Pop Art 1956 – 1968 | Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome

The Scuderie del Quirinale art gallery and exhibition centre, as its name suggests, is found on the Quirinal Hill opposite the Quirinal Palace (the official residence of the Italian head of state), and is housed in the Quirinal Stables. Originally built between 1722 and 1732, the Quirinal Stables were restored and converted into a gallery between 1997 – 1999. Situated on the highest of Rome's famous seven hills, the views from the Scuderie del Quirinale are breathtaking and whatever the exhibition one has seen, there is the guaranteed treat of gazing out over the Roman skyline from the purpose-built great window, designed by Gae Aulenti. I took this shot at dusk on a visit to the current Pop Art show. San Pietro can be see in the distance...

View from the great window at Le Scuderie del Quirinale

The exhibitions at the Scuderie are usually reliable with a good selection of pieces from international collections. I found the Pop Art show a little patchy as regards consistent quality with a little too many also-rans in the mix, although there were plenty of surprises to make it an enjoyable show overall. My particular favourites were the two David Hockney paintings on display in the upper gallery – the 1963 Renaissance Head and the gorgeous 1962 Picture Emphasising Stillness, with its tiny Letraset caption THEY ARE PERFECTLY SAFE THIS IS A STILL. Peter Blake, another early British Pop Art exponent was also well represented in the show, as was Richard Hamilton. Predictably, there was a large group of visitors gathered in front of Andy Warhol's iconic Marilyn series, although it was another, smaller icon which drew my devotion in the first room – Ray Johnson's Untitled Elvis No.2 - with it's collaged, mosiac-like single image of Elvis...but then, as a sworn devotee of the church of Elvis that's hardly surprising! Other favourites were Christo's 1965 Brigitte Bardot, which naturally consisted of a wrapped picture of BB and made me laugh, and Italian-born Eduardo Paolozzi's painted aluminium sculpture Diana as an Engine (1963-1966), which was vaguely reminiscent of his later decorative works for the London Underground.