Guglielmo Achille Cavellini

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Guglielmo Achille Cavellini
Guglielmo Achille Cavellini
Born (1914-08-11)11 August 1914
Brescia, Lombardy
Died 23 October 1990(1990-10-23) (aged 76)
Nationality Italian
Movement Mail art

Guglielmo Achille Cavellini, also known as GAC (1914–1990) was an influential Italian art collector and mail artist.

Cavellini was born into a merchant family in Brescia, Lombardy, where he ran a dry-goods shop through the post-war years following World War II.

He produced many reinterpretations of concurrent artistic works, often distributed extensively by mail. He invented the term autostoricizzazione (self-historicization) upon which he acted to create a deliberate popular history surrounding his existence. "In the mountain of documentary material he left behind, Cavellini planted enough sly exaggerations and outright falsehoods to stymie the most intrepid historian" (Vetrocq 1993, referencing interviews with the artist's son, Piero Cavellini). Cavellini even wrote his own encyclopedia entry, the Pagina dell'Enciclopedia. He declared:

The biography of an artist is frequently written after his death, imperfectly and incompletely. Since I don't want any such biography to be written about me, I've decided to write my own.


He began collecting abstract art at an early age by artists such as Giuseppe Santomaso, Giulio Turcato, Emilio Vedova, and Renato Birolli. A friendship with fellow Brescian Pietro Feroldi, including exposure to Feroldi's impressive art collection, provided a stepping stone to extensive travels visiting Europe's modern galleries and museums.

His collection grew rapidly, adding works from School of Paris figures, Dubuffet, Brauner, Jorn, Baumeister, Matta, Dominguez and others. Over two dozen of his collected holdings were included in the 1955 first documenta exhibition of modern and Contemporary art. 1957 brought a showcase of over 180 of his works at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna in Rome, Italy.

Cavellini's obsession with collecting never ceased, though his holdings changed continuously as he sold earlier acquisitions.


One of Cavellini's famous stickers distributed extensively around the world.

Cavellini's artistic career found its beginnings from a talent for brush and ink script, used on windows and price cards at the family business. He later found himself scripting Mussolini's slogans during his army service. Dabblings with painting and drawing through the mid-1940s were eventually replaced in the early 1960s by works best classified as Neo-Dada or Nouveau Realiste. He would continue this diversion from traditional forms into the 1970s and 1980s with Mail art and Conceptual art.

"As these artistic activities unfolded Cavellini formed two essential convictions. First, art-making is fundamentally a form of behavior. In this he embraced a 20th-century tradition stretching from Dada through Fluxus and Austrian Actionism. Second, and more distinctively Cavellinian, art history and all that accompanies it--biography, taste, market values, reputations--are malleable fictions and therefore suitable materials for the artist" (Vetrocq 1993).

His eventual reputation as a mail artist resulted in part from the sheer number of individuals with whom he corresponded. In 1978, he sent his work Nemo propheta in patria, by post, to over 15,000 recipients.

Authored works[edit]

  • Pagina dell'Enciclopedia ("Encyclopedia entry", date unknown)
  • Arte Astratta (Edizioni della Conchiglia, Milan, 1958)
  • Uomo pittore (Edizioni della Conchiglia, Milan, 1960)
  • Diario di G.A. Cavellini ("The diaries of Guglielmo Achille Cavellini", Brescia, 1975)
  • 1946-1976: Incontri/Scontri nella Giungla dell'Arte ("1946-1976: Encounters/clashes in the jungle of art", Brescia, 1976 / Shakespeare & Company, Milano, 1977)
  • Vita di un Genio (Brescia, 1989)


  • ? (25 Books for Cavellini, 1972)
  • 25 Lettere ("25 letters", 1974)
  • Cimeli (1974)
  • Analogie (1975)
  • 25 quadri della collezione Cavellini ("25 Paintings from the Cavellini Collection", 1976)
  • Nemo propheta in patria (1978)
  • Cavellini in California e a Budapest (1980)
  • Autoritratti ("Self portraits", 1981)
  • Il sistema mi ha messo in croce (1986)
  • Serie artisti anomali. Cavellini-Arcimboldo (1987)

See also[edit]


  • See self-authored works above.
  • Marcia E Vetrocq, Dispatches from the jungle of art. (Guglielmo Achille Cavellini, collector and collage artist), Art in America, Brant Publications, April 1993 v81 n4 p104(9).
  • Henry Martin, The Italian Art Scene, Art News, Mar. 1981, pp. 70–77.
  • Ronny Cohen, Art and Letters, Art News, Dec. 1981, pp. 68–73.
  • Articles by William Gaglione and Peter Frank in Correspondence Art: Source Book for the Network of International Postal Art Activity, editors Michael Crane and Mary Stofflet, 1984, ISBN 0-931818-02-8

External links[edit]