Monday, June 29, 2009

Final week of Fra Angelico at the Capitoline Museums!

If you haven’t seen The Blessed Angelico: The Dawn of the Renaissance in Palazzo dei Caffarelli - part of the Musei Capitolini on Piazza del Campidoglio - there’s still time until 5 July to catch this wonderful show! Some years ago something rather curious happened to me whilst at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni during an exhibition entitled The Face of Christ which included Christ Crowned with Thorns by Fra Angelico from the Museo Civico in Livorno; in front of that particular work by the Renaissance Friar I experienced the closest thing to Stendhal syndrome I’ve ever felt in my life! I’m not, incidentally, in any way religious, but the works of this artist which are exclusively religious in subject matter, affect me like few others. The Livorno piece isn’t on show here - there’s a copy by a collaborator instead - but there are 49 other extraordinary works by this most sublime of painters including not only small panels, large altarpieces and canvases, but also examples of his work as an illuminator with several manuscripts on display.

In an exhibition in which one could easily spend hours staring at each and every work choosing a few favourites is tricky but certainly the Barcelona panel Virgin and Child, with Five Angels, ca. 1426-27 better known as the Madonna of Humility and the dazzling Paradise ca. 1434-35 from the Uffizi, with its exquisite gold decorative background are breathtaking, as is the large Annunciation from San Giovanni Valdarno (see illustration above). The Blessed and the Damned, painted on two small side panels of what was once a triptych (from a collection in Houston, USA) and a tiny fragment of a panel depicting Saint John the Baptist from Leipzig (possibly originally part of the altarpiece from St. Mark's) also kept me transfixed.

Fra Angelico’s tomb in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome
The exhibition closes what has been an extended celebration of the 550th anniversary of the painter’s death in Rome in 1455. The Dominican Friar was beatified by Pope John Paul II on October 3, 1982 and in 1984 was made patron of Catholic artists.

After the exhibition it somehow felt appropriate to take a wander across Rome to Fra Angelico’s tomb in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pane, Amore e… Fotografia! Gina Lollobrigida, Photographer at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni

Gina Lollobrigida at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome
Whilst Gina Lollobrigida is best known the world over as an actress and indeed is one of Italy’s most famous stars of the silver screen having made a string of Hollywood movies starring opposite some of the biggest leading men of the 1950s and 1960s (such as Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra and Yul Brynner to name but a few), she has also been a prolific photographer for the last fifty years.

At almost eighty-two, Gina Lollobrigida is still as glamorous as only a true diva from the Golden Age of Hollywood can be, and her appearance at the inauguration of a major retrospective of 250 of her photographs last night at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni was attended by the inevitable court of Italian TV media darlings. It was rather wonderful, therefore, to see Ms Lollobrigida’s willingness to answer questions about the photographs and the photographers which have influenced her - Robert Capa, Franco Fontana and fellow actor Yul Brynner, were just some of the names she mentioned - before being swept away in a cloud of VIPs.

This exhibition will take you on a dense photographic journey across the globe - Russia, India, Japan, Africa, and of course Italy - all seen through the keen eyes of a true photojournalist. She never flinches from showing the devastating effects of poverty - even, as she explained, if she suffered enormously when taking some images such as those of lepers in India - whilst at the same time cutting through the public image and exposing the humanity of some of the most famous figures of the last few decades. I particularly liked the portraits of Fidel Castro, a stunning portrait of Liv Ullman and a beautiful study of Neapolitan dramatist and actor Eduardo De Filippo.

Gina Lollobrigida, Photographer
curated by Philippe Daverio
26 June - 13 September 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Deredia - La Genesi e il Simbolo at the Roman Forum

Jiménez Deredia and his sculpture Genesi Ricordo Profondo at the Roman Forum
Visitors to the Roman Forum this summer are in for an extra surprise - for the first time ever Il Foro Romano is hosting a contemporary art exhibition. The eight monumental sculptures in white Carrara marble by the Italian-based Costa Rican artist Jiménez Deredia are found along the Via Sacra between the Arch of Titus and the Senate and work so extraordinarily well in this context one hopes that this might become a regular exhibition space for site specific work by modern artists.

The charismatic sculptor was in Rome yesterday for the inauguration of both this exhibition and a parallel major show at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni dedicated to Deredia's ongoing sculptural project of creating nine groups of sculpture in nine countries on the American continent, stretching from Canada all the way to Tierra del Fuego, taking in the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru and Chile on route - La Ruta de la Paz.

Other works by the artist are dotted about the city - Piazza Barberini, Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina, the area just in front of the Colosseum and at the Auditorium Parco delle Musica – I'll be tracking them down over the next few weeks and will post photographs here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Roma Pride Parade 2009

Whilst Barack Obama recently declared June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month with the words:

I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists
Italy remains in the grip of increasing homophobia - once again this year both the Mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno and Italy's Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna refused to endorse the annual Gay Pride march (although Ms Carfagna seemed perfectly happy to meet with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi earlier in the week).

Given that Roma Pride 2009 was poorly publicized and quite literally, mentioned only in passing in local news reports, the event was a remarkable success with 250,000 people marching from Piazza della Repubblica to Piazza Navona.

Here are a few highlights!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Lang Lang Fest hosted by the Accademia di Santa Cecilia at the Auditorium Parco della Musica

Autographed 'Lang Lang Fest' programme
After thrilling the Santa Cecilia audience in a wonderful solo performance in January last year the virtuoso pianist and genuine classical music superstar Lang Lang returned to the Auditorium Parco della Musica for a concert marathon of four shows on consecutive evenings from 2 to 5 June – the Lang Lang Fest. At twenty-six Lang Lang has already clocked up too many accolades to mention in this review and was listed as one of Time magazine's most influential people in The 2009 TIME 100 earlier this year.

The fact that Lang Lang started playing the piano at age three after seeing Tom play the Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 by Liszt in a Tom and Jerry cartoon is now legendary, yet it's worth remembering because one of Lang Lang's great achievements is his ability to break down the walls of snobbery and elitism that pervade the classical music world and also his determined encouragement of very young musicians through his own foundation.

A charismatic showman during performances - he almost seems to talk to his Steinway whilst playing - he is not without his detractors, although personally I'm puzzled as to how anybody could hear him perform and not be moved by the sensitivity of his playing which goes so much deeper than the mere bravura of which he is sometimes accused. As Herbie Hancock recently said of him - his playing is [...] so deeply human.

I was lucky enough to see him on two of the evenings in Rome this week. During the solo piano recital on Wednesday he performed a stunning first set of Schubert, then opened the second half of the performance with a simply jaw-dropping Bartok (which, unusually for Lang Lang, he played with the score in front of him) and a wonderful selection of Debussy Preludes closing with one of Chopin's most famous pieces, the Heroic. The audience response was rapturous and he returned on stage for several curtain calls - a spontaneous cheer erupted as he took to the piano again for a final encore in which he played a traditional Chinese folksong from the Yellow River Piano Concerto (found on his Dragon Songs CD).

On Friday evening, he closed the festival with Chopin's Piano Concerto No.1 in an impeccable performance with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra, conducted by the esteemed Christoph Eschenbach (with whom he recorded a recent CD of Beethoven piano concertos), returning to the stage for an exquisite encore of more Chopin - Etude No. 3, Op. 10 in E major.

He may polarise opinion with the general public and critics on differing sides but the long line of fans of all ages who queued for a signed CD and the chance to meet Lang Lang in the book shop at the Auditorium on Friday evening seemed in no doubt as to Lang Lang's exceptional talent. See this man perform if you get the opportunity!

Full setlists:

3 June, 2009

  • Schubert - Sonata D. 959
  • Bartók - Sonata BB 88 Sz. 80
  • Debussy - A selection of Preludes from Book I and II
  • Book I
  • La fille aux cheveux de lin
  • Les collines d'Anacapri
  • La cathedrale engloutie
  • Minstrels
  • Book II
  • La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune
  • Bruyères
  • Feux d'artifice
  • Chopin - Polonaise in A flat major, Op. 53, the "Heroic
  • Encore - Traditional Chinese folksong
5 June 2009
  • Chopin - Piano Concerto No. 1
  • Encore - Chopin Etude No. 3, Op. 10 in E major
  • (also in programme Tchaikovsky Symphony n. 4 directed by Christoph Eschenbach)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Giotto and the 14th Century: The Most Sovereign Master of Painting at the Complesso del Vittoriano

GiottoThe Complesso del Vittoriano is in many respects an awkward exhibition space and must prove a headache for its organisers who have to deal with what is essentially a long narrow corridor - which often gets blocked with visitors who find themselves squashed in a bottleneck on busy days or peak visiting hours - and then opens out into one large room. Whilst in recent shows that large room has been exploited successfully to its full potential with the creation of a mezzanine floor, unfortunately I always seem to find myself rushing through the first part of any exhibition at the Vittoriano to escape the sheer discomfort of being jostled along that initial corridor! For the Giotto exhibition, however, I chose the hour of my visit carefully, so I could therefore comfortably linger a little longer in the early rooms of the show. And I was very glad that I did for they form what is essentially an exhibition within the exhibition – a selection of stunning medieval illuminated manuscripts directly influenced by Giottesque painting. There is also a fun touch-screen virtual visit to the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua with a projected image simulating a couple of the frescoes – amazingly the galley was empty enough for me to get to play with this gadget!

As the title suggests, the exhibition is not only dedicated to Giotto, but rather explorers his cultural impact on the times in which he lived, so in addition to the 20 pieces by Giotto himself this exhaustive show also includes works by the painters Cimabue and Simone Martini, as well as that of illuminators, goldsmiths and also sculptors, with 150 works in total on display. © Photo by SailkoObviously, Giotto is the star of the show with works borrowed not only from Italian galleries like the Uffizi such as the indisputably magnificent Badia Polyptych (Madonna and Child with St. Nicholas, St. John the Evangelist, St. Peter and St. Benedict) but also panels on loan from major museums around the world – Christ between St John the Evangelist, the Madonna, John the Baptist and St Francis, (1310-1315), for example, from the the North Carolina Museum of Art, is displayed so that visitors can admire both front and back of this particularly beautiful polyptych. Of the other pieces on display it was love at first sight for me with Giovanni di Balduccio's Saint Peter Martyr, a 60 cm statue from 1334 which looked incredibly art deco – I spent simply ages gazing at it!

Before you visit the exhibition proper the lower floor of the Vittoriano has an extensive educational section exploring Giotto's travels throughout different regions in Italy. Whilst this is all very interesting, there is, if anything, too much material to read - kilometres of poorly spaced text in a hard to read font. Most surprisingly, given that Giotto is one of the most famous artists in history, known the world over, and that this is one of the big shows of the season certain to attract a huge number of international visitors, the information available is only in English. If you don't read Italian you'll have to make-do with a pamphlet – help yourself at the ticket desk when you buy the ticket or hire an audio-guide.

Giotto e il Trecento. Il più sovrano Maestro stato in dipintura continues at the Complesso del Vittoriano until 29 June, 2009. A major show - definitely one to see!

Photo - Giovanni di Balduccio © Sailko CC

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...