Rome's Hospital of the Dolls takes center stage in photo project

From February 18 to March 26, 2002, Crumb Gallery, in Florence, hosts Séléne de Condat's photographic project, L'Hôpital des poupées: 25 shots of the Hospital of Dolls, a small artisan workshop in the heart of Rome where dolls are repaired.

Telling the life and history of theHôpital des poupées, Rome’s doll hospital, are the shots by Sélène de Condat on display at Crumb Gallery in Florence. At the center of the French artist’s work are places, characters, objects, fragments of life; there is the search for time that transforms everything. Just as in other exhibitions, at the Museum of Sewers in Paris (2013), where she presented the last sewers of the French capital, or at the Municipality of Paris (2016) with the images of the éboueurs, the street sweepers, of the Municipalité, Sélène de Condat penetrates the lived experience of cities, of places, through the story of ancient, humble trades and those who practice them.

This time, in Hôpital des poupées, the photographer tells us the story of the Ospedale delle Bambole, a small craft workshop in the heart of Rome, on Via di Ripetta, near Piazza del Popolo, that has existed since 1939. Here Federico Squatriti, heir to the family business, with the skillful help of his mother Gelsomina, over 80 years old, restores dolls of any age: antique, wooden or papier-mâché, pannolenci or porcelain, lead soldiers and marionettes. A craft, too, that is being lost and which, with a cinematic taste cut, Sélène immortalizes forever. The Hospital’s clients are collectors who come from all parts of the world to restore and bring back to life these fascinating objects, and like any patient in a real hospital, each doll is discharged with a diagnostic report indicating the repairs undergone and advice on how to treat it. And, for those who wish, demonstration work sessions can be attended by appointment. In Rome, it is also known as “the store of terror” because of the somewhat eerie atmosphere of the storefront where doll heads, eyes, arms and legs are crowded together, and it is on these details that de Condat’s lens lingers, as if the dolls were human beings.

“These dolls surprised by the camera,” writes Marcelle Padovani in the introduction to the catalog, “had their own life, their own part, their own history, and their own desires, and here they are now handicapped, crippled, aged, sidetracked, and brutally confronted with the idea of their own disintegration, which is nothing but death. Like us. Exactly like us.” The artist subjects us, as if under a magnifying glass, to the dust of time that is layered on the surface of the poupées, in the corners of the workshop that exudes a something magical and sinister at the same time and whose fascination you cannot help but be fascinated by. Sélène de Condat’s photographic work opposes shadows and light, nuance and detail, movement and fragment of the moment. Aesthetically, it is inscribed in the perception of the moment, a theme dear to the philosopher Gaston Bachelard: the photographer’s gaze makes eternal what is destined to become. Places, characters and objects in Sélène de Condat’s photographs are iconic images of fragments of life, space and time in which individual experience and the foundations of Humanity are intermingled.

Each photograph is intended as a fragment of the history of men and women eternalized by the photographic Ars. The choice of black and white, detail, and nuance translate the aesthetic need to plastically construct bodies, monuments, places, objects, and instants in order to preserve their becoming dimension. This search for time that transforms everything is mutatis mutandis fully discerned in the choice of chiaroscuro: a universal language of eternal time, it allows emotions, work, instants of daily life and stages of existence to be made universal.

Twenty-five photographic works, of different formats, will be on display at Crumb Gallery, and the exhibition will be accompanied by a catalog, Collana NoLines, with texts by Rory Cappelli and French journalist Marcelle Padovani, active since the 1970s, who collaborated with Giovanni Falcone on the book Cose di Cosa Nostra, published in 1991 by Rizzoli.

CRUMB GALLERY Via San Gallo, 191 red | 50129 Florence Thursday, Friday and Saturday: 4 to 7 p.m. other days by appointment - tel. + 39 347 3681894


Rome's Hospital of the Dolls takes center stage in photo project
Rome's Hospital of the Dolls takes center stage in photo project

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