The Scuderie del Quirinale present ‘Italy is a desire. Photographs, Landscapes and Visions (1842-2022). The Alinari and Mufoco’ Collections, taking up the tradition of dedicating an important exhibition to photography: a new major exhibition, from June 1st to September 3rd, in Rome, organized with the Alinari Foundation for Photography and the Museum of Contemporary Photography.
Born from the desire to make our country’s photographic heritage known to the public through a journey inside the public collections of the Alinari Foundation and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the exhibition intends to enhance both historical and contemporary photography through a story of the representation of the Italian landscape, over the course of almost two centuries (from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, ed) underlining its transformations as well as the numerous and different points of view. A significant period of time which also coincides with the very history of the “wonderful invention”, from its beginnings to the present day.
At the center of the exhibition, therefore, the landscape, understood as an identifying element of Italian culture as well as a privileged subject of nineteenth-century artistic experimentation, both in painting and in photography. Landscape that over the last fifty years returns to play a central role in Italian photography, giving life to a real school, recognized internationally.
The exhibition offers a selection of over 600 works which, in addition to allowing the public to discover and appreciate an extraordinary variety of materials and techniques, will lead the latter through an excursus of the evolution of the methods of representation of the ‘Bel Paese’, appreciating one beauty that has long proposed it as a model for the West but also grappling with its contradictions.
Structured according to a chronological itinerary, the exhibition presents on the first floor of the Scuderie del Quirinale the photographs belonging to the Alinari Archives and on the second floor, in continuity, the works from the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Photography. The gaze of the photographers of the 19th and first half of the 20th century, whose works are kept in the Alinari Archives, a veritable reservoir of visual memories, is represented in the exhibition by a particularly significant selection among which the great panoramas of Rome and Florence stand out by Michele Petagna and Leopoldo Alinari.
The visual narrative proceeds with the narration of the myth of the journey to Italy, the root of Western civilization, through the presentation of numerous works of the origins, with authors such as Girault de Prangey, Calvert Richard Jones, Frédéric Flachéron, Giacomo Caneva.
An insight into the research and continuous experimentation of photography between the 19th and 20th centuries is presented in the section dedicated to negatives and the first attempts to restore Italy in colour, with authors such as the scientist Giorgio Roster and with rare pieces such as the autochromes.
The itinerary continues with the display of images by authors interested in affirming photography as an artistic tool and in offering a subjective representation of the world, including Vittorio Alinari and Wilhelm von Gloeden. A final change of pace is represented by the selection on photography between the forties and fifties of the twentieth century, with the works of Vincenzo Balocchi and Luciano Ferri, Alberto Lattuada, and Fosco Maraini whose images highlight the photographer’s love for mountains and the landscape of southern Italy characterized by a precise anthropological vision.
On the second floor, the works of many of the main authors of Italian and international photography from the post-war period to today, in a succession of techniques, languages and artistic practices, will accompany the visitor up to the most current research, thanks to the works from the collections of the Museum of Photography Contemporary in which the landscape, and the declinations it assumes, play a fundamental role.
From the landscape as a scenario of the social and political narration that characterizes the season of reportage (Letizia Battaglia, Carla Cerati, Uliano Lucas, Federico Patellani) we arrive, through the conceptual experiments of the seventies (Mario Cresci, Franco Fontana, Mario Giacomelli), to one of the flagships of this section, the experience of ‘Viaggio in Italia’, in which Luigi Ghirri collects a series of researches that turn their gaze towards often marginal, everyday and anti-spectacular places and which become the manifesto of a new Italian photography (Gabriele Basilico, Giovanni Chiaramonte, Guido Guidi).
In the tension between the story of places and the aesthetic experience, photography reaches the new millennium with spectacular large-scale prints and new languages (Paola De Pietri, Fischli and Weiss, Francesco Jodice, Massimo Vitali, Thomas Struth), to the point of expanding the idea itself of documentation and – in the research of younger authors – opening up to objects, practices and technologies typical of the contemporary visual and artistic universe.
“The protection of the landscape is a founding value of our identity, as well as one of the cardinal principles on which the action of the Ministry of Culture is based – declared Lucia Borgonzoni, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Culture – The landscape evolves and incorporates the sense of human presence, bearing the traces of a thousand-year-old history: a precious casket, which preserves our historical memory and which, as such, must be treated with care.We were forerunners in this too: Italy is in fact the first country in the world to having placed the protection of the landscape among the priorities of the state.In a moment like this, it is essential to recognize oneself in an identity of places and in an extraordinary country in every corner, as emerges from the photos on display: this will help us to be custodians aware of an invaluable legacy, capable of welcoming not only the past, but also the future”.
“The Scuderie del Quirinale are taking up the tradition of presenting to the public also themes and suggestions belonging to the expressive history of photography – added Mario De Simoni, President of the Scuderie del Quirinale – And they do so through a particularly ambitious exhibition, which deals with a theme of such vastness as to be decisive for any view of Italy and so relevant as to be the subject of what President Ciampi defined as the most original article of our Constitution, Art. 9, which places the protection of the landscape and of the historical-artistic heritage among the ‘fundamental principles’. The exhibition Italy is a desire tells in a vast period of time, which goes from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, how the Italian landscape has been represented by the eye of photographers. The project was conceived, for the Stables and with the Stables, by two of the leading Italian public institutions in the photographic field, the Alinari Foundation for Photography and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, which we thank for their passion, generosity and lavish expertise in developing the enterprise”.
“‘Italy is a desire’ is an exhibition of extraordinary value which confirms once again, if it were needed, that photography is an art that knows how to put together the subjective gaze and the ability to narrate a country and an era – concluded Eugenio Giani, President of the Tuscany Region – It also applies to landscape photography, which rightly recalls the words of a poet like Andrea Zanzotto: ‘We are the ones who create the landscape’.And this is true both for the landscape and for its representation in art. The exhibition that opens at the Scuderie del Quirinale is a great journey through Italy represented through time. And for me and for Tuscany it is a source of great pride that an important part is made up of photographs from Alinari archives, photographs capable of interacting well with the works of the Museum of Contemporary Photography.This exhibition too, with its value, demonstrates the goodness of the choice made in 2020 by the Tuscany Region, with the creation of the Alinari Foundation for Photography, aimed at protect an extraordinary heritage of documentation and photographic art, with a collection of around 5 million works”.
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