Italian culture and history: The Italy of Contemporary Art
- WTI Magazine #110 Dec 15, 2018
Certainly not lacking for cultural excellence, Italy is not only the cradle of Roman, Renaissance and Baroque art, but it also plays a rather important role in the international modern and contemporary art scenes. Museums, galleries, cultural institutions and the artists themselves are organized into collectives: art in Italy follows the flux of events, and techniques and expressions change with economic, global, political and socio-cultural transformations.
From the museums in the biggest cities to art foundations in the smallest cities, from exhibits to permanent displays, from gallery collectives to multi-site and multi-location events, the Bel Paese gives ample space to contemporary artists and their works. In Milan, capital of fashion and design, the Palazzo Reale is the seat of the Civic Museum for Contemporary Art, and thus the city’s cultural hub.
A skywalk connects the museum to the 1900s Museum (or Museo del Novecento) that documents the most interesting art movements from Futurism to Metaphysical art, from Gruppo Forma 1 (an Italian style born in 1947) to Transavantgarde (Italian Neo-expressionism).
Milan’s Pavilion of Contemporary Art (PAC), rather, is among the primary examples of Italian architecture designed expressly for modern and contemporary works, similar to Vienna’s Kunsthalle Museum, for example.
Rome as well dedicates a number of spaces to contemporary art. The National Gallery of Modern Art (GNAM) holds one of the largest collections in the country, with almost 20,000 paintings, sculptures, sketches and prints.
At the MACRO, then, are works by Italian artists from the second half of the 20th Century and the most recent decades.
Then, the National Museum for the Arts of the 21st Century (more commonly known by its acronym, the MAXXI) was thought up (designed by Zaha Hadid) as a space for experimentation and innovation in art and architecture. Two are the centers dedicated to Contemporary art in Turin: The Civic Gallery, with its Contemporary and Modern collections from the 1800s and 1900s, and the Museum inside one of the splendid residences of the Savoys, the Rivoli Castle.
Another excellent art spot holding fort inside a magnificent abode, this time in Liguria, is the Museum of Villa Croce in Genoa. This museum boasts more than 3,000 abstract art creations of the late 20th Century, by both Italian and foreign artists.
Staying within the north of Italy, the MART in Trento and Rovereto is also a famous contemporary art center containing over 15,000 works; a large part of these are from the 20th-Century Avant-garde school.
Moving on to Venice - where the Biennials for art and architecture alternate each year - which dominates the Italian artistic scene: here, beyond the Gardens and the Arsenale, the fulcrum of Contemporary art in this lagoon city rests at Punta della Dogana – the former monumental port where today the splendid Pinault Collection is preserved.
However, Venice is not the only host of a Biennial for the arts. The Biennial of Florence has confirmed itself as a showcase par excellence within the international Contemporary art panorama; it is also twinned with India’s Triennial, the most important exposition in Asia.Works of international renown can also be found in Naples’s Donnaregina Museum of Contemporary Art (MADRE): from Andy Warhol to Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana to Robert Mapplethorpe, Jannis Kounellis to Jeff Koons, these are just some of the greats visitors can find at MADRE.
Moving further south, art lovers can even enjoy an entire Italian city - in Sicily - that, after being destroyed by an earthquake in 1968, has become an immense laboratory for artistic experimentation and artistic urban planning: Gibellina. Here, esteemed artists like Mario Schifano, Pietro Cascella, and Arnaldo Pomodoro have renewed the city by way of an innovative perspective. Not only, but the city also possesses a significant collection of art that came together thanks to the contribution of the artists who authored the collection’s various components.
Important sculptors are the protagonists at the MUSMA or Museum of Contemporary Sculpture in Matera (Region of Basilicata). The MUSMA is entirely dedicated to sculptures and three-dimensional artworks.
Assisi, being that it is the city of St. Francis, is home to the Gallery of Contemporary Art; the Gallery focuses primarily on sacred art, with a number of diverse iconographic representations of Christ, but all in contemporary styles.
Many are the museums and expositions that put the spotlight on Contemporary art in Italy, in addition to numerous galleries dispersed throughout just about every city on the Peninsula – from those in the small winding streets of Rome’s Historic Center, or in Milan’s Brera, Lambrate and Tortona Districts, which can be seen in all their vitality during the Fuorisalone and Tortona Design Weeks.
Art today is a panoply that also includes an important new concept: that of moving exhibits under the category of “Accessible Art.”
Accessible Art is the latest trend in the art world - i.e. that of opening itself up to emerging young artists, allowing them to sell their works at accessible prices. This movement continues to benefit Contemporary art, also in terms of audience. It is now more accessible to a public that does not necessarily have to be versed in the genre, but that can nevertheless enjoy its expansion and production.