 June 2003), a master of the Italian and international neo-avant-garde, with an extensive retrospective that will stand out among exhibitions this autumn, as it is designed to cover all the topics and subjects of his long and multifaceted experience.

Baj returns to Sala delle Cariatidi in Palazzo Reale exactly a hundred years after his birth and twelve years after the exhibition I Funerali dell’anarchico Pinelli (The Funerals of the Anarchist Pinelli) was held in the same room. For the first time, this exhibition will be integrated in an anthological itinerary and a timely dialogue with other works by the master.

Promoted by the Municipality of Milan – Culture and produced by Palazzo Reale with Electa, the project is curated by Chiara Gatti and Roberta Cerini Baj and includes nearly fifty works distilled in a time span ranging from the early 1950s to the dawn of 2000. It crosses the artist’s research phases and his adherence to different movements over time: from the revival of Dadaism and Surrealism to the modes of Informal art, from his closeness to the Nordic CoBrA to the genesis of the Nuclear art movement, which Baj founded in Milan with Sergio Dangelo in 1951. Starting from the gestural abstraction of his beginnings, passing through the birth of his larval anthropomorphic figures and the eruption of the liquefied mountains in the magmatic body of the Generals, the exhibition touches on the parody of extraterrestrial invasions, reaching the Meccano army and the animated world of chests of drawers and trumeaux.

His characters that have become part of the common imagination — the Ladies and Generals, the Ultrabodies, the Mirrors, the Furniture and the Monsters of the Apocalypse — will animate a flurry of creatures from the surrealist and sci-fi universe of an artist who made irony and the grotesque a picklock for dismantling bourgeois conformism and taking sides against all forms of consolidated power.

His celebrated aesthetics of trinkets and trimmings, tassels and shiny buttons like insignia on the truncated chests of his emblazoned soldiers, is a thread that stitches together sections of the broadest themes of Baj’s poetics, freed from a rigid chronological sequence or genre classification, with continuous cross-references between art and literature, colours and words, following a sort of script that, also in the setting, suggests a theatrical time and space for observers.

From 16 July to 13 September 2024, in anticipation of the major retrospective at Palazzo Reale, the Museum of Natural History on Corso Venezia will also host a tribute dedicated to by the artist’s engravings and books, in which Enrico Baj classified the natural world with irony and imagination. Under the title Enrico Baj. Zoologia fantastica e altre nature (Fantastic Zoology and Other Natures) will feature 22 panels divided among the Manuale di zoologia fantastica (Manual of Fantastic Zoology), Paradiso perduto (Paradise Lost), the folder I Fiori (The Flowers, with its visionary botany), as well as etchings from the famous De Rerum Natura of 1958, a homage (reinvented) to Lucretius’ Latin poem.

BAJ. BajchezBaj is also in Savona and Albissola Marina.
The unique catalogue published by Electa

To mark the centenary of the Milanese artist’s birth, an exhibition curated by Luca Bochicchio and dedicated to Baj’s ceramic work in all its historical and chronological development opens on 8 October. Entitled BAJ. Baj chez Baj will open at the Ceramics Museum in Savona, with a section also at MuDA – Museo Diffuso Albisola in Albissola Marina, in the exhibition centre and Casa Museo Jorn. The scientific collaboration between Milan and Savona, among curators and institutions, aims to outline two independent yet complementary itineraries paying homage to Baj’s eclectic genius. This is documented in the single catalogue published by Electa, in which the two exhibition itineraries unravel between places, forms, materials and encounters, tracing Baj’s fascinating cosmogony, an epiphany of intelligence and creativity.

Baj will also become a topic in Electa’s A-Z series, an array of monographic titles on eclectic 20th-century figures.