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From Veronese to Futurism: Italian Art in the NYRB

The Family of Darius before Alexander by Paolo Veronese

The Family of Darius before Alexander by Paolo Veronese

I recently re-subscribed to the New York Review of Books and I’m glad I did. Besides providing some of the world’s most comprehensive and engaging book reviews, the NYRB often reviews art exhibits. In the latest Art Issue of the magazine, Andrew Butterfield reviews Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice, an exhibition running in London’s National Gallery through June 15, 2014; Julian Bell looks at two new books about Piero della Francesca in The Mystery of the Great Piero (subscription required); and Jonathan Galassi writes Speed in Life and Death (subscription), a piece that deals with Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe, an exhibition on view at NYC’s Guggenheim Museum through September 1, 2014.

There is also a poem by Michelangelo. Michelangelo’s note To Giovanni da Pistoia has appeared in many publications over the years, I’m not sure why it is being reprinted here. But the poem is always an illuminating read about the difficulties Michelangelo had in creating his most famous work.

Prodigious Veronese

A review of Veronese: Magnificence in Renaissance Venice at the National Gallery, London

“For much of the twentieth century Veronese was regarded more as a skilled purveyor of decorative finishes than as a profound master, and his reputation was in decline, but of late there are signs of renewed interest, which this show and its catalog will certainly do much to advance. Perhaps more than any other picture in the show, The Family of Darius before Alexander [part of the National Gallery’s permanent collection] reveals his great strengths as a painter; it also makes clear why he can seem so foreign to common modern ideals of art and of the artist.” –Andrew Butterfield

Speed in Life and Death

A review of Italian Futurism, 1909-1944: Reconstructing the Universe at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City

“The Futurists wanted to sweep away what the poet Guido Gozzano called “le buone cose di pessimo gusto,” good things in the worst of taste, and replace them with an insolent, steely, polluting Machine Age. “Time and space ended yesterday,” Marinetti intoned. “We already live in the absolute”—that is, in a state of perpetual youth menaced only by death. “In every young man Marinetti’s gunpowder,” Vladimir Mayakovsky wrote. Marinetti not only wanted to end the monarchy and “de-Vaticanize”; he also argued for replacing the senate with an assembly of the young.” –Jonathan Galassi

The Mystery of the Great Piero

Reviews of the books Piero della Francesca: Artist and Man and Piero’s Light: In Search of Piero della Francesca: A Renaissance Painter and the Revolution in Art, Science, and Religion

“What more can we know about the artist, who died the day that Columbus landed in the New World and who for most of four centuries was nearly forgotten, only to reemerge as an indispensable fixture in modern schemes of art? The Met’s catalog ushers in Piero in the manner we have come to expect: he painted “magical pictures” that combine ‘intimacy and gravity,’ inspiring ‘a sacral awe.’ It points to his ‘almost primitive’ qualities and cites Aldous Huxley’s essay [PDF] of 1925 that names the Resurrection fresco in Sansepolcro as ‘the best picture in the world.’

“All this fits the occasion, but it mystifies. It makes it harder to imagine a human painter at work. Banker has been intent to reverse that process. To do so he has scoured the archives of Tuscany, Umbria, and the Marches. (Sansepolcro lies near the border of the three regions.) If, just possibly, he has been overzealous about tying up loose ends, he can nonetheless boast of personally discovering “over one hundred previously unknown documents specifically relating to Piero.” His methodology is sober and his inferences are toughly argued, and the result must surely count as a vitally important contribution to Piero studies.” –Julian Bell

Check out the New York Review of Books’s Art Issue for these and more reviews.

Milan Invites Visitors to Discover the Art of Nobel Winner Dario Fo

Dario Fo "Earthquake in L'Aquila"

Dario Fo's "The Earthquake in L'Aquila"

Next month, the Italy Blogging Roundtable will celebrate our first anniversary. Jessica, Alexandra, Gloria, Rebecca, and I have enjoyed tackling a new topic each month, and we’ve especially enjoyed hearing from readers. In fact, we were so pleased with how our last invitation went for bloggers to join us at the Roundtable that we thought we’d extend another! This month, not only is the Italy Roundtable topic INVITATIONS, we’re inviting anyone who wants to participate to blog about one of the past year’s Roundtable topics. Our invitation details are at the bottom of this post. Now on to the post…

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Longer Hours for Rome’s Municipal Museums

Constantine Bust at Capitoline MuseumsIn an initiative to allow locals and the throngs of summer tourists more time to enjoy Rome’s cultural riches, the City of Rome is keeping its municipal museums open from 8pm until 1am every Saturday through September 3. Which museums are municipal museums, you ask? They include the Capitoline Museums (pictured), the Ara Pacis Museum, Trajan’s Markets, both outposts of the MACRO contemporary art museum, and several other museums, galleries, and villas. Regular admission prices still apply to these late-night visits.

Here is a list of Rome’s municipal museums. For photos of these museums’ collections and recent exhibits, visit the Musei in Comune Flickr page.

Best Places in Italy for Modern Art

Zaha Hadid's MAXXI Museum, Rome

Zaha Hadid's MAXXI Museum, Rome

Italy’s modern art museums are often overlooked by the masses, who prefer, not surprisingly, to examine the country’s ancient and Renaissance-era treasures. But with the debut of Rome’s new, Zaha Hadid-designed MAXXI Museum, the capital now has a very high profile exhibition space that is itself a work of art.

New York Times’ The Moment magazine describes the museum, which is dedicated to exhibitions on 21st century art, this way:

[It is a] series of sky-lighted concrete canyons that tilt and swell, swerve like a velodrome and twist into what appears from the exterior to be a monumental hard-shelled calla lily, a pliable mausoleum that seems to play the sobriety of a de Chirico off the cooling, warping effects of a work by Anish Kapoor. Otherworldly in some respects, the museum also resonates with the character of Rome. The MAXXI could easily be a composite sketch of Rome’s contradictory but fluid, theatrical, and sweeping architectural personality — which is not unlike its architect’s.

Such excitement over a new building in the Eternal City made me think that others may wish to know more about some other modern art museums in Italy. Here’s a brief list:

Rome and Lazio
Before the MAXXI, Rome had the National Gallery of Modern Art. This museum is housed in a late 19th century building in the Villa Borghese and features art from Pirandello, De Chirico, Kandinsky, and more. There’s also the MACRO, a museum occupying two reclaimed buildings (and a new wing in 2010) in the Porta Pia neighborhood. It features “some of the most significant expressions characterizing the Italian art scene since the 1960s.” Other places in Rome to see modern art include the PalaExpo in the Quirinale district (which has, by the way, a great cafeteria); the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a music hall and occasional exhibition space in Flaminio which was designed by the celebrated architect Renzo Piano and opened in 2002; and the Giorgio de Chirico House-Museum near Piazza di Spagna.

Elsewhere in Rome’s region of Lazio, check out the town of Anticoli Corrado, located about 40 km northeast of the capital and featuring a trove of artist studios and the Civic Gallery of Modern Art. The best write-up about this little town can be found on the Vagabondo-Italy website.

Venice

A work by Picasso at the Guggenheim, Venice

A work by Picasso at the Guggenheim, Venice

Venice is on this list for one museum only: the Guggenheim. Located in Peggy Guggenheim’s former palazzo on the Grand Canal, the museum “is the most important museum in Italy for European and American art of the first half of the 20th century.” What does that include? Some of the famous names in Mrs. Guggenheim’s collection include Braque, Duchamp, Modrian, and Giacometti. Ernst, Pollock, and Magritte. Calder, Brancusi, Klee, and Picasso. Just about anyone you can think of from the world of contemporary art is there. The Guggenheim also attracts numerous big-name exhibits. Currently, it is hosting the Masterpieces of Futurism (through Dec. 31, 2009). See my article on Planning a Visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection for About.com.

Of course, Venice also is the host city for the Biennale. Despite its name, this celebration of contemporary art is happening almost all of the time. This year (2009), saw the Venice Biennale of Art, Cinema, Theatre, and Music. However, in August 2010, the 12th Biennale for Architecture will kick off in the Lion City.

Tuttomondo by Keith Haring

Tuttomondo by Keith Haring

Florence and Tuscany
Finding modern art in Renaissance-heavy Tuscany is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. But modern art is there. In Florence, try the Marino Marini museum, which features the Italian artist’s works, including numerous sculptures of horses. Also, what could be more modern than fashion? Even if you can’t afford to shop until you drop, you can enjoy looking back – and forward – at the styles created by Florentine Salvatore Ferragamo in the Museo Ferragamo. (As of this writing, the Museo Ferragamo is sponsoring a shoe design contest for artists. Deadline Dec. 10, 2009!)

There are several more opportunities in Tuscany to enjoy modern art. Just north of Florence, in the city of Prato, is the Luigi Pecci Contemporary Art Museum. It features mid- to late-20C art, including photography, from Italian and international artists. If you’re in Pisa, you can savor some pop art with Keith Haring’s Tuttomondo mural. It’s one of the last works ever created by the American artist. Two more outdoor modern art spaces in Tuscany are gardens. In Chianti, check out the Chianti Sculpture Park, whose name says it all, and the Tarot Garden (Il Giardino dei Tarocchi), an unusual project of sculptures based on tarot cards that was the vision of artist Niki de Saint Phalle. The Tarot Garden is located in Capalbio in the province of Grosseto.

Torino (Turin)

Torino's Mole Antonelliana

Torino's Mole Antonelliana

Our final stop on this modern art tour of Italy is in Torino (Turin), whose skyline is a work of contemporary art. The spire of the Mole Antonelliana, gives Torino its distinctive look and today houses Italy’s National Museum of Cinema (Museo Nazionale del Cinema). The moving image is, to some, the ultimate in contemporary art, and the MNC contains a vast collection of archival film footage, books and magazines about film, scripts, costumes, and a cinema. Among the masterpieces in the collection are an 18C movie camera (the first?), Peter O’Toole’s costume from Lawrence of Arabia, an original poster from the Rita Hayworth classic Gilda, storyboards from Star Wars, and a script of the Italian dialogues from the 1933 version of King Kong.

While Venice has the Biennale, Torino has the Torino Triennale Tremusei, a triennial exhibition of emerging artists at three of Torino’s contemporary art spaces: the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, the Castello di Rivoli, and the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, also known as the GAM. The last Triennale in Torino was in 2008 (the 2nd incarnation). So, if my calendar and math serve me right, T3 will take place in 2011. Stay tuned.

I know I’ve missed a ton of other fine contemporary art museums in Italy. So if you have suggestions for what else should be on this list, please add your comments below.

Photos by MAXXI, Guggenheim, Comune di Pisa, Comune di Torino

Abruzzo’s Beffi Triptych

Beffi Triptych from Abruzzo

Beffi Triptych from Abruzzo

In the wake of Abruzzo’s devastating earthquake of April 2009, many companies and countries have pulled together to aid the tremor-stricken region. The other day, while visiting the National Gallery in Washington, DC, I learned that this aid has been extended to the art world.

Since June 15, 2009, the National Gallery’s grand rotunda has been the home of the Beffi Triptych, a treasure from the National Museum of Abruzzo. The work is on loan “in gratitude to the United States for being among the first to offer assistance to the region after the earthquake and as testimony to the Italian commitment to restore fully the cultural heritage of the region.”

The triptych is quite a beautiful site, and I’m delighted that people in the U.S. are able to see this masterpiece on such an exclusive stage. However, I should also point out that while much of Abruzzo’s art has found a home, some tent cities still exist outside of L’Aquila. Let’s hope the Italian government – or another generous entity – is able to provide these people shelter before the cold really sets in.

Photo from the National Gallery website

Night Visit to the Vatican Museums on July 24

According to About.com, the Vatican Museums are going to be open late to visitors on July 24.

Visitors will be admitted from 7 pm until 9:30 pm with the museums closing at 11 pm and booking is required, according to Cultural Italy (tickets can be reserved through their site for a fee).

Sounds like a great way to spend a summer evening in Rome!

Photo by Malouette

Culture Week 2009

Today begins Culture Week throughout all of Italy. Through April 26,  state-run museums will be open for free and many will be extending hours. Tons of special events and exhibitions are part of Culture Week. To see what’s on, visit the Italian Culture Ministry’s website.

Italy at Home: Renaissance Rivals in Boston and Valentino Everywhere

No time or money to plan an Italy vacation right now? Here’s another installment of what we call “Italy at Home.” Here are two things you can put on your calendar.

If you’re in Boston, head to the Museum of Fine Arts where the show “Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice” is underway. A recent review by Holland Cotter of the New York Times said “You can pretty much kiss goodbye, at least for now, the prospect of more exhibitions like [this one]. Transatlantic loans of the kind that make this show the breathtaker it is are a big drain on strapped museum budgets. Boston was lucky to partner with the Louvre on this project, but such masterpiece gatherings are likely to be rare in years to come.” The exhibit runs through August 16. Get your tickets now.

Another Italy-related show may be coming to a theater near you beginning March 18. Valentino: The Last Emperor, a documentary about legendary fashion designer Valentino Garavani played to huge audiences at various film festivals (Venice, Toronto) all last fall. Cinemas in New York will begin screenings on the 18th, followed by Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. You can follow the film on its own Facebook page to see if more dates are added.

Become a Museum Reporter for Tuscany

As we reported last week, Tuscany has a brand new tourism website. We have also now learned that the regional tourism board is considering letting visitors weigh in on the Tuscan museum experience. According to the Florentine, the tourism board will be asking visitors in May to become “museum reporters” as part of the Amico Museo 2009 initiative.

Those who choose to become ‘museum reporters’ will be asked to send their photos and thoughts to [email protected]. The best entries will be featured in a virtual album on the region’s official Web site, in the ‘Culture’ subsection.

So here’s your chance to be heard and let others know how impressed (or underwhelmed) you were by a particular museum in Tuscany.

What’s On in Italy: November 2008

November is typically a slow month for tourism in Italy. So listed below are only a few events going on in the country. On the other other hand, this November is hardly slow for me. I’m awaiting the birth of my second child in about a week’s time. So, be prepared for fewer posts for just a little while. Thanks, and I’ll be up and blogging again soon!

Bonfire of the Vanities. This tip for La Fugurena, a harvest festival culminating in a huge bonfire in the town of Terra del Sole (in Cesena, Emilia-Romagna), comes from the site whatsonwhen.com. The event takes place on November 16, with the fire being lit after dark. As the harsh winds of winter start to blow into northern Italy, I can’t think of a cozier place to be.

Lucio Fontana in Genoa. Contemporary art lovers can catch the Lucio Fontana exhibition at Genoa’s Palazzo Ducale now through February 2009. About 200 works from the Italian/Argentine artist will be on display.

Hail, Caesar. Julius Caesar returns to Rome’s Chiostro del Bramante in an exhibit that includes all sorts of archeological finds as well as paintings and sculptures of the emperor. “Julius Caesar: The man, the enterprise, the myth” runs through May 2009.

For more info on November events, check out Italofile event posts from September and October (many exhibits run through the entire fall), our 2008-2009 opera guide, and the websites whatsonwhen.com and italiantourism.com.

Leonardo’s Notebooks Come to the U.S.

Leonardos Notebooks and Drawings Are Coming to the U.S.

Leonardo's Notebooks and Drawings Are Coming to the U.S.

For the first time ever in the U.S. – at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama, no less – Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings and notebooks from the Biblioteca Reale in Turin will be on display. To say this is a huge deal is an understatement. In fact, this is the first time that all the pieces of the collection have been shown together outside of Turin.

Included in the exhibit, explains AP, is Leonardo’s “Codex on the Flight of Birds, an 18-page notebook which had never been shown in the United States. Thick magnifying glasses are available for visitors to truly get a sense of the detail Leonardo packed into the drawings, some of which are nearly complete and others that seem like quick doodles.”

The Birmingham show will run through November 9. After that, the drawings will head to San Francisco where they will be displayed from November 15 through January 4, 2009, at the Legion of Honor. As there is only one Leonardo in any permanent collection in the U.S. – Ginevra de’ Benci at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC – this is truly an exhibition you don’t want to miss if you are stateside this fall.

What’s On in Italy: October 2008

Lots of art exhibitions going on in Italy this fall, especially this month. So, let’s get started:

Bellini in Rome. The works of Venetian Renaissance master Giovanni Bellini will be on display in Rome’s Scuderiere del Quirinale through January 11, 2009. According to ansa.it, the exhibition – one of the largest ever featuring Bellini’s works – “is showcasing most of Bellini’s best-loved works, including a number of his stunning altarpieces, such as the Baptism of Christ from Vicenza and the famed Pesaro sequence.”

Palladio in Vicenza. Vicenza, long synonymous with the great architect Andrea Palladio, is celebrating the 500th year since the artist’s birth with a grand exhibition at the Palazzo Barbaran da Porto, itself one of many Palladio-designed building in Vicenza, the artist’s hometown. The exhibition showcases almost 80 of Palladio’s original drawings and tells the life story, through paintings by Canalettoand El Greco, among others, and scale models, of the influential architect. The exhibition will run through January 6 in Vicenza and then move on to London for the spring. Take a look at the link for the exhibit, as you can take a virtual tour – awesome.

Correggio in Parma. Sixteenth century artist Antonio Allegri, also known as Correggio after the small town in which he was born, is getting his due in a large exhibit in Parma through January 25, 2009. Some of the works in the show are in situ in Parma, where many of Correggio’s works were created and are still housed, while the rest (about 80 pieces) come from museums throughout Italy and Europe. You can preview the exhibit and pre-order tickets online at the Mostra Correggio Parma website.

National Truffle Fair. With fall comes white truffle season, which is celebrated with the Fiera Nazionale del Tartufo in Acqualagna in Le Marche. Several comuni in the region, including Sant’Angelo in Vado and Sant’Agata Feltria, will hold fairs on the weekend throughout the month of October and beginning of November. The National Fair is held the last weekend in October and the first two weekends in November.

Eurochocolate Time! More feasting will occur in Le Marche’s regional neighbor Umbria as Perugia hosts the annual Eurochocolate Festival. Eurochocolate 2008, which will run from October 18-26, will feature tons of tasting opportunities. And, if you want to get a jumpstart on the celebrations, National Choco Day, a holiday since 2005, takes place on October 12.

Venice Marathon. Just thinking about the truffles and chocolate give you the urge to burn calories? Then you can enter the Venice Marathon, which takes place on October 26. The race starts east of Padova, travels around and over canals, and ends at the Riva dei Sette Martiri in the city. If you’re not up for that much running, there’s a 3K Fun Run and great people watching from the bridges.

For more October events in Italy, check out italiantourism.com and the events site whatsonwhen.com.

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