Castellani is one of the most important Italian living artists. He studied art and architecture at Belgium’s Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts and the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts. In the early 1950s he began challenging the confines of painting, sculpture, and architecture in search of a new paradigm. As a catalytic figure in the European post-war avant-garde, with Piero Manzoni in 1959 he founded in Milan the Azimuth gallery and the related journal Azimuth.
In 1959 Castellani exhibited his now celebrated living black pieces for the first time. To make them, he worked his monochrome canvases with a nail gun to produce a relief-life surface that induced light and shade effects through alternating depressions and raised areas.
In the 1970s and 1980s, he expanded his approach to include other materials; but Castellani’s focus upon a poetic marriage of painting, sculpture, architecture, and space has never wavered.
Castellani has exhibited at prestigious museums around the world, including The Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. He represented Italy at the Venice Biennale in 1964, 1966, 1984 and 2003 and in 2010 he became the first Italian artist ever to receive the Praemium Imperial for Painting.