7 September - 2 December 2018
Exhibition curated by Stefano Pezzato
In conjunction with the thirtieth anniversary of its opening (1988-2018), Centro Pecci presents the exhibition Colour Code. Works from the Alessandro Grassi Collection intended to recall this industrialist, born in Prato in 1942, through his passion for art and colour. He established himself in Milan with a printing ink company, and died in Tuscany in 2009. Considered to be among the most important Italian collectors, from the Eighties Grassi was one of the first supporters of the Transavantgarde movement and a staunch advocate of postmodern painting and contemporary photography from Europe and America.
The exhibition, curated by Stefano Pezzato, focuses on a selection of works from the Alessandro Grassi collection now on long term loan to Centro Pecci, but it also includes works from MART - Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rovereto and from private lenders to trace a significant, albeit concise, itinerary within a collection that is estimated to have acquired up to 700 works by over 280 artists, including around one hundred photographic works, over three decades. The museum display contains some of the largest groups in the collection, reflecting the collector’s interests and criteria and highlighting his predilection for painting and photography based on expressive and emotional values conveyed mainly through the use of colour.
Alessandro Grassi was born in Prato in 1942 and moved to Milan with his family where he grew up. He established himself as an entrepreneur in the industrial field of printing inks, and died in Forte dei Marmi in 2009. From the Eighties onwards he was one of the most important collectors of contemporary art in the season of the so-called return to pictorial expressiveness and the figurative revival. From the start he acquired works by the Transavantgarde movement, expanding his interest to postmodern painting, mainly from Germany and North America. In the Nineties he acquired a passion for major international artists, and in parallel to painting he started an important photography collection. In that same period he also supported young Italian painting.
The first publication on this particular Private Collection was edited by Maria Cristina Mundici and presented by Achille Bonito Oliva in 1993. Photographs of his collection were displayed in the Galleria Civica of Bolzano in 1999, curated by Letizia Ragaglia. The exhibitions De Gustibus: collezione privata Italia, held in Siena in 2002 and curated by Achille Bonito Oliva and Sergio Risaliti, and Pittura europea dagli anni '80 a oggi, presented at the Fondazione Stelline of Milan in 2011, curated by Giorgio Verzotti, also presented selections from the Alessandro Grassi collection. Specific exhibitions at MART in Rovereto in 2004 and at MAN in Nuoro in 2006 were dedicated to works by the Italian Transavantgarde in the Alessandro Grassi collection.
The new exhibition route through the works that belonged to Grassi is divided into three interconnected sections: Contemporary Photography - Transavantgarde and such - Postmodern Painting and more, identified as key chapters in the collection as well as the long term loan now at Centro Pecci. Moreover, the general underlying theme of colour is conveyed in the title of the exhibition. Presented in typological and dialogical sequences, as linear galleries of paintings that Grassi himself set up in Milan between the 1990s and the 2000s, in the exhibition these sections recompose a set of unique and circular works adapted to the winding space of the renovated museum in Prato.
Starting with a portrait of Alessandro Grassi (2000) taken by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, a renowned celebrity photographer of politics, entertainment and art compared to an ancient painter due to his attention to natural poses, the exhibition proposes a “classical” industrial archaeology (1982) by Bernd and Hilla Becher, considered promoters of the renewal of photography as a memory of the modern era and among the supporters of its affirmation as art; there follows an inquisitive glimpse of urban reality in Tokyo (1986) by Thomas Struth and a series of objective although anonymous portraits (1986-1988) by Thomas Ruff, both students of the Bechers and key figures of the so-called Düsseldorf School.
Next comes a work depicting a first stay in New York (1994) by Wolfgang Tillmans, the creator of an investigation on the fundamentals of the photographic medium, like the portrait and urban night combined in this shot, and a self-portrait from a series (1983) by Cindy Sherman who transforms female beauty, codified by fashion, entertainment or great art, into a photographic parody dominated by colour change. It is counterbalanced by the vibrant "night view" (2001) by Nan Goldin, a suspended image of a New York night in the place and year of the tragic aerial attack on the Twin Towers; there is also an aerial view (1992/2000) by Fischli / Weiss which frames a glimpse of Milan from the unexpected and symbolic perspective of the Madonna positioned at the top of the Cathedral, and a photographic composition (1988) by Gilbert & George concentrated on the existential self-reflection of a young figure in the foreground before an incandescent urban puzzle. Two street shots (1973; 1999/2000) by William Eggleston and a travel snapshot in the desert (1974/2003) by Stephen Shore, considered among the fathers of artistic and colour photography, introduce a "democratic glance" and attention to the American urban suburbs and artistic territories little frequented at the time.
Works by two masters of contemporary art complete the photographic section in the Alessandro Grassi collection: the photographic enlargement of a definition from the dictionary (1968) by Joseph Kosuth, a conceptual art theorist who in this work investigates its material form and profound meaning, and a portfolio of black and white photographic portraits (1980) by Andy Warhol, the Pop Art star who here focused his attention on the international celebrity at that time.
The exhibition also presents a shot (1999) taken by Armin Linke, creator of an original exploration of photographic practice which "frames" Alessandro Grassi among the works of his private collection.
The central core of the exhibition, as in the Alessandro Grassi collection, is made up of a series of works by artists of the Transavantgarde, a movement promoted internationally between the end of the Seventies and the Eighties and marked by a return to subjective expressiveness through the recovery of language and techniques of the artistic tradition, with a predilection for figuration and, in particular, representation of the human body. Two canvases (1979; 1980) painted by Sandro Chia stand out for the dynamic expression of the brush strokes and pastoral images permeated with primitivism and existentialism. A small canvas (1990) by Enzo Cucchi expresses the strong link, symbolised by the insertion of a key, with the myth of Rome, the artist's adopted city. An original painting on stone (1982) by Francesco Clemente depicts the artist himself in a fleeting, elusive form, roving just like its author, who had moved to New York in those years; the encounter and comparison with the American artistic context is also confirmed by the face painted on plates (1981/1982) by Julian Schnabel which portrays and pays homage to Sandro Chia, who was also on the New York scene in that period.
Despite at the time affirming “the value of individuality, of working individually" (A. Bonito Oliva, 1979), these artists also explored the collaboration approach, creating original works in pairs as in the cases of the large canvas (1980) painted by Sandro Chia and Enzo Cucchi in the form of a neo-expressionist Composition, or the embroidery (1989/1991) by Alighiero Boetti and Mimmo Paladino which highlights and combines two overlapping styles. Next, a poetic canvas (2002) by Mimmo Paladino retraces the sacred and mystical theme of the Christian crucifixion associated with archaic symbologies on chromatic fragments. Two canvases by Nicola De Maria (1984-1985; 2001) present lyrical forms and richly coloured compositions, alive with spontaneous vivacity or dense with inner evocations. A canvas (2003) painted by David Salle, leader of the new American figuration from the Eighties, experiments in the painting with the connection between images and the simultaneity of film editing. Some small bronze sculptures also tend towards a hybridization of genres and artistic themes: the one in the form of a wagon (1989) by Mimmo Paladino evokes an ancestral culture, while the stylised figure (1991) by Sandro Chia and the polychrome one (1990) by Markus Lüpertz manifestly explore the expressiveness of an original, Mannerist or primitive art.
The section dedicated to painting in the Alessandro Grassi collection opens with a large iconic tricoloured canvas (1980), a sort of monumental homage to Italy by Mario Schifano, one of the first Italian artists to enter the American scene among the New Realists of Pop Art; alongside it is a painting (1978) by Jonathan Borofsky, a dreamlike image the artist associates with a continuous stream of consciousness and a secret numerical code. The two works represent the emblems, as well as the pictorial interests of Alessandro Grassi, of the artistic axis linking Italy to the USA at the time postmodern painting achieved success, in parallel with the launch of the Transavantgarde movement. Subsequent paintings (1991; 1992) by Mario Schifano himself contain reworkings of images drawing on or inspired by mass media, in particular cinema and television; nearby is a canvas (1989) painted by Alex Katz, an artist of the Pop scene who here depicts a stylised and monumental face, and then a canvas (1997/1998) and two panels (1995/1996) painted by Gino De Dominicis, an enigmatic author of metaphysical ancestry who through painting recalls drawings of figures, shapes or heads with subtle somatic features, suspended in the emptiness of the painting until they reverse the image from positive to negative. In these works by Schifano, Katz and De Dominicis a few flat colours prevail, lying clearly on the surface while the details are reduced to the essential; this art tends to recover the familiar and at the same time sacral dimension of the depicted image, as also demonstrated by the oval (1995-1996) painted by Luigi Ontani, of hybrid, exotic and chivalrous inspiration, and the canvas (1973-1976) painted by Salvo which incorporates a religious, ancient and traditional iconography.
This section of the exhibition also includes another panel (1987) painted by Gino De Dominicis, whose apparently monolithic subject combines with the paradoxical invisibility of its content, and a drawing and collage (1972) by Christo, a famous Land Art project dominated by the colour orange. These are the works that confirm the expansion of Alessandro Grassi’s collection to different outcomes of art, also shown in a painting (1970) by Neil Jenny, creator of the so-called Bad Painting which takes to extremes and ironically combines Pop figuration with minimalist essentiality and conceptual analysis, a canvas (1983) by Keith Haring, the international star of Street Art who established an original graphic language which was linear and comic, ironic and socially engaged, and a canvas (1964) by Andy Warhol, precursor of postmodern painting with his Pop research influenced by mass media and focused on a seductive and common, and therefore universally recognized, iconography.
Bernd and Hilla Becher, Alighiero Boetti and Mimmo Paladino, Jonathan Borofsky, Sandro Chia, Sandro Chia and Enzo Cucchi, Christo, Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi, Gino De Dominicis, Nicola De Maria, William Eggleston, Peter Fischli / David Weiss, Gilbert & George, Nan Goldin, Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Keith Haring, Neil Jenny, Alex Katz, Joseph Kosuth, Armin Linke, Markus Lüpertz, Luigi Ontani, Mimmo Paladino, Thomas Ruff, David Salle, Salvo, Mario Schifano, Julian Schnabel, Cindy Sherman, Stephen Shore, Thomas Struth, Wolfgang Tillmans, Andy Warhol
The heirs of Alessandro Grassi
MART - Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea of Trento and Rovereto
7 September - 2 December 2018
6 September 2018 h.07 p.m.
Photo: Being (1988) Gilbert&George
Eventi, mostre ed iniziative in occasione del trentennale del Centro Pecci
Viale della Repubblica, 277, 59100 Prato PO, Italia
7 September - 2 December 2018
6 September 2018 h.07 p.m.
Photo: Being (1988) Gilbert&George