Bologna - News

Lorenzo Balbi Presents “That’s IT!” at MAMBO

1 day ago

“That’s IT! On the Newest Generation of Artists in Italy and One Meter Eighty from the Border”, a generational collective exhibition curated by Lorenzo Balbi, opens today at MAMbo. The show presents the works of 56 artists and collectives born from 1980 to 1996 as well as of several specially created new pieces. The exhibition explores the most recent developments of Italian art through the use of several media.

Artists:

Matilde Cassani (1980), Giuseppe De Mattia (1980), Margherita Moscardini (1981), Michele Sibiloni (1981), Riccardo Benassi (1982), Ludovica Carbotta (1982), Danilo Correale (1982), Andrea De Stefani (1982), Giulio Squillacciotti (1982), Marco Strappato (1982), Carlo Gabriele Tribbioli (1982), Ian Tweedy (1982), Invernomuto (Simone Trabucchi, 1982 e Simone Bertuzzi, 1983), Francesco Bertocco (1983), Giovanni Giaretta (1983), Lorenzo Senni (1983), Alberto Tadiello (1983), IOCOSE (Filippo Cuttica, 1983, Davide Prati, 1983, Matteo Cremonesi, 1984 e Paolo Ruffino, 1984), Elia Cantori (1984), Giulio Delvè (1984), Elena Mazzi (1984), Diego Tonus (1984), Calori&Maillard (Violette Maillard, 1984 e Letizia Calori, 1986), Federico Antonini (1985), Alessio D’Ellena (1985), Nicolò Degiorgis (1985), Riccardo Giacconi (1985), Adelita Husni-Bey (1985), Diego Marcon (1985), Ruth Beraha (1986), Elisa Caldana (1986), Roberto Fassone (1986), Francesco Fonassi (1986), Petrit Halilaj (1986), Andrea Kvas (1986), Beatrice Marchi (1986), The Cool Couple (Niccolò Benetton, 1986 e Simone Santilli, 1987), Filippo Bisagni (1987), Benni Bosetto (1987), Lia Cecchin (1987), Alessandro Di Pietro (1987), Stefano Serretta (1987), Giulia Cenci (1988), Tomaso De Luca (1988), Julia Frank (1988), Marco Giordano (1988), Orestis Mavroudis (1988), Valentina Furian (1989), Parasite 2.0 (Stefano Colombo, 1989, Eugenio Cosentino, 1989 e Luca Marullo, 1989), Alice Ronchi (1989), Emilio Vavarella (1989), Irene Fenara (1990), Angelo Licciardello (1990) & Francesco Tagliavia (1992), Caterina Morigi (1991), Margherita Raso (1991), Guendalina Cerruti (1992).

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • That's IT! That's IT!
Slovenia - News

Slavs and Tatars Appointed Curators of the 33rd Biennial of Graphic Arts in Ljubljana

1 day ago

The 33rd edition of the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts will be curated by Slavs and Tatars.
The 32nd edition entitled “Birth as Criterion” saw Slavs and Tatars among the participating artists and as such, “Birth as Criterion” influenced the concept of the subsequent Biennial.

The collective’s extensive editorial production, complex use of visual language and voracious research practice makes them a particularly resonant fit with the history of the Biennial and its contemporary role. The location of the Biennial, due to run from June to September 2019, has also been chosen in a similar way. It is installed into the factory architecture of the 19th century known as Cukrarna, a sugar factory with great importance in its time. This former industrial building, which was a generator of technological modernity in its heyday, now opens up to contemporary art. For their curatorial début, Slavs and Tatars intend to re-engage with the origins of the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts.

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Slavs and Tatars, Reverse Dschihad (Russian), 2015. Slavs and Tatars, Reverse Dschihad (Russian), 2015.
New York - News

Condo New York 2018

3 days ago

From June 29 to July 27, 2018, New York City is hosting Condo, a collaborative exhibition of 47 galleries across 21 New York spaces.

Preview days:
Friday June 29,  12–8pm + Saturday June 30, 12–6pm

Condo takes its name from ‘condominium’ and is a large-scale collaborative exhibition of international galleries. Host galleries share their spaces with visiting galleries – either by co-curating an exhibition together, or dividing their galleries and allocating spaces. The initiative encourages the evaluation of existing models, pooling resources and acting communally to propose an environment that is more conducive for experimental gallery exhibitions to take place internationally.

 

Check out here the participating galleries and download here the map

My Art Guides Editorial Team

London - Posts

Christo presents The London Mastaba in Hyde Park

5 days ago

Christo and Jeanne-Claude are celebrated at Serpentine Galleries for their interventions in urban and natural landscapes around the world.

Simoultaneouly, Christo has presented to the public “The London Mastaba”, a floating installation on The Serpentine Lake.

The Serpentine has worked closely with Christo to develop this new exhibition of sculptures, drawings, collages, scale-models and photographs, which spans six decades.

 

 

Elena Scarpa

  • The London Mastaba The London Mastaba
Basel - Interviews

“Smutty Opulence and the Wallace Collection”: Alys Williams in Conversation with Jamie Fitzpatrick and Lindsey Mendick

2 weeks ago

On the occasion of the duo show “SMUT” by British artists Jamie Fitzpatrick and Lindsey Mendick at VITRINE Basel, which opens on Tuesday 12 June to coincide with Art Basel 2018, we asked the curator Alys Williams (VITRINE Founding Director and SMUT Curator) and artists to have a conversation to learn more about the exhibition, the artist’s practice and their interest in the Wallace Collection, London, where they have both taken inspiration.

Alys (to Jamie and Lindsey): You have both talked about the influence that the Wallace Collection has had on your individual practices and Lindsey recently described your joint trip as being a moment of “bonding over the grandeur and splendour of both the collection and décor”. Could you both tell me a little more about your interest in this collection and its relationship to your new work for SMUT?

Jamie: I was first drawn to the collection by the frenetic energy of the work of that period and I was trying to tap into that energy in the way I was using my materials in sculpture. An illusion that everything has been made in a wind-rush of stimulated panic, like a moment of chaos, and has been frozen and then carefully reassembled as an image. I began lifting a lot of the stock tropes of the period directly into my work as a simple short-hand for privileged excess and the decoration and beautification of tyranny and power which, at the time, was the starting point for a lot of my work.
In that excess, there is a kind of unabashed sexual flamboyance that is fun and seductive. There is something in this sense of sexuality on the edge and sexual stereotypes that turned Lindsey and me on when thinking about the work for this show.

Lindsey: I’ve always been so attracted to the sickly sweet earnest grandeur of the Rococo movement and the Wallace Collection has the most delicious examples of its ceramics; furniture and paintings. Each room is a celebration of a rich pigment and the adornment flows from the cornices to the feet of the table legs. It’s just so heady and luscious and it dazzles you into submission. But I think particularly with the Wallace Collection there’s this inherently and unabashed romanticism that I have such an affinity with.
The work I have created is my sculptural interpretation of a Fragonard, all frills and florals and bloomers. The sculptures are lonely and lascivious; attempting to entice the viewer to succumb to their delicious excess.

Alys (to Jamie and Lindsey): The figure and gender are explored in both your practices, often in extremely different ways. For SMUT, you have described taking your respective male and female positions – could you describe the importance of ideas of masculinity and femininity in your work and how you see it unfolding for this exhibition?

Lindsey: When approaching the show with Jamie I knew his work was going to be magnificently engulfing (which is why I adore it) and there’s an aggressive quality to his mark making that both enraptures and frightens me; almost ‘Laddy’. But I have to admit, I’ve always been drawn to laddy men. There’s something about the humour and fragile masculinity that paradoxically arouses and repels me; it’s something that I’m quite ashamed of as someone who considers themselves feminist.
My work has always come across as extremely feminine, probably due to my primary medium being ingrained in craft and my affection for pastels; and it’s unashamedly personal and candidly emotional. I feel there is a great deal of power in embracing the very traits that people deem to be female and subverting them, pushing the boundaries of what the ‘female’ gender can be.
For me the work that I have created ‘The Spectre at the Feast’ is about the shame of gluttony and sexual desire; exploring how arousal and appetite circumvents taste and sophistication. There is a submissive quality to the work. I’m exploring the simultaneous paradox that women my age can feel, growing up in a society where gender is rapidly evolving whilst having been instilled with traditional gender stereotypes by those who raised us.

Jamie: This show happened at an odd time as I got married the week before. In the lead in and build up to the two events it became difficult not to get them tangled up together. When Katrin, my wife, and I were talking about what sort of wedding we wanted, you start to scratch away at all these different traditions and see the heavily gendered origin of them. I began to see the wedding (in its generic term, not mine specifically) as this ceremonial performance of two stereotyped gender roles for the community.

Likewise, when Lindsey and I were discussing the show, we were having similar conversations about the performance of sexual stereotypes in the way we form our practice. In my method for making work, there is something violent, brash and tongue in cheek that sort of aims to live out ‘ideals’ of masculine principles like aggression, virility, competition, and irresponsibility. Similar to the work in the Wallace Collection, there is this facade of energy that is built on something more fragile. It’s these ideas of crumbly power and authority and delicate masculinity of white-middle class-straight-english-speaking men (like me) that I keep coming back to in my work and particularly in this new body of work which centers on ‘The Transformative Stag-Do’.

Alys (to Jamie): Since graduating from the Royal College of Art, London in 2015, you have worked primarily in wax, both cast and sculpted. You have used motors in your sculptures to add movement and more recently you have been branching out into painting with oil bar and making video. Could you tell me what brought you to wax as a medium initially, the qualities of this material that you are drawn to, and how you are amalgamating and developing the other diverse media in your practice?

Jamie: People focus heavily on the wax, but for me the importance is to be able to handle material in a way that records the aggressive gestures of its making. I’m currently most interested in exploring immersive narrative sculptural installations like that in the film, influenced by the physical landscapes of artists like Kienholz and Paul McCarthy. These sculptural installations act as active dioramas, which tie together elements of sculpture, animatronics, video and audio. The combination of these elements has developed from previous individual pieces, which I am now looking at as more complete environments within which sculptures narrate, sing, and story-tell.

Alys (to Lindsey): SMUT contains works that you have each produced concurrently in 2018. You have also created kissing sculptures in collaboration, which are inspired by the ‘amour sculptures’ at the Wallace Collection and are produced in clay. Clay is a medium that you have worked in for many years and a material that you have introduced Jamie to recently. I imagine that this process of developing these works has been an interesting experience: a performance even! Can you tell me a bit more about these works, the process of production, and your interest and experience with this material?

Lindsey: Before working in clay, I had used a lot of found objects. The objects I found never wholly captured my sensibility and they felt so detached from me. It was around this time that I first saw Rebecca Warren’s immense and gluttonous anthropomorphic clay sculptures. I was instantly drawn to the medium and the way that it solidified and immortalised the hand of the artist. I always go back to this quote by William Morris, who said that ‘nothing which is made by man will be ugly, but will have its due form, and its due ornament, and will tell the tale of its making and the tale of its use’. This idea is so important to me and by working in clay I am resolutely ingrained within the work.
I often work collaboratively, inviting my friends and family to create alongside me. I find that art can be quite a lonely discipline; so working with Jamie wasn’t a hard task. Spending a day together, we took the time to find common ground. The gestures in Jamie’s work are so delicious that they leant themselves so beautifully to the chocolaty terracotta we used. We’ve also been in the pub a lot which has loosened out tongues so to speak!
The kissing sculptures were a way that we felt we could marry our respective practices through a very literal gesture. We talked about moments of intimacy that we had experienced and as Jamie was getting married around the same time we were planning this exhibition it felt only natural that our work should mirror this event.

Alys (to Jamie and Lindsey): You both graduated with an MA in Sculpture from the Royal College of Art, London (Jamie in 2015 and Lindsey in 2017) and began exhibiting internationally very quickly. Jamie won the UK/RAINE Saatchi Gallery Sculpture Prize (2015), amongst other prizes, was selected for New Contemporaries 2015 and 2016, and had a solo booth at Artissima 2016. Lindsey was exhibited last month in Invites at Zabludowicz Collection, London (April-May 2018) and has recently been awarded the 2018 Alexandra Reinhardt Memorial Award. It must be an exciting and challenging time for you both. Could you talk a bit about this journey and how working together recently for this show has fostered this development?

Lindsey: It’s an extremely exciting but also absolutely terrifying time! Sudden bouts of self-doubt creep in, but then this also propels my impetus to keep on creating and to experiment with new techniques and materials. Jamie’s been amazing throughout this process and it’s been an incredibly nurturing and honest experience.

Jamie: I’m still finding my feet! I’m in a privileged position of having opportunities to show and visit new places, but I don’t always enjoy the anxiety caused by this. I’ve not worked collaboratively before, at least not this closely. My work has always been a private space that I wasn’t easily willing to share, however, for some time I had been wanting to work with Lindsey as I’ve loved pretty much everything I’ve seen that she’s made.

Alys (to Jamie and Lindsey): Finally, what are you both looking forward to from your first experience exhibiting in Switzerland, and from your time in Basel?

Jamie: It’s been a busy couple of weeks of preparation so, to be honest, I’m most looking forward to everything being installed and working. There’s a group of gargoyles by Arnold Böcklin in the foyer of the Kunsthalle that I loved last time I visited, so I’m looking forward to seeing them again.

Lindsey: I have no idea what to expect to be honest! But I can’t wait to spend some time outside of London and to experience the beast that is Art Basel…

SMUT Jamie Fitzpatrick & Lindsey Mendick
VITRINE, Basel.
Vogesenplatz, 4056 Basel, Switzerland.

Preview 12 June 2018, 5-10pm, with drinks and food al fresco in Vogesenplatz in collaboration with Bridge Bar, Rhyschanzli, and POPTAILS by LAPP.

Exhibition is then viewable 24/7 from the square – or for appointments email sales@vitrinegallery.com – throughout Art Basel and until 2 September 2018.

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Lindsey Mendick, The Spectre at The Feast (Detail), 2018. Glazed ceramic, papier mâché, tights, chaise longue, acrylic paint, camembert. Lindsey Mendick, The Spectre at The Feast (Detail), 2018. Glazed ceramic, papier mâché, tights, chaise longue, acrylic paint, camembert.
  • Jamie Fitzpatrick and Lindsey Mendick, SMUT, Installation view, 2018. VITRINE, Basel.
 Jamie Fitzpatrick and Lindsey Mendick, SMUT, Installation view, 2018. VITRINE, Basel.

Berlin - Posts

We Don’t Need Another Hero, the 10th Berlin Biennale

2 weeks ago

The 10th Berlin Biennale, curated by Gabi Ngcobo and her team, opens on June 9th 2018 and is hosted in four venues around town: KW – Institute for Contemporary Art; Volksbühne Pavillion; the Akademie der Kunste at Hanseatenweg and ZK/U Center for Art and Urbanistics.

The Biennale will run for 3 months and the artists included are Agnieszka Brzeżańska, Ana Mendieta, Basir Mahmood, Belkis Ayón, Cinthia Marcelle, Dineo Seshee Bopape, Elsa M’bala, Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa, Fabiana Faleiros, Firelei Báez, Gabisile Nkosi, Grada Kilomba, Heba Y. Amin, Herman Mbamba, Joanna Piotrowska, Johanna Unzueta, Julia Phillips, Keleketla! Library, Las Nietas de Nonó, Liz Johnson Artur, Lorena Gutiérrez Camejo, Lubaina Himid, Luke Willis Thompson, Lydia Hamann & Kaj Osteroth, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Mario Pfeifer, Mildred Thompson, Mimi Cherono Ng’ok, Minia Biabiany, Moshekwa Langa, Natasha A. Kelly, Okwui Okpokwasili, Oscar Murillo, Özlem Altın, Patricia Belli, Portia Zvavahera, Sam Samiee, Sara Haq, Simone Leigh, Sinethemba Twalo and Jabu Arnell, Sondra Perry, Tessa Mars, Thierry Oussou, Tony Cokes, Tony Cruz Pabón, and Zuleikha Chaudhari.

The title of the Biennale, We Don’t Need Another Hero, is taken from the 1985 Tina Tuner song and, as the curatorial team stated: “we draw from a moment directly preceding major geopolitical shifts that brought about regime changes and new historical figures. The 10th Berlin Biennale does not provide a coherent reading of histories or the present of any kind. Like the song, it rejects the desire for a savior. Instead, it explores the political potential of the act of self-preservation, refusing to be seduced by unyielding knowledge systems and historical narratives that contribute to the creation of toxic subjectivities. We are interested in different configurations of knowledge and power that enable contradictions and complications.”

 

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Akademie der Künste (Hanseatenweg), Berlin. Courtesy: Berlin Biennale; photograph: Timo OhlerAkademie der Künste (Hanseatenweg), Berlin. Courtesy: Berlin Biennale; photograph: Timo Ohler Akademie der Künste (Hanseatenweg), Berlin. Courtesy: Berlin Biennale; photograph: Timo Ohler Akademie der Künste (Hanseatenweg), Berlin. Courtesy: Berlin Biennale; photograph: Timo Ohler
Venice - Posts

Milovan Farronato, Director of Fiorucci Art Trust, Will Curate the Italian Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale

2 weeks ago

Milovan Farronato has been selected among 10 proposals by the newly appointed Italian Minister of Culture.

The 10 proposals had been submitted upon invitations which had been made to relevant figures in the art world.

“Farronato’s project – said Minister Bonisoli – is very original and innovative also from the point of view  of the installtion set up of exhibition and it enhances the work of the artists and places the Pavilion in line with the international art scene”.

The 58th Venice Biennale will run from the 11th of May until the 24th of November 2018.

 

 

 

Elena Scarpa

  • Milovan Farronato Milovan Farronato
Venice - Interviews

Karole Vail: One Year at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection

3 weeks ago

Recently we interviewed Karole Vail a year on from her appointment as Director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. Prior to this appointment, she served on the curatorial staff at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, where she worked since 1997.

Mara Sartore: I’m glad we have a chance to sit down now that a year has passed since your appointment as director of PGC.

Karole Vail: Yes absolutely, already a year has gone by. It’s been really full and intense and also very exciting. I have learned a huge amount. I came here as a curator and I am now a director of an extraordinary museum. I want to continue to observe and get to know the museum, in a different way from what I used to know before. I think that what was very important this past year, was to get to know the staff well, to have conversations with them, to participate in as many meetings as I could with them, understand what they do, what they are thinking, what they are hoping to do. It’s been a year of great excitement, meeting so many people and institutions from Venice with whom we collaborate on a regular basis and I think it is very positive and something that we definitely have to do. I believe in outreach to other institutions.

M.S.: Was there a moment of this first year that was really emblematic, a moment that you want to remember?

K.V.: Everyday has been emblematic and special, everyday there’s been something new to discover. Even though we put on exhibitions three times a year, we have to repeat that process over and over again, there’s always something to discover, a new problem, a new issue that has to be resolved. One interesting thing for me, as a former curator, was to pay special attention to the collection. It’s important to play with the collection, to move paintings and sculptures around. Reinventing the collection.

M.S.: How often do you do this?

K.V.: Not very often but in the past few weeks a painting left for San Francisco because we maintain an active loan policy whenever we think an exhibition is important.
I decided to put out all the 11 Jackson Pollock paintings that are in the collection, something which I believe hasn’t been done before and this year is also a special year with the celebration on the 1948 Biennale, so 70 years ago when Peggy Guggenheim brought her collection to Venice for the first time; when she introduced the young American abstract expressionist artists, including Jackson Pollock. I thought that as an homage to that movement, as an homage to Pollock, it would be good to put all the Pollocks out and we have also organized an exhibition around 1948 and the Biennale, as an homage to Carlo Scarpa.
There are some curatorial moments which to me have in fact been very important to be able to get better acquainted with the collections, to come up with better relationships between works also because Peggy believed that the collection shouldn’t remain static. It’s a living entity and even though it’s historical, many of the works are years old, some of them over a hundred, they still have a dynamism and an energy. I think it’s a really good curatorial exercise to show works in a new light, I think it makes it exciting.

M.S.: Talking about anniversaries, next year you’re going to celebrate 40 years after the death of Peggy. I know you’re working on a series of events in her honor, can we have some little anticipation of what will be going on? It will also be the 58th Venice Art Biennale so it’s an Art Biennale year.

K.V.: We celebrate Peggy everyday here, it is a museum that was Peggy’s house. But as you said, next year we are going to show more of her collection so that’s a very exciting moment for me. Part of the collection is also going to be shown in the Barchessa which Peggy had built on purpose to allow for more of her collection to be exhibited, this means that the Schulhof Collection will move to the temporary exhibition galleries for a couple of months in a more complete presentation.

This is also an exciting curatorial exercise, that means that for the first few months of next year we’ll see more of Peggy’s pre-war collection, and then at the end of that same year I am going to do an exhibition in the exhibition galleries of the acquisitions that she made once she settled in Venice. That will include the Italian artists Vedova, Santomaso, Tancredi, Bacci and also British artists from the 50s including Graham Sutherland, Francis Bacon sculptors like Henry Moore. The exhibition will also be punctuated with a couple of key moment in Peggy’s Venetian life, so next year will really be an opportunity to see more the collection which I think is important and then the summer exhibition will be an exhibition dedicated to Hans Arp which we will be hosting after the first venue in Dallas at the Nasher Sculpture Center. Arp was the first artists who entered Peggy’s Collection in 1938, so I thought it was important to mark that moment as well with an exhibition dedicated to this extraordinary artists. And then we will probably organize other series of events like public programs with institutions in Venice, a programme we are still developing.

M.S.: Is there a specific or more than one local institution with which you work more closely? Or that you share aims with?

K.V.: We worked with Ca’ Foscari quite often, we often have lectures there. Right now we are collaborating with Fondazione Ligabue on the “Albers in Mexico” exhibition. We are collaborating with them because of their collection of pre-Colombian art and it’s always nice when there’s the opportunity to do something together because it helps both institutions. We are also continuing our collaboration with Comune di Venezia and Regione Veneto. We just held our last big event together with OVS with our Kids Creative Lab, we had this extraordinary performance in Piazza San Marco which was a great moment of collaboration with a sponsor and with the city of Venice.

M.S.: How important is it for an international museum like PGC to be active in a city like Venice, where the everyday life life is so rare sometimes with few locals still living here?

K.V.: We try to engage as much as we can with locals. We do have the Settimana dei veneziani in November and the Museum is open to all Venetians. It’s incredibly successful and Peggy was really generous herself opening the museum several times a week to the public for free. We are open to anyone who wants to come to the museum, we organize many programs for families, for kids, for teenagers and for schools. The educational programs have been going on for a long long time, the previous director has to be credited for that, among other things

M.S.: As a new Venetian, how is it for you living here?

K.V.: It’s wonderful, there are challenges like in every city, before I was living in NY and there were a lot of challenges there as well. Some things are not easy here but then I just stop and look around and everything else just collapses and it doesn’t matter, it’s so beautiful. What could be better? I’m working in this extraordinary museum, with great staff, there’s not much to complain about.

M.S.: For the 40 years celebration, do you have special sponsors who will come in?

K.V.: I don’t know yet. We are always looking for sponsors because we always need funding for all kinds of projects, for our operations or anything we are interested in. Myself I am very interested in conservation and research on the collection is very important, especially when you have a collection of this caliber to take care of it. I want to do more for conservation and restoration based research projects which I think are crucial for the future of the collection and the museum.

M.S.: Is New York going to be involved in the celebration?

K.V.: There’s nothing planned for now. Next year there’s going to be an anniversary in NY as well because it’s going to be 60 years of the Frank Lloyd Wright building, which opened in 1959. So maybe we can celebrate all together. Even though Peggy didn’t like the building at all! She called it the garage of her uncle Solomon, she wasn’t particularly excited by it. But I think she must have been really pleased when she saw her collection exhibited there in 1969 which I think was also the point at which she realized and understood that it was a good idea to leave her collection to the Guggenheim Foundation.

Mara Sartore

  • Karole Vail, Ph. Matteo de Fina Karole Vail, Ph. Matteo de Fina
  • Peggy Guggenheim on the steps of the Greek Pavilion with Interior (1945, unknown location) by her daughter Pegeen Vail, 24th Venice Biennale, 1948. Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Venice, photo Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche. Gift, Cassa di Risparmio di Venezia, 2005 Peggy Guggenheim on the steps of the Greek Pavilion with Interior (1945, unknown location) by her daughter Pegeen Vail, 24th Venice Biennale, 1948. Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Venice, photo Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche. Gift, Cassa di Risparmio di Venezia, 2005
  • Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Ph. Simone Bottazzin Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Ph. Simone Bottazzin
  • Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Ph. Simone Bottazzin Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Ph. Simone Bottazzin
Palermo - Interviews

“The Beauty of Palermo is in its Soul”: an Interview with Letizia Battaglia

3 weeks ago

Working on our special issue on Manifesta 12 and traveling to Palermo, I met Letizia Battaglia in her home to learn more about her life and career as well as the projects she’s undertaking at the newly opened art space Centro Internazionale di Fotografia at Canteri Culturali alla Zisa.

Mara Sartore: Last November you opened at the Cantieri Culturali alla Zisa The International Photography Centre. How did the idea come about? Was there an active collaboration with city institutions?

Letizia Battaglia: I’ve always loved working with others, especially with women. A photographer usually works alone but I have always worked within a group of people.I have always dreamt of and imagined having a space dedicated to photography that would value and take into account not only Sicilian talents, but also those from elsewhere. I had already started in 1978, by opening the first photo gallery in the South below Rome. I have always looked abroad with curiosity, but never with a sense of inferiority. Seven years ago I went to my beloved Leoluca Orlando mayor, I spoke to him about my idea of opening up the Centre of Photography and he said “all right, let’s do it”. After his agreement, I communicated the news to the press; some people went to the mayor in opposition to the project, declaring: “why can she do it and not us?”. After these protests, the thing stopped, perhaps because Orlando did not want to be unjust. Finally after seven years we have managed to open The International Photography Centre in a pavilion at Cantieri Culturali alla Zisa, restored by architect and university professor Jolanda Lima, free of charge and with the support of the Municipality. The International Photography Centre does not only wish to be an outpost where a high-level of photography is carried out and presented, but also a place where important social operations are carried out.

M.S.: Palermo this year has been named “Capital of Italian Culture”, and the city is hosting Manifesta12. How much are these initiatives worth in reviving the city at local and international level? How has Palermo changed over recent years?

L.B.: We are just continuing on the way we have always done, we are not doing things differently just because Palermo is the “Capital of Culture” this year. The city has however re-awakened, the restaurants are better equipped, b&bs are popping up everywhere and prices are rising, there are evermore tourists (not that tourists are the panacea, but if they are to arrive, then they are welcome). The Centre of Photography was born to enrich our own lives and helps us to grow. Palermo “Capital of Culture” is interesting even if there are many problems, we are also the “capital” which welcomes immigrants, we have great respect and we are not racist. On the topic of migration, Giovanna Calvenzi, Gabriele Basilico’s wife, has worked at the Centre for free for a whole year on an exhibition entitled “Io sono persona” (I am a Person) 34 Italian photographers who have made photographic projects around this topic. The title “I am a person” comes from a quote by our Mayor in the local paper declaring that Palermo is a welcoming city and that anyone who arrives in Palermo becomes a Palermitano.

M.S.: Was there a key moment in the change of Palermo or was it a slow and progressive transformation?

L.B.: A lot has been done in recent decades thanks to Leoluca Orlando and his party members. But so much has depended on the commitment of women. They are more open, more free, more independent. Girls were once slaves to a father, a husband, a brother. We are not talking about independence that comes from work, but about a form of openness. The city has changed culturally from the inside rather than the outside, we do not have new buildings, for example. When in 1989-90 I was councillor alongside the Mayor Orlando, we designed a museum for contemporary arts in Piazza Croci, to take the place of a beautiful Art Nouveau Villa, which the mafia had blown up with a bomb then to build in its place an improbable skyscraper. Today there is a car park where our museum, designed by the Swiss architect Botta, should have stood. Unfortunately, only his model remained because there was never enough money to make it happen. Everything is very difficult in Palermo, it is difficult to eliminate rubbish, it is difficult to rebuild. Bureaucracy is the enemy of progress, often preventing things from actually happening.

M.S.: Your photography has always been closely linked to your struggle for survival, documenting and condemning the absurdity of the Mafia. Your artistic research, the search for beauty among the horrors of the Mafia is your means of resistance. You began as a reporter almost at the age of forty, becoming a brave witness to Italian history. Can you tell us about your journey as a photographer?

L.B.: I’m not a photographer, but I’ve alway taken pictures, I was in theatre, I volunteered, I had three daughters, I’ve been in love, but I do not want to label myself as a photographer. I’ve lived with photography, with the Centre, with the magazine Mezzocielo, designed and edited by women only. I’ve always used what I had. It happened to me for forty years to take photos, I used this both as a tool of denunciation to what was happening in Palermo, and also simply to express myself.

M.S.: Where did this dedication come from?

L.B.: As a child I wanted to be a writer, then I got married at sixteen to runaway from my jealous father and I fell into a marriage in which he did not understand anything about me. I wanted to study while having daughters, I have always stood back from and remained disengaged from social norms. At one point, when my daughters were grown up, I introduced myself to the newspaper L’Ora as a journalist. It was August, all the journalists were on holiday and needed help and I was welcomed. So I started writing my first articles. After a wonderful session of psychoanalysis that helped me to leave my husband, I went to Milan to offer my articles to Milanese newspapers. There they asked me to provide the items with photos, and so a friend of mine gave me a camera. I was thirty-seven. I started working to make myself independent as I had refused financial help from my husband. I did not want to have to deal with him anymore, I did not want to be a kept woman. In Milan I found space, I found a city that offered opportunities. After a while the newspaper L’Ora called me back to Palermo to direct the photographic team there. I went back to Palermo to work as a photographer, but this work became an ever greater task, because I started when the crazy, greedy and bloody Corleone’s mobsters unleashed the Mafia war in Palermo to destroy us. I photographed to condemn, but with the camera in hand I was able to express myself too, I felt powerful and free. What I wanted to do as a writer, I did as a photographer. But I did not just report, as a woman I always looked for beauty, love, sweetness, tenderness. And photographing the Mafia was to report everything that prevented us from being sweet and happy …

M.S.: Those were terrible years, how were they overcome?

L.B.: A month ago there was finally an exemplary sentence at the prison of Pagliarelli. The Court issued a sentence condemning those representatives of the state that immediately after Falcone and Borsellino were killed, made agreements with the Mafia. We have firmly and vigorously supported this process carried out with courage and solitude by judge Nino di Matteo between general indifference and death threats. Now finally, after many years the sentence declares that this negotiation was there.

M.S.: In Palermo they say that you no longer pay protection money (in Italian “pizzo”), is this true?

L.B.: We continue to pay it, everyone does, who says that we don’t is either lying or a “mafioso”. The Mafia is stronger than ever, it’s just different. Now it works within the economic and political system and not only in Palermo.

M.S.: After the bloody period, what has your photography concentrated on?

L.B.: Always, even when I worked for L’Ora newspaper, I made time to photograph subjects that interested me and that were outside the news: girls, women, poetic moments.

After a few years, when everyone was asking me for pictures of the mafia, and I was marked by everything I had seen and photographed I began to have nightmares, to dream of burning my negatives because I could not stand them anymore. I could not bear to remember and see those images, I escaped from Palermo and locked myself in a house in Paris for a year. I felt marked, but I could not burn the story, I did not have the right to destroy documents which were to pay testament to the history of Italy. So I decided to artificially put my life in front of this photo of murdered men or “mafiosi”. I mixed photos of naked women, of flowers, of little girls with those of the news to recreate a new image, moving the focal point.

Then, I later made a series of photographs that I titled “Invincibles”. I asked myself: “what has kept me going, how have I resisted for so many years?”. I understood who were the pillars which kept me standing: Pasolini, Che Guevara, Ezra Pound, Pina Bausch were my stimuli. Another heroine of mine is Rosa Parks, a young American black worker. One day, going to work, she got on the bus and sat in the place of the whites. A white man asked her to get up but she refused. The white man called the police and the next day with Martin Luther King the revolution broke out and from there the buses opened to all, white and black. For me she is the symbol of the fight against racism.

M.S.: Tell us what will be going on at the Centre during Manifesta 12 and then if there are some places in the city to which you are particularly attached, where you often go, and what you would suggest to our readers visiting Palermo.

L.B.: for Manifesta12 I myself participated in a video by Masbedo, sponsored by Beatrice Bulgari. One of the projects that won a competition supported by Manifesta 12 which consists of photographs of 780 works of art which were never finished in Italy. This project will be hosted by The International Photography Centre. Then we have three artists who present projects around the theme of homosexuality. The American photographer Catherine Opie, the Roman photographer Roberto Timperi with “A’mor” and the video “Salvatore” and an installation of flags, and finally “Sguardo di attore” by Massimo Verdastro. Another exhibition is called “Street Watching”, from a book published by Drago. In September we have an exhibition on Enrico Mattei, in October we will have Josef Koudelka, important photographer from Magnum who in 1968 photographed the invasion of the communists in Prague. Towards the end of the year we will have Franco Zecchin, a Milanese photographer with whom I worked for nineteen years at the newspaper L’Ora and who now lives in Marseille. We will close the year with a group exhibition called “Palermo bella nell’anima” (“Palermo Beautiful in the Soul”), for which I will invite a series of photographers to depict Palermo following this theme.

M.S.: “Palermo beautiful in the soul”, why this title?

L.B.: Palermo moves me, it makes me angry but I love it so much. And I also love Leoluca Orlando, our mayor. He has such a dramatic look in a recent photo I took of him, a Caravaggio-like face, marked by all that he has lived through to keep Palermo carrying on, amid great difficulties and pitfalls. Orlando is a kind of modern hero. He has sacrificed his whole life for Palermo to pull it through a thousand difficulties so that the Mafia no longer entered the municipality. I would like to see hundreds of images hanging in the walls of the galleries of the Centre which reflect the love that has evaded our city while hatred and violence has tried to destroy us.

M.S.: What we shouldn’t miss in Palermo?

L.B.: The historic centre must be visited and appreciated. The alleys, the small local bars, the market squares with the wonderfully overbearing smell of fish. The exhilarating Vucciria, which is no longer a real market but the memory remains. Piazza Magione is rife with nostalgia. Once, there were small houses, it was like a small town. The people who lived there were deported to the social housing in the suburbs. There was a master plan put together by the Mafia and mayor Vito Ciancimino, a terrible plan that wanted to destroy even the baroque church of Santissimo Salvatore to build streets and skyscrapers. Once life in Piazza Magione was extraordinary. Now everything is different, but equally poignant, full of history and also of life. Often beautiful.

Mara Sartore

  • Centro Internazionale di Fotografia, Letizia Battaglia, Palermo Centro Internazionale di Fotografia, Letizia Battaglia, Palermo
  • Centro Internazionale di Fotografia, Letizia Battaglia, Palermo Centro Internazionale di Fotografia, Letizia Battaglia, Palermo
  • © Letizia Battaglia, © Letizia Battaglia, "Gli Invincibili", Pier Paolo Pasolini, 2013
  • © Letizia Battaglia, © Letizia Battaglia, "Gli Invincibili", La venere di Urbino, Tiziano, 2013
  • © Letizia Battaglia, © Letizia Battaglia, "Gli Invincibili", Nora Barnackle and her husband, James Joyce, 2014
  • © Letizia Battaglia, © Letizia Battaglia, "Gli Invincibili", Rosa Parks, 2013
  • Letizia Battaglia, Photo by Mara Sartore Letizia Battaglia, Photo by Mara Sartore
Denmark - News

Artist Olafur Eliasson Creates his First Building in Denmark

3 weeks ago

The Danish artist has created his first building in the Vejle Fjord in Denmark. The building itself is called Fjordenhus and it houses the headquarters of  Kirk Kapital, founded by the descendants of the founder of Lego.

It’s the first time that Studio Eliasson entirely designs a building, but they have previously collaborated on other projects such as the Serpentine Pavilion back in 2007.

Fjordenhus is built with concrete but covered by 970.000 bricks made of 15 different colours including blue, green and silver. It is part of a greater plan of a wider development plan for the Vejle harbour.

 

 

 

My Art Guides Editorial Team

  • Fjordenhus Fjordenhus