Massimo Agostinelli

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Massimo Agostinelli
Agostinelli in 2019
Born (1987-09-25) September 25, 1987 (age 36)
London, England
NationalityAmerican, French
Alma materWebster University (B.A)
George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology (B.A)
Known forVisual arts / Art intervention
SpouseLuciana Agostinelli (m. 2016)

Massimo Agostinelli born 25 September 1987) is a Swiss based Italian American artist, businessman and activist who uses text,[1] word play[2] and found objects in his works with a particular focus on interventions.

Early life[edit]

Agostinelli was born in London, England and grew up in Manhattan, New York. His father is Robert Agostinelli an Italian American financier,[3] his mother is Pascale Gallais, a Parisian Greek sculptor.[4] Later he graduated from Webster University.[5] Back in London, Agostinelli became an apprentice printmaker and type setter.[6][7] His step aunt is the French jeweller Victoire de Castellane and his uncle-in-law is Errol Arendz.[8]


His first art series, Palindromes, consisted of mirror sheets imprinted with iconic images from art, history and popular culture, overlaid with palindromes.[9] His Anagrams examined pop-culture icons by morphing their names into anagrams[10] by means of lenticular printing.[11] In 2016[12] and 2019[13] Agostinelli was selected by Simon de Pury to exhibit at Dallas Contemporary for the MTV Staying Alive Foundation with Enoc Perez and Marc Quinn curated by Neville Wakefield.[14] In 2017 he participated in "the first Instagram curated art exhibition" by Avant Arte and Unit London[15] and in 2019 Altamarea Group's Michelin starred Marea commissioned[16] a diptych for their flagship New York and Dubai restaurants.[17] Agostinelli is also among the permanent private collection[18] of the Alpina Gstaad[19] as well as a founding patron of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa.[20] He has worked with various philanthropic organisations including, AmfAR,[21] UNICEF,[22] Caudwell Children,[23] Innocence In Danger and the Laureus Foundation.[24]


To mark the 100th anniversary of Marcel Duchamp's 1917 Fountain, Agostinelli installed a steel trashcan at the 2017 Art Basel fair in Switzerland with the phrase "la plus belle" written on top of it with white acrylic marker. (In French, it means "the most beautiful", but it is also a pun on "la poubelle", French for "the garbage bin".) The bin was positioned in front of the art booths Hauser & Wirth and White Cube. It was hailed; "one of the most engaging works made in 2017" by a member of the Nahmad clan. The original trash can was subsequently exhibited at Galerie von Vertes in Zürich.[3] Artnet praised the institutional critique performance art installation by stating; Agostinelli "turned trash cans into treasure",[25] while Vanity Fair drew reference to Duchamp.[26]

Agostinelli returned to the fair in 2018 during the VIP opening, planting a basil plant[27] in the Gagosian Gallery booth directly in front of a John Chamberlain sculpture flanked by Roy Lichtenstein and Mark Rothko works. As another nod to the Basel/basil pun, he turned the water in the fountain outside the Messeplatz green on opening day.[28] Members of his entourage who witnessed the intervention included, Helly Nahmad, Joseph Nahmad, David Mugrabi and Nellee Hooper, all of which was later dubbed "the green invasion" by art historian Diana Picasso.[29]

In 2019 Agostinelli staged his third consecutive site-specific conceptual art installation at Art Basel. Placing a real dead rat with a tag attached to its tail, reading 'Blase' - entitling the work Rat Blase, which is an anagram of 'Art Basel'.[30] The rat was situated between Beyeler Foundation, David Zwirner Gallery and Helly Nahmad Gallery in reference to the rat race. In an interview with Forbes Agostinelli cited as partial inspiration, Vito Schnabel's exhibition by The Bruce High Quality Foundation, The New Colossus. In addition, Joseph Nahmad stated; "The power of Agostinelli's work is to be able to show the viewer that today's art world has no boundaries."[31]

For the 2019 Frieze Art Fair in London, Agostinelli staged an intervention by depositing a 1 tonne block of translucent ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) pulled by a Tesla Model X to the entrance of the fair on opening day. Entitling the work 'Freeze', a homophone of 'Frieze'.[32] Additionally, he placed another sculpture in the shape of 'XX' in front of White Cube's booth, referencing the 2.0 °C climatic tipping point. The Art Newspaper compared it to Olafur Eliasson's 'Ice Watch' installation outside Tate Modern.[33] Forbes compared it to Andy Goldsworthy's 'Snow Ball' installation. Agostinelli said his initial inspiration derived from examining the Parthenon Frieze from the Acropolis of Athens at the British Museum.[34]

During the 2021 Art Basel Miami Beach fair Agostinelli installed an intervention involving a Batman mask and two inflatable bats - entitling the work ‘Real Bats’ in black acrylic, an anagram of ‘Art Basel’.[35] Written on verso was the simileas blind as a bat’, highlighting the homograph, ‘bats’ and dated in palindromic format 12.2.21 / 12.02.2021. Forbes stated; "Agostinelli is truly dedicated in supporting Musk’s vision and raising awareness through art activism in order to help accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy."[36]

Solo exhibitions[edit]

  • Palindromes, London, 2014
  • Anagrams, New York, 2015
  • Constellations, Cape Town, 2016
  • Elements, London, 2017
  • Perspectives, Gstaad, 2018 [37]
  • Signs, London, 2019 [38]
  • Interventions, 2020


  1. ^ "Emin, Shrigley and Basquiat star in exhibition about art and words". Evening Standard. 2019-05-23. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  2. ^ "17 Up and Coming Artists on Instagram Who Could Make You Rich". Culture Trip. 24 October 2017.
  3. ^ a b "How a Roguish Artist Set Out to Prank the Art World With an Art Basel Trash Can—and a Little Help From the Nahmads". Artnet News. 5 September 2017.
  4. ^ "About Time You Met: Massimo Agostinelli". About Time Magazine. 27 April 2017.
  5. ^ "Hold Fast Arts Club to Show Some Daring Art at Venue Cafe Royal Hotel London". Widewalls. 11 December 2015.
  6. ^ "The text artist Massimo Agostinelli". Fad Magazine. 21 May 2018.
  7. ^ "Maxwell Hosts Massimo Agostinelli's 'Anagrams' Exhibit at Hoerle-Guggenheim Gallery". Observer. 23 October 2015.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Debut UK exhibition by Massimo Agostinelli at Hus Gallery, London, sells out on opening night". Spear's. 26 May 2015.
  10. ^ "Massimo Agostinelli's Clever Word-Play". Whitewall Magazine. 3 November 2015.
  11. ^ "Massimo Agostinelli Exhibition "Anagrams" Unveils Dual Meanings of Phrases". Widewalls. 22 October 2015.
  12. ^ "MTV RE:DEFINE in Partnership with de PURY". Paddle8. 13 April 2016.
  13. ^ "MTV RE:DEFINE 2019 Art Auction & Gala". de PURY. 30 March 2019.
  14. ^ "MTV RE:DEFINE Curated by Neville Wakefield at Dallas Contemporary". MTV RE:DEFINE. 13 April 2016.
  15. ^ "London Exhibition Explores the Phenomenon of Art Popularized on Instagram". Artnet News. 11 January 2017.
  16. ^ "Altamarea Group Announces Their Entrance To The UAE With Michelin-Starred, New York Restaurant, Marea, At The Dubai International Financial Center, DIFC". PR Newswire. 2 April 2019.
  17. ^ "Marea - a two Michelin star New York restaurant just made its Dubai debut. From New York City to Dubai". Esquire. 25 April 2019.
  18. ^ "Beyond the expected". Issuu. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  19. ^ "THE ALPINA GSTAAD N°3". Issuu. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  20. ^ "Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa". Zeitz MOCAA. 1 January 2018.
  21. ^ "MASSIMO AGOSTINELLI Heart|Earth, 2017 - CharityStars". Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  22. ^ ""Goes Around Comes Around" by Massimo Agostinelli - CharityStars". Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  23. ^ "Maddox gallery raises over £200 000 for Caudwell Children and a rather royal visit..." 2016-11-08. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  24. ^ "Am Kap der Guten Hoffnung - Spectacular Hideaways". Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  25. ^ "From the Finale to Salvador Dalí's Surreal Paternity Saga to Thomas Campbell's Starry Rise and Fall: The Best and Worst of the Art World This Week". Artnet News. 10 September 2017.
  26. ^ "The fascinating French saga of fashion that made an appearance at the Dior party". Vanity Fair. 23 November 2017.
  27. ^ "All art-loving celebrities flock to Art Basel". Schweizer Illustrierte. 14 June 2018.
  28. ^ "The Art Market Is Hoping a Crush of Post-Lockdown Art Fairs Will Come to the Rescue This Fall. But Many Collectors Say They Won't Go". Artnet. 29 April 2020.
  29. ^ "A Punning Artist Turned Art Fair Prankster Plants a Pot of 'Art Basil' at Gagosian's Booth". Artnet News. 15 June 2018.
  30. ^ "Art Basel diary: Robert Indiana's spooky sculpture and a rogue rat. Plus, would Marcel Duchamp approve of a snow-globe urinal?". The Art Newspaper. 14 June 2019.
  31. ^ "Massimo Agostinelli On Breaking Boundaries With His Latest Piece Of Performance Art, 'Rat Blase'". Forbes. 21 June 2019.
  32. ^ "In the latest of his interventions Massimo Agostinelli Deposits Blocks of Ice at Frieze London". FAD Magazine. 3 October 2019.
  33. ^ "Art world faces up to the reality of climate crisis / Many dealers are beginning to look for local solutions to global climate emergency". The Art Newspaper. 3 October 2019.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  34. ^ "Magnificent Massimo Agostinelli Strikes Again At Frieze London 2019". Forbes. 4 October 2019.
  35. ^ "Serial interventionist Massimo Agostinelli goes all BATS at Art Basel Miami Beach". FAD Magazine. 2021-12-06. Retrieved 2021-12-12.
  36. ^ Waga, Nel-Olivia. "Conceptual Artist Massimo Agostinelli Shows His First NFT Intervention At Art Basel Miami Beach 2021". Forbes. Retrieved 2021-12-12.
  37. ^ "Between the Lines exhibition: Works from Tracey Emin and David Shrigley to feature in show on wordplay". The Evening Standard. 23 May 2019.
  38. ^ "Signs Solo Show By Massimo Agostinelli". Unit London. 1 March 2019.

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