Enrico Castellani was born in Italy in 1930. He studied sculpture and painting at the Académie des Beaux-Arts and architecture at the École nationale supérieure des arts visuels, both in Brussels, graduating in 1956. He returned to Italy in 1957, where he began associating with various avant-garde artists such as Piero Manzoni, Yves Klein, and Lucio Fontana, as well as members of Zero, the art movement originating in Germany. He also became associated with Arte nucleare, a group that wished to reinvent the language of painting by making works of art celebrating their own materials and structure—rather than mimicking any other object—and to which Manzoni and Fontana also belonged. In 1959, together with Manzoni, Castellani opened Galleria Azimut in Milan, which became an important hub of avant-garde activity during its two-year run, and launched the Azimut and Il Gesto journals. That same year, he opened his first solo show at Galerie Kasper in Lausanne.
During the late 1950s, Castellani produced his Superficie Nera paintings, monochrome relief paintings made on canvas, which were enlivened by nails that raised and lowered the canvas, giving each piece depth, light, and shadow. Over the years, Castellani has continued to refine and push this technique, experimenting with multiple variations of materials and forms. In 1965, he participated in the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition, The Responsive Eye, in New York. That same year, he earned the Premio Gollin award for painters under 40 for his work at the Venice Biennale. In 2010, he won the Praemium Imperiale award. His work is included in collections around the globe, including the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Galleria nazionale d'arte moderna e contemporanea in Rome.
Castellani lives and works in Celleno, Italy.