Etruscans - The Ancient Cities of Lazio | Bill Viola - Inner Visions| Palazzo delle Esposizioni

Once again, the Palazzo delle Espozioni on Via Nazionale in Rome is proving to be one of most exciting exhibition spaces in the city with two major shows running simultaneously until January 6, 2009 exploiting the full potential of the sheer size of the galleries with the Etruscans - The Ancient Cities of Lazio (curated by Mario Torelli and Anna Maria Moretti) occupying the ground floor and Bill Viola's video installations – Inner Visions (curated by Kira Perov)– taking up the entire first floor.

The Etruscans exhibition has been promoted as one of the must-see shows in town this season with much made of the admittedly impressive partial reconstruction of the temple of Apollo in the central octagonal hall, however I was slightly disappointed by how many of the artifacts had come from the permanent Etruscan collection at Villa Giulia in Rome. There was also a video reconstruction of an Etruscan tomb which sought to recreate its initial discovery putting the viewer in the position of a kind of virtual archaeologist – a nice idea but poorly executed with inferior quality projected images. The exhibition remains, nevertheless, well worth a visit, particularly for anybody in Rome right now who hasn't already been to Villa Giulia or seen any of the Etruscans sites in Lazio. It gives an excellent overview of the often exquisite and eclectic Etruscan artistic output and is well organized thematically around the main urban centres of Etruscan activity - Veii, Cerveteri, Vulci and Tarquinia. I particularly liked the traditional and uniquely Etruscan "Bucchero" funerary objects with their black and highly polished surfaces which resemble metal.

Bill Viola
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The Bill Viola exhibition, on the other hand, is a major retrospective by an important contemporary artist. It's a demanding show requiring an empty head, patience and lots of time – his video loops run for anything from a few minutes to a couple of hours and are, for the main part, shot entirely in slow motion – but the images stay with you for days after. Viola's work eloquently tackles all the great and timeless themes of man's existence from birth (and rebirth) to death with the full gamut of human emotions and experience in between. Many pieces were reminiscent of Renaissance paintings with explicit references to the Resurrection, Annunciation, Sacred Conversations and the Pietà. Unmissable.

Glimpses of many of Bill Viola's works are available online at the official website of the exhibition.