After its 2021 edition had to be cancelled, Arte Fiera has decided to take part in ART CITY, the Bologna art weekend traditionally associated with the Fair. The Fair’s contribution has been an ad hoc work for Piazza Costituzione commissioned from Stefano Arienti, the Italian artist who, following Flavio Favelli (2019) and Eva Marisaldi (2020), had been chosen to present a new work at Arte Fiera 2021, and who curated a virtual exhibition of works from the MAMbo collection as part of Arte Fiera’s PLAYLIST online project.
Arienti’s work for ART CITY is in two parts. A flowerbed in the shape of Italy has been planted in the Le Corbusier Garden next to the Esprit Nouveau Pavilion. A short distance away, on the floor of the small glass pavilion facing the Volvo Congress Center, another Italy of equal size has been drawn with shards of glass. The work’s title, Rich and Poor, invites us to compare these two Italys in terms of wealth and poverty. The association seems obvious: on the one hand, a beautiful flowerbed; on the other, broken glass. But is it really so simple? The small pavilion with the broken-glass Italy was built as a promotional display for luxury cars, and the fragments of glass inside look like gems. On the other hand, the flowers are common seasonal varieties, not at all rare or precious (moreover, Le Corbusier, after whom the garden was named, was often linked with progressive political ideals). Ambivalent about the two categories, we are persuaded to question the very meaning of “richness” and “poverty.”
Rich and poor presents some of the most recognisable aspects of Arienti’s style: the use of common, everyday materials; adoption of a simple manual ability that resembles that of a hobbyist or an artisan more than an artist; the use of pre-existing images deriving from a shared iconography or from art history. The shape of Italy is an image that belongs to both categories. All Italians, regardless of their cultural level, recognise it immediately; people who have studied modern art will recall a famous series of Italys created with a wide variety of materials by Luciano Fabro (1936-2007), one of the masters of Arte povera. Specifically, the broke-glass Italy – which Arienti originally conceived for the 2010 Day of Contemporary Art – cites Cosa Nostra (1968-71), one of Fabro’s first Italys, in which the country’s shape is cut out in a sheet of glass.