Milan, first Milanese exhibition on photographer Vasco Ascolini opens at Museo Bagatti Valsecchi

From June 16 to December 3, 2023, Museo Bagatti Valsecchi in Milan presents the exhibition 'Visioni Metafisiche. Vasco Ascolini meets Canova, Thorvaldsen and De Chirico'. It is the first Milanese exhibition dedicated to the Italian photographer of the second half of the 20th century.

Metaphysical Visions. Vasco Ascolini Meets Canova, Thorvaldsen and De Chirico, curated by Antonio D’Amico and Luca Carnicelli, is the title of the first exhibition, held in Milan, dedicated to the Italian photographer of the second half of the twentieth century Vasco Ascolini (Reggio Emilia, 1937). Scheduled at the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum in Milan from June 16 to Dec. 3, 2023, the exhibition proposes a silent and unprecedented dialogue between Vasco Ascolini’s photographs with works of the past, such as small marble heads, plaster casts by Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen and paintings by Giorgio De Chirico, with the aim of remarking the dialectic between the ancient and the contemporary, recreating in the museum rooms that’metaphysical atmosphere pursued by the photographer from Reggio Emilia and aiming to extrapolate from the works on display an unseen component deeply interconnected with the highest aesthetic expression and trends imposed by some of the most influential icons of haute couture.

The tour unfolds within the museum rooms where a selection of more than seventy of Ascolini’s most significant shots can be admired, dedicated to statuesque elements, proposed as sculptural fragments that animate, with their immobility, desolate contexts. A theme dear to the artist since the early 1980s, when he began to immortalize isolated architectures suspended in time, characterized by metaphysical alienated spaces.

Metaphysical dialogues are the focus of this exhibition: Ascolini’s photographic cosmos relates to Giorgio de Chirico’s canvases through shots that emphasize a timeless dimension punctuated by white marble sculptures and immense uninhabited spaces. The photographer’s works from Reggio Emilia therefore dialogue with De Chirico’s The Self-Portrait and Canova’s The Self-Portrait in Plaster from the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara, with The Lobster from 1922 and with a Piazza d’Italia where the prevailing silence of a sculpture lying in the center of the square and desolate architecture can be glimpsed. The dialectic is enriched by evocative models and plaster casts of the masters of Neoclassicism, such as those of Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen, whose works come from the collections of the Gipsoteca of the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara and from a private collection.

The dialogue that is established among the works exhibited inside the House Museum on Via Gesù immersed in the heart of the fashion quadrilateral goes as far as embracing elements of relationship with the aesthetic canons proper to Haute couture. These are investigated by means of works whose subjects, shrouded in plastic veils, take on the semblance of mysterious and ethereal models, suggesting analogies between Ascoli’s singular figurative imagery and Demna Gvasalia ’s visionary concept, and through explicit citations and references to the shocking pink and theLobster Evening Dress designed by Elsa Schiaparelli-in collaboration with Salvador Dali-who, like Ascolini, lived a deep and authentic connection with France and French culture.

The visitor is thus invited to enter into the eloquent dialogue established between the museum environments and the photographic works of Vasco Ascolini in a path designed to enhance not only the shots of the photographer from Reggio Emilia, but also the numerous Bagattesque works. Inviting visitors to enjoy the environments as in a real house, they will be able to discover the value of all the elements that connote the Bagatti Valsecchi House Museum-from ceramics to glass, from furniture to ivories-understanding the importance of works that are commonly labeled as secondary. In fact, the exhibition also draws attention to the parallelism that runs between Vasco Ascolini’s enhancement of elusive details through the selection of precise photographic subjects and the Bagatti Valsecchi’s reappraisal of the applied arts implemented to evoke Renaissance imagery in the more purely domestic dimension.

With this exhibition, the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum proves to be increasingly attentive to the dialogues between the ancient and the contemporary, already inherent in the nineteenth-century approach of the brothers Fausto and Giuseppe Bagatti Valsecchi, and takes part in the cultural proposals of the city of Milan, which has now become an attractive hub for photography, with an exhibition that offers a comprehensive view of the work of Vasco Ascolini, who, by focusing on the artifice of sculpture and architectural spaces, restores a dreamlike and almost metaphysical vision of the mansion’s environments.

The exhibition is organized by the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum and the Pasquale Battista Foundation, with the support of the Augusta Ratio S.p.A. Group, SILGAS and K&L Gates, the patronage of the Lombardy Region, the Municipality of Milan and the Institut français of Milan, and in collaboration with the Academy of Fine Arts of Carrara.

Accompanying the exhibition is a catalog published by Sagep Editori with contributions by Antonio D’Amico, Luca Carnicelli, Eugenio Bitetti, Aurora Ghezzi, and Moira Mascotto, director of the Museo Gypsotheca Antonio Canova in Possagno. Info and reservations: T: (+39) 02 7600.6132 |


“With this exhibition, realized thanks to the partnership with the Pasquale Battista Foundation and the Augusta Ratio Group, the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum pursues its intention of hosting temporary exhibitions in harmony with the permanent collection collected by the Bagatti Valsecchi brothers in the mid-nineteenth century, confirming its interest in collecting and in this case in contemporary photography,” says Camilla Bagatti Valsecchi, president of the Bagatti Valsecchi Foundation. “The path winds through all the rooms of the House Museum and evokes memories and suggestions among the sister arts. In fact, the nucleus of more than seventy photographs by Vasco Ascolini, dedicated to ancient statuary, is put in dialogue with some marbles, with plaster casts by Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen, some of which come from the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara, and with Giorgio De Chirico’s canvases, confirming Ascolini’s metaphysical suggestion. I wish visitors to find those hidden details that connect Vasco Ascolini’s photographs with Canova, Thorvaldsen, De Chirico and our permanent collection.”

“With this exhibition, the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum celebrates the long and fruitful career of the photographer from Emilia, with an emphasis on his production dedicated to ancient sculpture,” concludes Francesca Caruso, Lombardy Region’s Councillor for Culture. “A work, Ascolini’s, that thanks to the skillful use of light and shadow, enriches the subjects he portrays with new meanings, in a timeless atmosphere. In paying tribute to the photographer’s work, I join, as the Lombardy Region’s Councillor for Culture, the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum, one of Milan’s Museum Houses recognized by the Region, whose great cultural heritage restores not only a timely representation of late 19th-century collecting, but also a cross-section of Milanese society of the time. Through its recognized museums, Lombardy increasingly seeks to give voice to new synergies between the ancient and the contemporary, through temporary exhibitions and installations by artists, photographers and designers. I am pleased to see how the support of Regione Lombardia allows Fondazione Bagatti Valsecchi to stand as a virtuous example of cultural promotion and enhancement in this field as well.”

Image: Vasco Ascolini, Louvre - Paris, 1995, Milan, Pasquale Battista Foundation

Milan, first Milanese exhibition on photographer Vasco Ascolini opens at Museo Bagatti Valsecchi
Milan, first Milanese exhibition on photographer Vasco Ascolini opens at Museo Bagatti Valsecchi

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