Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mark Rothko | Stanley Kubrick | Gregory Crewdson | Palazzo delle Esposizioni

Mark Rothko | Stanley Kubrick | Gregory Crewdson | Palazzo delle Esposizioni
After five long years the newly restored Palazzo delle Esposizioni on Via Nazionale reopened in October of this year and immediately reclaimed its position as Rome's finest exhibition centre. Queues have been long over the Christmas holidays with Romans and tourists alike rushing to catch the Rothko and Kubrick shows which close on 6th January 2008. Climbing up the steps to the main entrance and walking into the central main hall with its columns and immense domed ceiling is rather like walking into a cathedral – the perfect space, in fact, for Mark Rothko's large colour-field canvases. Placing the dazzling yellows and reds of the mid-career Untitled No.10 from the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum immediately opposite the entrance foyer allows the visitor the chance to really admire the painting from a long distance – in fact, the entire show makes maximum and skilful use of the large exhibition space. Looking right, the deep sea blues and greens of No.15 (Dark Green on Blue with Green Band) positively dazzle like an ocean-scape on another far end wall. On a smaller scale, Rothko's original sketch and notebooks are on display alongside their virtual copies allowing the viewer to browse through the entire book in digital format.

The retrospective by American photographer Gregory Crewdson was a total surprise and an added bonus. His unsettling photographs are meticulously staged scenes of American neighbourhoods that border on the surreal. Often inspired by the work of film-makers such as Spielberg or Lynch and featuring famous actors such as Julienne Moore, they read rather like an entire film condensed into one shot, or a short story by Raymond Carver, or a painting by Edward Hopper...the influences are numerous and recognisable but the results feel strikingly original.

And so after two immensely enjoyable exhibitions, we climbed the huge staircase up to the second level and the Stanley Kubrick exhibition...and ended up staying another couple of hours! If you're a Kubrick fan and haven't seen this show – book a last minute flight and get over to Rome! It really is a treasure trove of Kubrick memorabilia - unpublished documents, screenplays, director’s notes, on-set photographs, storyboards, models, costumes, even the lenses he used – all plundered from the archives of the Stanley Kubrick Estate, and made available for the first time. Each and every one of his films is covered including the films that never made it past the pre-production stage – Napoleon, Aryan Papers and A.I. (later made by Spielberg). An absolute must-see exhibition!

Monday, December 24, 2007

'Buon Natale' from Rome...

Just back from a Christmas Eve stroll to St. Peter's Square at the Vatican to have a look at the city's larger-than-life nativity scene and 100 foot tall Christmas tree. At 5.30 pm queues were already forming for the Midnight Mass...

San Pietro, Rome - Christmas Eve

...Buon Natale!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ice Skating at the Cavea

Ice skating at the Auditorium in Rome

The Cavea Ice Rink at the Auditorium in Rome
Rome feels pretty low key as regards Christmas this year - very few lights, even in the main shopping streets, but there's a decidedly festive air to the Auditorium. Once again the Cavea, which in the summer months is used as an open air amphitheatre and hosts a series of concerts, is converted into an ice rink. By early evening yesterday, it was packed with ice skaters of all ages, who had braved the coldest day of the year (half of the peninsular is snowed in and there was bitingly cold wind, the northerly tramontana, whipping through the capital). Having last donned skates about twenty-five years ago I was more than happy just to watch and take these photos!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

TV, censorship and the state of the nation

Earlier this year Italy was finally granted Free Press status after having rather embarrassingly been the only European country to have worn the Partly-Free badge of shame. Be that as it may, Italy still languishes in 61st place below Israel and Cape Verde, according to the Freedom of the Press 2007 ! Surely, there must be some mistake?! Or maybe not...censorship has reared its ugly head again this week in Italy. Daniele Luttazzi, an Italian comic and satirist who had famously been banished from Italian television by Silvio Berlusconi, recently returned to TV screens with a new show - Decameron: Politica, Sesso, Religione & Morte. As its subtitle suggests (for those of you who don't read Italian), the show looked at politics, sex, religion and death. Maybe it was naive of us to have really believed that anybody who openly criticized the Catholic Church, the presence of Italian peacekeepers in Afghanistan (or rather, the War in Afghanistan) and was so wilfully provocative, rude, challenging and intelligent would survive long. In fact, after transmitting 5 episodes including repeats, La7 channel pulled the plug last week with the trumped up excuse of a personal insult Luttazzi made against Giuliano Ferrara, a fellow La7 TV personality.

On Daniele's blog this morning Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo joined the fray in support of Luttazzi and noted that it was probably no coincidence that the show was cancelled just as Luttazzi was preparing an episode about Pope Benedict XVI's latest encyclical letter.

And while I'm on a's an interesting piece about the bigger picture of the state of Italy today from the New York Times:

Published: December 13, 2007
For all of Italy’s outside adoration, the country finds itself in an economic, political and social funk.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Rome in December...

I took this photo looking from Ponte Sant'Angelo (the bridge immediately in front of Castel Sant'Angelo, famous for Bernini's angels) towards Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II with the dome of San Pietro in the distance.

Mostly skies are azure-blue in the eternal city, but the light was beautiful this afternoon after a grey morning and the Tiber was a Canaletto was raining on the bridge as I walked home later on.

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