In each edition since 2019, Arte Fiera has commissioned a well-known Italian artist to create a large-scale work to be premiered at the fair. For the 2021 edition we chose Stefano Arienti, one of the most important Italian artists of his generation, but his project, which should have taken place in the fair’s pavilions, couldn’t be created because the fair was cancelled due to the continuation of the pandemic. Now, Arienti, in collaboration with Istituzione Bologna Musei | MAMbo - Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, has conceived a new digital project specifically for, and in the spirit of, PLAYLIST. He explored MAMbo’s permanent collection (including the non-exhibited part) on his computer and chose about 80 outstanding works from the early 20th century to today.
His selection can be seen below, introduced by Arienti himself. The works – many of which are little known, unusual, strange – are divided into small groups based not on the chronology of art history but according to fluctuating and whimsical criteria: the recurrence of a shape, a colour, a subject, etc. The titles of these sections announce their playful character: “Cosmicomic,” “First-class shanty,” “What a cube!,” and many more that we’ll let you discover for yourselves. It’s an intelligent game, an attempt to see art without the interpretive constraints of art history and - as the artist specifies - “without judgement.”
This is Arienti’s third exploration of an Italian public collection of modern and contemporary art, following those of Museion in Bolzano (-2 + 3, in collaboration with Massimo Bartolini, 2011) and of Villa Croce in Genoa (Finestre Meridiane, 2017, in which he mixed his own works with those of the museum). This third “incursion” confirms that these projects form a full-fledged line of research; a line that is entirely consistent with Arienti’s work at large, mostly based on the appropriation and reworking of the images of others (often from art history) but with a specific and objective purpose: investigating how, and to what extent, art from recent decades has been documented in Italian public collections.
A stroll through the collection, a subjective sequence, not a real curatorial project. Only with material posted on the Museum’s website, which offers a rare opportunity to see many works. While looking for the artists I wanted, like Marisaldi or Cuoghi Corsello (who aren’t there), I found many others I didn’t expect at all.
My first criterion was to focus on the names and works that I know the best and of which MAMbo has a large collection, especially by the young “’80s,” artists from the 1980s, which the Museum eagerly bought. But the selection turned out to be a bit bland and insufficiently representative, so I went through the entire collection, not only in the 20th century but in the historical collection as well, going back as much as 200 years.
The Museum’s collection is mainly Italian, very attentive to the local scene, but inhomogeneous. As a result, there’s a lot of gangue to sift through before finding the precious nuggets, with lots of gold yet to be discovered.
The idea of showing the works in pairs came to me when I discovered the works of Martegani and Dellavedova, created together for a show I saw at Studio Guenzani in Milan in 1988. It begins with an Assolo (Solo) and you can end with a ZZZ… almost alphabetically.
It doesn’t form a story, there’s no itinerary to follow, and the pairings can even be discovered accidentally.
I didn’t include Morandi, but I found two works by Cragg and Mazzucconi that could keep him company, and you won’t see any famous masterpieces, like Guttuso’s I funerali di Togliatti, which alone are worth an artistic pilgrimage to Bologna.
I wanted to include a lot more names, like Moreni, Morlotti, and Pozzati, but I had a hard time finding good pairings and didn’t want to be longwinded. A few names and works seem to repeat themselves because of the need to find suitable pairings and because of the temptation to insist on a few things.
The quality of the images I found isn’t always excellent: this exhibit can’t and doesn’t want to substitute for an actual visit. Let’s hope that many of the works don’t remain in the Museum’s storage forever….
A final suggestion: always take a look at the captions for the real dimensions of the works.
As I write, I’m listening to the Madagascan “sodina” flute, played by Rakoto Frah and his group, accompanied by the song of a blackbird pecking on my snow-covered balcony.