At the Gallerie d'Italia in Milan, a journey into the 20th century and the contemporary between painting and sculpture

From May 26 to October 22, 2023, the exhibition "An Unexpected Collection. Journey into the Contemporary Between Painting and Sculpture." Over seventy works generally not exhibited at the Milan venue, including the most recent acquisitions from the Intesa Sanpaolo Collection.

The Gallerie d’Italia in Milan ’s Piazza Scala is hosting from May 26 to October 22, 2023 the exhibition Una collezione inattesa. Viaggio nel contemporaneo tra pittura e scultura, curated by Luca Massimo Barbero, Associate Curator of Intesa Sanpaolo’s Collections of Modern and Contemporary Art, which presents a selection of works in dialogue with the permanent exhibition Cantiere del ’900.

Featuring more than seventy works generally not exhibited at the Milan venue, including the most recent acquisitions from the Intesa Sanpaolo Collection, the exhibition dedicated to Italian art and international contemporary art will focus on the dialogue between the different sculptural researches of some of the major protagonists of the twentieth century and insights around painting after World War II. A fundamental contribution to the layout comes from the works selected from the Luigi and Peppino Agrati Collection, now part of the artistic heritage managed by Intesa Sanpaolo.

“This new exhibition itinerary, in continuity with the Cantiere del ’900, is part of the program aimed at spreading knowledge and sharing of our modern and contemporary art collections,” said Giovanni Bazoli, Chairman Emeritus of Intesa Sanpaolo. “In particular, the public is once again offered the opportunity to appreciate works that are part of the Luigi and Peppino Agrati Collection, which has enriched the bank’s artistic heritage with masterpieces of international scope. In the magnificent spaces of the Gallerie di Piazza Scala, an exciting journey through the art of the 20th century is offered.”

In the monumental entrance space of the museum, visitors will be greeted by Jean Hans Arp ’s 1966 large white marble work Femme Paysage, representing the extensive collection of sculptures from the Henraux Collection, now part of Intesa Sanpaolo. Arp opens, as a kind of focal point, to the installation dedicated to the artist Bruno De Toffoli, a signatory author of one of the Manifestos of Spatialism. This will be a rare opportunity to see the nine sculptures of this artist less known to the general public brought together. An installation with chronological roots that start with the great masters of 20th-century sculpture destined to mark the figurative production of Italian plastic arts. In the first rooms, three great artists of the 20th century such as Arturo Martini with La Pisana, Marino Marini with the Pomona and Giacomo Manzù with the Great Seated Cardinal, works rarely exhibited together.

A completely unprecedented moment will be the room dedicated to Fausto Melotti, in which an important fictile corpus of the master’s work will be presented to the public for the first time, through a special arrangement that will feature nineteen representative works of his ceramic vessels and vases, including four important Korai. There is an interesting dialogue between the work Coppia in copper wire, already on display in the permanent itinerary of the Gallerie d’Italia, and another work, also in copper wire, from the Luigi and Peppino Agrati collection. Thanks to the confluence of the various collections there will be a room entirely dedicated to Lucio Fontana as a reference to the theme of Spatialism. Important works by Fontana will be exhibited, including the large Concetto spaziale. Expectations from 1965. Here brought together to give continuity to the modern and contemporary tradition of ceramic sculpture, there will be a number of plates called Antica Savona, and the important nucleus of the three Natures in bronze and terracotta.

Particularly significant will be the room devoted to zeroing and monochrome in international contemporary art of the very early 1960s, the centerpiece of which will be Sol LeWitt’s sculpture Complex Form, which recently entered the Intesa Sanpaolo Collections. In this space, the public will find a harmonious confrontation between a master of American minimalism such as Robert Ryman and protagonists of Italian research such as Piero Manzoni, Alberto Burri, Toti Scialoja and Enrico Castellani present with the monumental work Superficie bianca 35 from 1966.

The next two sections will instead present some research related to abstraction and sign painting of the late 1950s. Emblematic of that research are artists such as Carla Accardi with the work Untitled, Giulio Turcato and Antonio Sanfilippo with Superficie 45/C/63. An important painting by Corrado Cagli, The Reed Flute, which opens the experiments of the 1960s, will be shown to the public. The work will ideally introduce the nucleus of Pietro Consagra’s sculptures, including Bifrontale malachite, dedicated to the theme of the research on stones and marbles that the artist conducted in the 1970s and 1980s and that, through the use of precious materials, exemplifies that frontal sculpture of which he is theorist and sculptor.

The exhibition itinerary provides in the transition to the “Yard of the 1900s” an ideal thematic and visual telescope with works by artists who, starting from classical abstraction, arrive in the post-World War II period to an increasingly minimal and procedural painting. This is the case of an artist like Bice Lazzari, present here with Measure 9, Mario Nigro with a pictorial abstraction close to analytical and concept painting as Roman Opalka who proceeds day by day to numerical drafting composing large and very rare canvases at the threshold of monochrome.

Some of the studies exhibited here will hint at the poetic and executive modes of Sol LeWitt. By this American master, it will be the mention of the important 1969 sculpture Three Cubes (Straight), which has just arrived in the Intesa Sanpaolo Collections, that will almost take on the appearance of an architectural staircase as it enters the space of “Cantiere del ’900,” whose perspective made up of cubic profiles will frame the point of arrival of this itinerary represented by the recent acquisition Abstraktes Bild of 1984 by Gerhard Richter.

The exhibition itinerary will be a new opportunity to deepen and enhance the many themes, authors, and movements present in the Intesa Sanpaolo Collections.

The Milan museum, along with those in Naples, Turin and Vicenza, is part of Intesa Sanpaolo’s Gallerie d’Italia museum project led by Michele Coppola, the bank’s Executive Director of Art, Culture and Historical Assets.

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Hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9:30 am to 7:30 pm; Thursdays from 9:30 am to 10:30 pm. Closed Mondays.

Pictured, exhibition set-up.

At the Gallerie d'Italia in Milan, a journey into the 20th century and the contemporary between painting and sculpture
At the Gallerie d'Italia in Milan, a journey into the 20th century and the contemporary between painting and sculpture

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