The Myth of Speed | XXI Century China | Palazzo delle Esposizioni

Quite soon after moving to Rome it became very clear to me that I would not be driving in the city – the relationship that most Romans seem to have with their cars combined with terrifyingly cavalier attitude to dying at the wheel quickly put paid to any hopes I may have had of “getting the hang” of driving in Rome. Dino Risi said it all in 1962 with the classic film Il Sorpasso – little seems to have changed – there are just more and more cars in a city already choked by traffic. The recent exhibition at The Palazzo delle Esposizioni entitled Il mito della velocità - Arte, motori e società nell'Italia del '900 (The myth of speed - Art, engines and society in 20th century Italy) took this Italian love affair with speed and the internal combustion engine in particular as its focal point, taking a chronological look at its influence on art, fashion, design and society as a whole from the Italian Futurist movement through to Casey Stoner's 2007 Moto GP winning Ducati Desmosedici. Exploiting to its full potential the extremely large exhibition space this really was a stunning show featuring vintage racing cars and motorcycles – even a hydroplane and numerous pieces of related memorabilia.

Speed was also at the heart of another enjoyable exhibition on the upper floor of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni Cina XXI secolo. Arte fra identità e trasformazione (21st Century China.Art between identity and transformation) – which examined the impact of the alienating changes taking place in the new communist-capitalist China through the work of some of the most important artists working in China today. I particularly liked Fang Lijun's 2006 consisting of 16 bronze portrait heads finished in gold foil, all with eyes closed appearing rather like death masks; Weng Fen's photographic bird's eye views of rapidly changing cityscapes dwarfing young girls; Wang Qingsong's complex and troubling Dream of Migrants, which rather like the Crewdson photographs earlier in the year seemed to encompass an entire film in one elaborately staged composition, with the addition of traditional Chinese history and imagery mixed with western elements; and finally, Liu Xiaodong's brilliant Prima Mangia, a lay revisiting of The Last Supper painted in situ at the gallery in February of this year.