Cultural Resilience – DesignCurial

0
45




Stephen Hitchins explores how Italy is celebrating both modern and traditional art and film at home.


NEVER DISCOUNT ITALY. In 2021 Italy enjoyed a summer of overachievement. It won the Eurovision Song Contest, the Azzurri won the football Euros, much to everyone’s surprise its sprinters took Olympic gold in Tokyo; the country overachieved. Even winning first prize in the pastry competition of the Bocuse d’Or, a biennial world chef championship held in the French culinary capital of Lyons and thus, it should have come as no surprise, The Great British Bake Off. And to round things off, the Economist declared that, in a gloomy year when few stars shone, Italy was its ‘country of the year’. A Grand Slam for Italy. Auguroni!

Everywhere, Italy beat low expectations. And where expectations were high, as for the new government of Mario Draghi, those expectations were met, and even surpassed with political parties of every hue pledging support, business leaders, foreign investors and the EU in a collective swoon. Economic and administrative reforms have been hardwired into a recovery plan for the economy. It was the biggest surprise of all, for the first time in a long time the country had a government that works. So never count Italy out.

But. Twenty years ago you could not open FX, or any other design and architecture magazine for that matter, without seeing a mention of Italy somewhere within its covers. With very few exceptions that has not been the case ever since; months and years go by with hardly a mention of anything Italian.

The Fellini museum is the first of its kind to be named after a famous director. Image Credit: Pier Giorgio Carloni / Shutterstock.ComThe Fellini museum is the first of its kind to be named after a famous director. Image Credit: Pier Giorgio Carloni / Shutterstock.Com

Launched in Milan in 1961 as a vehicle for promoting Italian exports of furnishings and accessories, the Salone del Mobile became one of the benchmarks of the design sector yet now is a shadow of its former self, all 210,000m2 of it. Where once 5,000 journalists would attend, together with around 400,000 professionals, now fewer and fewer make the pilgrimage. Even now, with outposts in Russia and China, it has lost its power to draw visitors, even before two years of the pandemic only made matters worse. This year’s so-called Supersalone only emphasises the desperation. Branded ‘super’ the scaledback event had less than a quarter of the usual participants. Where once there were booths there were now display walls. Where once there were trade days and a limited period for the public, now it was open to one and all every day. And, previously unheard of, things were for sale. One Salone tradition has not been altered: throughout the week of the fair, design was celebrated in shops, galleries, parks and palaces throughout the city. Events and exhibitions in every industry are changing radically in an attempt to reverse declines in attendance and adapt to new technology. Rebranding and downsizing has become de riguer. The NAIAS, the North American International Auto Show, moved from Detroit to Pontiac, and became Motor Bella, a mere shadow of its former grandeur.

The Internationale Automobil Ausstellung moved from Frankfurt to Messe Munich, renamed IAA.Mobility, and most of the manufacturers did not bring any cars at all.

The museum celebrates the acting, spectacle and fashion of great Italian film. Image Credit: Assessorato Al Turismo Comune Di Rimini / Riccardo GalliniThe museum celebrates the acting, spectacle and fashion of great Italian film. Image Credit: Assessorato Al Turismo Comune Di Rimini / Riccardo Gallini

There was not a Ferrari or a Volkswagen to be seen. An entire hall was devoted to bicycles and e-bikes. Many of the vast exhibition halls were empty. Instead, it was a nerd fest with endless discussion groups about autonomous driving, battery technology, plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and sustainability – the buzzword. There were concept vehicles made entirely of recycled materials. One hallowed car show tradition survived: long lines of people waiting for overpriced, mediocre food. And so it goes.

Back in Italy the Venice Architecture Biennale is often a damp squib these days.

The design world shrugs its shoulders just as it does towards the Salone del Mobile. Thus there have been unforced errors from organisations that seldom made them, especially when it came to communicating.

They have tried various schemes. Salone Shanghai anyone? And yes, there was an element of ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ about it. We must do something. This is something. Therefore, we must do it. Go figure. And yet.

The museum celebrates the acting, spectacle and fashion of great Italian film. Image Credit: Assessorato Al Turismo Comune Di Rimini / Riccardo GalliniThe museum celebrates the acting, spectacle and fashion of great Italian film. Image Credit: Assessorato Al Turismo Comune Di Rimini / Riccardo Gallini

It is a lifetime ago that the Italian film industry filled cinema magazines. Even the government-sponsored 100 film italiani da salvare (the films it wants to save) ends in 1978. The neorealism of Ermanno Olmi, Rossellini and De Sica, merged into a new wave with Pasolini, Antonioni, and Visconti: enter a golden age of Italian cinema. And then? Nothing. Even the Americans left Rome, taking their commercialisation of Hollywood on the Tiber with them. Yet above it all flew Federico Fellini. Even the Americans noticed, nominating him for 12 Academy Awards. From La Strada to La Dolce Vita, from 8½ to Satyricon, he was always one of the greatest film directors of all time, mixing nostalgia, sexuality and politics in random poetic episodes. In 1974, Amarcord was an especially loving look at his boyhood daydreams in and around Rimini on Italy’s Adriatic coast, and a coming-of-age montage of the fascist-era.

Now there is something to write about that joins those forgotten strands: in Rimini, the city where he was born, a Fellini museum has opened. It is as lavish as his movies. No stranger to scandal, its construction and opening has incensed the locals. It occupies two historic buildings, with a large piazza in between, effectively reconfiguring a significant part of the city centre. It is controversial, putting, as locals will tell you, tourism before local needs; the whole situation is “Fellini-esque” – a word the OED defines as “fantastic, bizarre; lavish, extravagant.” It is certainly that.

The museum celebrates the acting, spectacle and fashion of great Italian film. Image Credit: Assessorato Al Turismo Comune Di Rimini / Riccardo GalliniThe museum celebrates the acting, spectacle and fashion of great Italian film. Image Credit: Assessorato Al Turismo Comune Di Rimini / Riccardo Gallini

The museum is the largest ever named after a film director. It is spread across three sites: Castel Sismondo, a fifteenth-century fortress designed by Filippo Brunelleschi; the eighteenth-century Palazzo Valloni, that houses the Fulgor cinema, immortalised in Amarcord (here reconstructed by the production designer Dante Ferretti, who worked with Fellini on five films); and lastly Piazza dei Sogni, an arena for shows and installations. Put it all together and it celebrates the maestro’s legacy, a world of amazement, imagination, live shows, and above all enjoyment. This was once the Piazza Malatesta, but with the addition of a full-size model rhinoceros (And the Ship Sails On, 1983), a circular bench with revolving stools (the final scene of 8½) and a fountain that sprays mist every half hour to evoke the Rimini fog that engulfed some of his films, it has been transformed. The arguments rage on.

Jenny Saville’s Fulcrum, 1999, in the Salone dei Cinquecento. Image Credit: Jenny Saville Firenze, Installation View, Salone Dei Cinquecento, Palazzo Veccio Fulcrum 1999 © Jenny Saville. Tutti i diritti riservati, dacs 2021. Foto © Ela Bialkowska Okno StudioJenny Saville’s Fulcrum, 1999, in the Salone dei Cinquecento. Image Credit: Jenny Saville Firenze, Installation View, Salone Dei Cinquecento, Palazzo Veccio Fulcrum 1999 © Jenny Saville. Tutti i diritti riservati, dacs 2021. Foto © Ela Bialkowska Okno Studio

Tutto si immagina is their motto, linking the traditions of Italian cinema with the idiosyncratic cinematic universe of Fellini and the movies of today. His drawings and dreams, the musical scores, a reconstruction of his library, photos, clips, interactive multimedia galore, and rooms dedicated to Giuletta Masina, the director’s wife who acted in several films and was his muse and associate. She was the only person he ever thanked in his acceptance speeches at the Oscars ceremony. They are all here, together with the costumes, and a giant sculpture of Anita Ekberg on which you can lounge while watching her splash around in the Trevi in La Dolce Vita. There are suspicions of Fellini everywhere, designed on the basis of accumulation, traces of meanings rather than facts, sprinkling odd characters while abandoning familiar ones, producing dichotomies and juxtapositions in order to create a bewitching place. It is just like a Fellini.

Jekyll, meet Hyde.

Jenny Saville’s Rosetta II, 2005 – 2006, in the Museo Novecento . Image Credit: Jenny Saville Firenze, Installation View, Museo Novecento Rosetta II, 2005 – 2006 © Jenny Saville. Tutti I Diritti Riservati, DACS 2021. Foto © Ela Bialkowska Okno Studio Okno StudioJenny Saville’s Rosetta II, 2005 – 2006, in the Museo Novecento . Image Credit: Jenny Saville Firenze, Installation View, Museo Novecento Rosetta II, 2005 – 2006 © Jenny Saville. Tutti I Diritti Riservati, DACS 2021. Foto © Ela Bialkowska Okno Studio Okno Studio

Despite all its earlier criticism of Fellini’s films, the official Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano, published a glowing review of the project. It made a significant adjustment to the Church’s original view of the director’s work that it classified as ‘Sconsigliata’ – not recommended. Father Nazareno Taddei had written positively about La Dolce Vita in 1960, and sent into exile for his pains. Times changed. When Fellini died a cardinal officiated at his Requiem Mass.

Meanwhile, across the Apennines, and just as Fellini-esque, in Florence this winter is the seemingly bizarre combination of Jenny Saville’s giant nude women with Michelangelo’s giant nude men. Remarkably, neither party is overwhelmed by the association. Even today, Italy is still home to half the western world’s art history. Here are two of the greatest, juxtaposed to their mutual advantage. Postponed several months due to the pandemic this exhibition spread across five venues will be open until the end of February.

Jenny Saville’s Prism, 2020, in the Museo Novecento. Image Credit: Jenny Saville Firenze, Installation View, Museo Novecento Prism 2020 © Jenny Saville. Tutti I Diritti Riservati, DACS 2021. Foto © Ela Bialkowska Okno StudioJenny Saville’s Prism, 2020, in the Museo Novecento. Image Credit: Jenny Saville Firenze, Installation View, Museo Novecento Prism 2020 © Jenny Saville. Tutti I Diritti Riservati, DACS 2021. Foto © Ela Bialkowska Okno Studio

Jenny is a big girl – yet up close and personal with Michelangelo, she is always his equal, transcending the limits of what is usually considered figurative and abstract, between the formal and the gestural, evincing a contemporary humanism that puts the human figure at the centre of everything. She left postmodernism so far behind it is out of sight, and constructed a close connection with the great European pictorial tradition.

The dialogue with Michelangelo is remarkable, delivering correspondences between the monumentality along with a concentration on the body, on flesh, and on naked female subjects, mutilated or crushed by weight and from existence.

Much of the exhibition explores the female form in a multitude of ways. Image Credit: Jenny Saville Firenze, Installation View, Museo Di Casa Buonarroti © Jenny Saville. Tutti I Diritti Riservati, DACS 2021. Foto: Sebastiano Pellion Di Persano Courtesy GagosianMuch of the exhibition explores the female form in a multitude of ways. Image Credit: Jenny Saville Firenze, Installation View, Museo Di Casa Buonarroti © Jenny Saville. Tutti I Diritti Riservati, DACS 2021. Foto: Sebastiano Pellion Di Persano Courtesy Gagosian

Saville is in a class of her own. She reclaims the Renaissance. Conceived and curated by Sergio Risaliti, Director of the Museo Novecento, in collaboration with some of the major museums of the city: Museo di Palazzo Vecchio, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Museo degli Innocenti, and Museo di Casa Buonarroti, this unique encounter between the historical and the contemporary never falters. It is clever. Through a new window at the Novecento, Saville’s Rosetta II, a monumental portrait of a young blind woman known by the artist and portrayed as a blind cantor or a mystic in ecstatic concentration, is visible above the altar inside the former church of the Spedale, with Giotto’s wooden crucifix suspended in the centre of the nave of the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, clearly visible from the outside of the churchyard when the Dominican church portal remains open. And if Michelangelo and Giotto were not enough, here her art enjoys direct encounters with Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Luca and Andrea della Robbia.

Saville’s Fulcrum is in the Salone dei Cinquecento. At 54m long and 18m high, this is the largest room in the city, a room that celebrates the victories of the city state against Tuscan opponents. Just for once Saville’s painting, measuring three by five metres, is a little overwhelmed. Her gargantuan bodies are a tour-de-force, an exultation of flesh through pigment, but this room defeats her achievement.

Jenny Saville’s Study for Pietà, 2021, sits alongside Michaelangelo’s own Pietà, both complementing one another’s glory. Enny Saville Firenze, Installation View, Museo Dell’opera Del Duomo © Jenny Saville. Tutti I Diritti Riservati, DACS 2021. Foto: Sebastiano Pellion Di Persano Courtesy GagosianJenny Saville’s Study for Pietà, 2021, sits alongside Michaelangelo’s own Pietà, both complementing one another’s glory. Enny Saville Firenze, Installation View, Museo Dell’opera Del Duomo © Jenny Saville. Tutti I Diritti Riservati, DACS 2021. Foto: Sebastiano Pellion Di Persano Courtesy Gagosian

The climax of the whole event is to be seen in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

Here, close to one of Michelangelo’s last works, the Bandini Pietà (c. 1547–55), is a large drawing by Saville, about three metres tall, which she was inspired to create after a visit to the city two years ago. Called the Bandini for no other reason than it was sold to Francesco Bandini in 1560, the sculpture is Michelangelo’s most personal work, it includes his own self-portrait and was destined for his tomb, expressing as it does the tormented relationship he had with marble. He never finished it. For the first time in 470 years, it has just been restored. Two years of painstaking work are on display. The smooth and shining body of Christ, with its disjointed pose, the loving expression of Nicodemus, who supports the weight of the Messiah, and the contained torment of the Mother in Michelangelo’s Pietà, now find in Saville’s drawing Study for Pietà (2021) a counterbalance animated by the intense gazes of the characters holding up a young boy – perhaps a victim of political or ideological barbarism, perhaps a migrant, an antagonist, or a martyr of terror.

Avoiding identifying space and time, drawing the figures without clothes or recognisable signs of social, political, or ethnic belonging, Saville presents a contemporary but equally universal and archetypal version of the condemnation of human violence, giving dramatic voice to the theme of the Pietà, the experience of mourning and grieving. Auden began his Musée des Beaux Arts “About suffering they were never wrong, / The old Masters: how well they understood”. Michelangelo’s narrative of agony is set at the heart of the Christian story, Saville’s Pietà is somewhat more mysterious.

Jenny Saville avoids references to place or time, drawing the figures without clothes or recognisable signs of social, political, or ethnic belonging. Image Credit: Jenny Saville Firenze, Installation View © Jenny Saville. Tutti I Diritti Riservati, DACS 2021. FOTO © Ela Bialkowska Okno StudioJenny Saville avoids references to place or time, drawing the figures without clothes or recognisable signs of social, political, or ethnic belonging. Image Credit: Jenny Saville Firenze, Installation View © Jenny Saville. Tutti I Diritti Riservati, DACS 2021. FOTO © Ela Bialkowska Okno Studio

Christian scripture does not mention a moment when Jesus’ mother held his deceased body in her lap. Nonetheless, in the hands of theologians and then artists, this imagined moment became the focus of prayer and reflection. Study for Pietà is a Vesperbild both current and timeless, conveying the same universal poetic tragedy as one of the sculptural groups created by Michelangelo in the late phase of his artistic career. Saville’s mastery of flesh and form rivals that of the masters and, shown side by side with one of the greatest, reveals new layers of meaning both here and in the cradle of the Renaissance. Just as artists learn from art history, so film is forever self-referencing.

That golden glow – and, let’s be clear, Fellini and Michelangelo remain consumer favourites.

Just a few weeks after the Fellini Museum opened, Los Angeles finally threw open the doors of its Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, designed by Renzo Piano. Considering Hollywood’s obsession with size, at just 50,000ft2 it is rather modest.

The latest extension to the Museum of Modern Art in New York added close on that. And given the Academy’s focus on all things Oscar, it is both surprising and reassuring that the exhibits do not ignore the industry’s ugliness, its racism and sexism, with an emphasis on diversity and pluralism, not past and present sins. Call it a museum of good intentions.

Located at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, the Museum is attached to a major 250,000ft2 refurbishment of a cultural monument that includes education and conservation studios, a restaurant, shop, two cinemas, and an open-air promenade with views towards the Hollywood Hills and that sign.

Fellini’s influence is far reaching. You can see his inspiration in the films of Scorsese and Woody Allen, Paolo Sorrentino, David Lynch, Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Bob Fosse and Wes Anderson. So he deserves a museum for many, many reasons.

 

In the history of cinema, has there been a series of films that are so intimately identified with the man who directed them? Fellini transformed himself into a work of art, a man who turned his own personality into a film. He even appeared in some of his films, but he hardly gets a mention here – just his Best Foreign Language Film Oscars. Hoorah for Hollywood. Italy can always take a punch.



Source link

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here