Three major exhibitions have been created to describe and interpret forty years in the history of Italy. With art as its focal point, artistic expressions are positioned within the cultural and socio-economic context of these decades that proved to be crucial for Italy: those from 1947 to 1989, from shortly after World War II until the fall of the Berlin Wall. These were the years of postwar reconstruction that followed one of the most devastating wars ever, and also the years of the celebrated “miracolo italiano”, the years of protest and terrorism, and the complex years of the Cold War. They are nonetheless fundamental to understanding Italy today, in terms of economics, politic and even, in its own way, art.
For the first time, a major exhibition has tried, in an organic manner, to address this magmatic, contradictory period that is alive the way few are, trying, moreover, to see how art influenced society during that forty-year period.
The exhibition’s title is emblematic: “The Great Game. Art forms in Italy 1947 – 1989”. The “great game” evokes roles, calls up experiences, suggests relations, but above all highlights how the development of history and art cannot be looked at piece by piece, but rather in terms of interactions and respective and reciprocal influences.
In order to produce such an important exhibition, three entities joined forces: the Comune di Lissone with its Museum of Contemporary Art, the Comune di Bergamo with GAMeC – Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Comune di Milano – Cultura, with its spaces in the Rotonda di Via Besana, closely supported by the Assessorato alla Cultura della Regione Lombardia (Department of Culture for Lombardy).
Behind the project and curating the exhibition are Luigi Cavadini, Bruno Corà and Giacinto Di Pietrantonio.
“The Great Game. Art forms in Italy 1947 – 1989” – write the curators – examines the wealth of research and results achieved in the forty years — corresponding to the period now universally known as the Cold War — through experimentation with new means and new aesthetic territories by art and the relations, confluences and/or influences established in many cases with architecture, cinema, design, economic-industrial, publications, photography and photojournalism, society, theater, television.
There is a transversal quality that recuperates and revives the richness of the Futurist experience from the second post-war period, and caused that experience to blend the different expressive and social areas of reality. This is evident starting with the publication of the first manifesto that was published neither in a catalogue nor art review but in Le Figaro the most important newspaper at the time, with a goal to addressing society in general and not just art aficionados.
In the years immediately following the war artists tried to resume their work where they had left off to participate in the conflict or, in any case, to revive their personal research and give it new visibility.
Artists were divided between the two directions of realism or abstraction, some continued in the wake of Corrente, in keeping with a realistic vision that is historically and ideologically implied (the Fronte Nuovo delle Arti, 1946), and in part looking — but without giving up political involvement — for new expressive means in the reserve of experiments like those carried out by abstract artists in the Thirties around the Galleria del Milione in Milano, as well as in unusual situations such as that of Como, where they interacted with rationalist architects, and Terragni in particular.
The latter, mindful of the limits that a regime may set for culture and art, manifest the intolerance for a framework of their expressive liberty within realist schemas held over from the retroguardia.
The realist thread, in keeping with the effects produced in the decades following the war, does not appear to have fertile outlets in the society that it also aspired to, while abstract research continued, expanding and branching out in different directions.
The exhibition focuses on this “history”, precisely because of its diversified evolution, for the decidedly extensive consequences that it will have on the research in the following decades and the relations that fall into place with the different aspects of culture and society and the economy of the times. The forms of the avant-garde and the neo-avant-garde blend into reality, become life, although most people are unaware of the forms’ origins.
The exhibition is distributed in three exhibition spaces chronologically with the years immediately following the War until 1958 exhibited at the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Lissone, and the period of 1959-1972 at the Rotonda di Via Besana in Milan and the period from 1973 to 1989 at the GAMeC in Bergamo.
A reading of briefs of the show will be held from July 3 until September 26, 2010 at the headquarters of the Museo d’Arte in Lugano.
Curated by: Luigi Cavadini, Bruno Corà, Giacinto Di Pietrantonio