Along with Patti Smith, the artist Luciano Castelli (born 1951) is the most important protagonist in Franz Gertsch’s paintings of the 1970s. In his show in the Cabinet of the Museum Franz Gertsch in Burgdorf, Castelli invites the visitors to join him in the Art Nouveau Villa Reckenbühl in Lucerne, where he celebrated life with his housemates as an elaborate party and the young people were discovered by Franz Gertsch as models.
Luciano Castelli’s uncle, an architect, placed the house on Lucerne’s villa hillside Reckenbühl at his nephew’s disposal. Not quite 20-years-old, he moved into the house with his best friends Franz Marfurt and Ueli Vollenweider. Reckenbühl, located in a residential area among other venerable premises, became the venue of a very unordinary daily routine and the birthplace of imaginative transformations, creations and experiments on the part of the young inhabitants. It was the time of wild parties and long hair, of floor-length leather jackets and the clique riding on their heavy motorcycles roaring through the streets of Lucerne’s city centre dressed in snakeskin or bilious green midriff-free boa jackets. In the antiquated charm of the old Villa Reckenbühl with its overgrown garden, the ‘Reckenbühlers’ staged themselves with the appropriate masquerade in weird strident outfits. Reckenbühl became the stage on which they tested the dissolution of established conventions and blurred the boundaries between life and art, man and woman, you and me.
Luciano Castelli set up his studio in the Villa Reckenbühl and turned everything he could get his hands on into art. He made photographic series with portraits of his friends and so-called ‘glimmer pictures’, namely elaborately painted, richly decorated watercolours. He produced drawings and erotically charged objects and prepared the exhibition ‘Transformer: Aspects of Travesty’, which was curated by Jean-Christophe Ammann and shown in 1974 at the Museum of Art Lucerne. But photography remained Luciano Castelli’s most important medium. The spaces in the Villa Reckenbühl served as suitable backdrops for his photo series that he took with a self-timer and demonstrate the chameleon-like role-play he was capable of as the director of his own self. Many of these works are being exhibited for the first time in the Museum Franz Gertsch.
The residents with whom Luciano Castelli shared his house embodied the upheavals in the youth culture of the 1970s. Franz Gertsch, who was introduced to Luciano Castelli by Jean-Christophe Ammann, the then director of the Museum of Art Lucerne, likewise visited Reckenbühl. And it was here that he found the inspiration for large-format paintings that still exude the zeitgeist of that time like ‘Franz and Luciano’, ‘At Luciano’s House’ (both 1973) and ‘Marina makes up Luciano’ (1975).