From 19 March to 31 August 2008 GAMeC – Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo will be showing 29 works of contemporary art that have entered the museum’s Permanent Collection since 2000; these are works by such artists as Jan Fabre, Vanessa Beecroft, Enzo Cucchi, Getulio Alviani, Gabriele Basilico, vedovamazzei, Sislej Xhafa, Adrian Paci, Alberto Garutti, Peter Coffin, Keren Cytter, Mungo Thomson, and Jordan Wolfson.
Adding to a museum’s collection of contemporary art is an important but delicate task. The identity of a public collection is the outcome of a series of decisions, composite additions and interpretative contributions, all of which are decided on a case-by-case basis.
Of the different methods of acquiring works – donations, deposits, purchase – GAMeC, without excluding any one, has done its utmost so that its policy on exhibitions, which represent an important slice of life in a contemporary art museum, has left its mark on the collection. This concrete course of action gives the museum a future by conserving the memory of its activity. One of the most important functions of a contemporary art museum is to invest in research, but providing a tangible account of that task is an equally important procedure.
The last eight years (2000–2007) at GAMeC have been heavily tinged by internationalism, the raising of the profile of young artists, and special projects organised inside the museum but also in the city of Bergamo with no restriction on artistic language.
Six artists have been given monographic exhibitions, of whom an important trace remains in the permanent collection: Gabriele Basilico (Milan 1944), who, in the framework of his exploration of current urban space, has fixed his personal vision of Bergamo in 16 large black-and-white images, the result of a 1998 commission to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of ACEB (Associazione Costruttori Edili Bergamaschi); Alberto Garutti (Galbiate, Como 1948), whose cycle Dedicated to Children Born from 2000 On is a revisitation in 12 images of the family setting of 12 people who were involved in another project, also commissioned by ACEB, which the artist produced for Bergamo at the end of the 1990s (To Those Born Today). This connected the obstetrician’s department in the city hospital with a lighting system in Piazza Dante in the city centre: each new birth in the hospital was publicly announced by the lights, thereby creating a close link between the work itself and the community amongst whom it was set; Jan Fabre (Antwerp 1958), a multi-talented artist that works in theatre, film, drawing and sculpture; he was represented at GAMeC by the film De Schelde. Hé-wat-een-plezierige-zottigheid! (The Schelde, This Craziness, is Fantastic!, 1988, black-and-white and colour, 16 mm), a poetic reflection on the boundary between life and death represented by the river (the Schelde as the mythical Lethe) that the living have to cross to reach eternal life; Getulio Alviani(Udine 1939), whose setting Interrelazione cromospeculare (1969) is composed of moving reflective elements that reflect the primary colours (yellow, black, red and blue) of the enclosure walls, and confuses the perception of the visitor of what is real and what virtual.
In the case of Vanessa Beecroft (Genoa 1969) and Enzo Cucchi (Morro d’Alba, Ancona 1949), the choice was to present aspects of their apparently eccentric work that reveals the derivations of their respective artistic practices: Beecroft’s performances that explore controversial aspects of the female condition in contemporary society have as a presupposition the artist’s customary use of drawing, both in small and large format (VB.LD.012.Multi.07, 2007).
Cucchi, on the other hand, who is known above all as a painter, has made use of sculpture, which he practises attentively, to exalt the spatial quality of the world of his imagination. Visionariness and three-dimensionality blend in Ombra (2004, bronze, a work donated to GAMeC by Bruno Bischofberger), a boundary between the material and immaterial, one of the underlying elements of sculpture.
Under the golden heading ‘Eldorado’ GAMeC makes space for experimentation, innovation and multimedia by young artists invited to create special projects for the Galleria’s spaces. The collection has highlighted six artists so far.
One of the first was vedovamazzei, which represents the artistic partnership between Simeone Crispino (Frattaminore 1962) and Stella Scala (Naples 1964). In 2001 the pair produced the project Sun Dumm at GAMeC, in which a solar explosion creates a crack in a wall through which a dazzling light shines. Every day we feel the sun’s warmth and see its light but here we are placed in the position of experiencing its strange sound. The fascinating meeting of science and aesthetics tears away a veil over the future and arouses our sense of wonder. The series dedicated to the Lunar Phases demonstrates that drawing is a primary tool for vedovamazzei in their observation of phenomena.
The reflections of Adrian Paci (Shkoder, Albania 1969) on identity and cultural belonging, affected by personal affections and collective traumas, are given in sensitively told accounts of the contemporary human condition. In his series of photographs called Home to Go(2002), the artist – torn between a wish for reassuring stability and the desire to be free – portrays himself under the weight of a tiled roof tied to his back, whose reversed slopes resemble a pair of wings.
In the hands of the promising Keren Cytter (Tel Aviv 1977) the merging of cinema and television codes creates complex narrative structures that investigate interpersonal relationships, the mechanisms of memory and desire, and the relationship between reality and fiction. The video Dreamtalk (2005) interweaves a sentimental dialogue between a couple and a third presence, revealing how the rhetoric of the media is transforming our relationship with real sentiments and their narration.
The work of Mungo Thomson (Davis, California 1969) takes its cue from popular culture and the world of entertainment and popular culture. It extracts the less immediate moments in an attempt to create a grammar of spontaneity. The video The American Desert (for Chuck Jones) of 2002 was based on several episodes in the cartoon programme dedicated to Wylie Coyote’s eternal but vain attempt to capture the immensely fast Beep Beep. Having removed the action and characters digitally from their backgrounds, Thomson created a sequence of empty, silent deserts as a tribute to the American myth of the frontier and as a reflection on the creation of collective mythologies through the iconography of the mass media.
Commissioned by and produced for GAMeC, Landscape for Fire (2007) by Jordan Wolfson (New York 1980) sheds light on the relationship between the younger generations, technology and the media. Wolfson’s video is a reissue of the film made in 1972 by the Englishman Anthony McCall in which performance, installation, sculpture and moving images are integrated. It is a tribute to the inventiveness and originality of art in the 1970s, interweaving nostalgia for the past and thoughts on the nature of artistic creation.
Two works are presented by Sislej Xhafa (Peja, Kosovo 1970). One is the video Skinheads Swimming (2002), which revisits the scene in which Anita Ekberg bathes in the Trevi Fountain in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. In his version, Xhafa substitutes Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni with two young skinheads who contradict the standard violent image of this group by making love in the fountain. The other work is a sculpture in Belgian black marble of Garibaldi (who is familiarly called Giuseppe, 2007). It invites the observer to reconsider a famous figure of Western society by showing the man going about his everyday business: shown life-size, he stands looking around for his horse, the same horse he is usually shown riding in statues around the world. The work was given to GAMeC by Remuzzi Marmi to celebrate the Bergamasco company’s 100th anniversary. Contributors to the creation of the sculpture were Luca Resta and Gjoke Gojani of the Accademia Carrara di Belle Arti di Bergamo.
Recognition of the work that has been done at GAMeC during these years is given by a scheme initiated by Achille Bonito Oliva as part of the Arte Fiera Art First 2006 in Bologna. The Roman collector Stefano Sciarretta purchased five works by young international artists to be donated to five museums in Italy, one of which was GAMeC. It received Rainbow (2005) by the Californian artist Peter Coffin (Berkeley 1972), who explores mental processes, fluctuating between memory, interpretation and creative association.
Overall the museum’s recent acquisitions into the original nucleus of the Collection – formed by the Giacomo Manzù Collection and Spajani Collection – have been much more numerous than the works shown in the exhibition Permanent Collection. Donations of the New Millennium.
A certain proportion is the result of the generosity of artists who work in Bergamo or associated with the city in one way or another, and by collectors who appreciate these artists’ work. This has been the manner in which the following works and series have entered the Permanent Collection: Portrait of Gino Battagion (1995) by Gianfranco Bonetti (Bergamo 1947–2007); Composition (1980) by Camillo Campana (Bergamo 1922–1994); the sculpture Remembering by Piero Cattaneo (Bergamo 1929–2003); the painting That’ll Teach You! Electric Chair (1992–93) by Sonia Ciscato (Schio, Vicenza 1942); the two cycles Squares (1971) and Circles (1991) – each comprising 8 elements – by Paolo Ghilardi (Bagnatica, Bergamo 1930); the sculptures The Embrace of the Council Fathers (1962) and The Hurdle (1984) by Stefano Locatelli (Bergamo 1920–1989); Washing Machine. Black and Red (1969) by Silvio Pasotti (Bergamo, 1933); Cement (1959) byDietelmo Pievani (Bergamo, 1935); the works Light (1959), Image (1976), Wait (1976) and Structure in White (1976) by Rinaldo Pigola(Romano di Lombardia, Bergamo 1919–1999); Composition, (1983) by Tilde Poli (Bergamo 1924–2006); Composition (1967) by Cesare Rossi(Cerreto Grue, Alessandia 1942–Bergamo 1988); and the two Reliefs (1969 and 1970) by Alberto Zilocchi (Bergamo 1931–1991), an artist who was briefly represented in the three exhibitions entitled ‘Arte a Bergamo’ (1, 1945–1959; 2, 1960–1969; 3, 1970–1981 at the Palazzo della Ragione in Bergamo, 2001-2002; 2002-2003; 2003-2004), concerning which GAMeC provided background information in the spaces Caleidoscopio and ParolaImmagine.
The project called Voyager by Mariella Bettineschi (Brescia 1948) is documented at GAMeC by the work Constellation of Interior Drawing(2003-2006).
The following donations have enriched the permanent collection decisively: 18 paintings by Italian and foreign artists given by Marta and Gianfranco Stucchi, including works by A. Bonfanti, A. Burri, F. De Pisis, L. Feito, J. Fautrier, H. Hartung, A. Magnelli, A.Z. Music, B. Nicholson, Tancredi, M. Sironi, A. Soldati, L. Veronesi; a painting by Giuseppe Santomaso (Composition with Black Rope, 1941) donated by the Eredi di Mario Finazzi; more than 100 models of artists’ medals from the twentieth century, given by Vittorio Lorioli, to complement the collection of contemporary medals given in 1995, giving GAMeC one of the most important collections in this sector in Italy. At the instigation of Lina Zucchelli Valsecchi, a hundred or so films by Italian and foreign directors who participated in the Premio Bergamo del Film d’Arte e sull’Arte, documents (including photographs) from a varied archive, paintings (by F. Carena, O. Rosai, L. Montanarini), drawings and engravings by Italian artists (including L. Bartolini, C. Cagli, P. Fazzini), and a large body of modern ceramic works produced in Bergamo and Milan in the 1950s that represent the multi-faceted personality of Nino Zucchelli, a very active champion of cultural activities in Bergamo in the second half of the twentieth century.
An important role in the Permanent Collections is held by the Photographic Archive of Mario Finazzi (Chiudono, Bergamo 1905–2002), donated by his heirs; the series of 30 Drawings of Plants and Flowers by Giacomo Manzù (Bergamo 1908–1991 Ardea Roma), owned by the Fondazione Credito Bergamasco; the sculpture Busto of Pio (c. 1950, bronze) by Giacomo Manzù and the Portrait of John XXIII (2005), painted by the artist of Chinese origin Yan Pei-Ming, owned by the Banca Popolare di Bergamo.
GAMeC’s collections represent the Modern and Contemporary Art Department of the Accademia Carrara.