Leave it to the Italians to create a holiday rooted in both their rich Roman history and their Catholic faith. That’s essentially what Ferragosto is, and the Italians celebrate it almost as fiercely as they do Christmas. It started all the way back in 18 BC, when Emperor Augustus introduced the “Feriae Augusti” as a period of rest after long periods of harvest. The August 1 holiday was then moved to August 15, to coincide with a major Catholic red day – the Assumption, believed to be the day Virgin Mary ascended to heaven.
To this day, every year on August 15, across Il Belpaese the beaches and mountains are crowded while the cities are deserted. For some two weeks around this date, virtually everyone in Italy is on holiday. Luckily for art fans, museums and galleries are typically open! If you find yourself in Italy during Ferragosto, and you’re interested in seeing some great artwork, check out our suggestions below.
Oliviero Toscani. Professione fotografo at Palazzo Reale
On 28 February this year, the famed Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani turned 80. His hometown Milan organized a 24-hour exhibition of posters of his images across the city. Now, Palazzo Reale will show more than 800 of his photographs to continue the big birthday festivities.
Toscani is one of the more memorable names in photography. Working mainly in advertising, he has been creating images that are nevertheless quite artistic, conveying a brand or a product without really showing them. Perhaps the most recognizable photographs are the ones made for the United Colors of Benetton campaigns – perfect examples of the way his visual language transcends commercial purposes, and provokes the audiences at the same time.
The exhibition “Oliviero Toscani. Professione fotografo” is on view at Palazzo Reale in Milan through 25 September 2022. You can buy the tickets online.
Aldo Rossi at Museo del Novecento
We’re still in Milan, right next door to Palazzo Reale, at the Museo del Novecento (20th Century Art Museum). There, an exhibition pays homage to one of the most important figures in the Italian visual culture. Another Milanese, Aldo Rossi was an architect and designer who left a great mark in the fields of theory as well.
More than 350 pieces of his furniture and ordinary objects, prototypes and models, paintings, drawings and studies are on display together for the first time ever. The show represents a great overview of a spectacular career of the very first Italian to receive the Pritzker Prize for architecture.
During the exhibition course, the Museo will also offer side events, so make sure to check them out!
“Aldo Rossi. Design 1960-1997” is on view at the Museo del Novecento through 2 October 2022. You can buy the tickets online.
The Voice of the Shadows at MUDEC
To be perfectly honest with you, dear reader, I was never a big fan of MUDEC, Milan’s Museum of Cultures. It always seemed like a commercial venue catering the masses. Nothing wrong with that, but as such the exhibitions always appeared very shallow to me. From the unauthorized Banksy show to the Frida Kahlo blockbuster, there were always good opportunities to see artworks, for sure. However, there was never any real conceptual and/or curatorial depth to any of these.
My perception is now shifting, as the exhibition exploring African presences in Italian art opens. It claims to be “one of the first in Italy dedicated to representation of men and women of African descent and on slavery in northern Italy between 16th and 19th century.” I couldn’t be more excited to see this variety of artworks from both public and private collections. This certainly promises to be a refreshing look at the history of Italian art, and it will be interesting to see how the exhibition deals with such a sensitive topic.
“The Voice of the Shadows. African presences in northern Italy art (XVI – XIX century)” is on view at the Museo delle Culture in Milan through 18 September 2022. You can buy the tickets online.
The Triennale Milano International Exhibition
Going back to the topic of architecture and design. Celebrating 100 years since its foundation is the Triennale Milano International Exhibition. Traditionally, the event will consist of a central thematic exhibition and exhibitions produced by international participants invited by the Government of Italy.
This time, the exhibition will explore space, or rather the “Unknown Unknowns. An Introduction to Mysteries,” as the title suggests. It tries to answer a series of questions about what we still “don’t know we don’t know” in different topics: from the evolution of the cities to the oceans, from genetics to astrophysics. It is curated by Ersilia Vaudo, astrophysicist and Chief Diversity Officer at the ESA European Space Agency. The design of the installations is carried out by architect Francis Kéré.
The 23rd International Exhibition of Triennale Milano is on view through 11 December 2022. You can buy your ticket at the venue.
We are the revolution at CAMERA
An exciting exhibition is taking place at Turin’s CAMERA, showing how life and art, especially photography, intertwined during the first half of the Years of Lead (“Anni di piombo” in Italian). The turbulent period of civil and political unrest left a mark on the society still recovering from WW II, impacting all forms of art as it went on.
“La rivoluzione siamo noi. Arte in Italia 1967–1977” puts on display a rich archive of 150 images. These document the incredible artistic production of the period, from the birth of Arte Povera in Turin to the underground exhibitions of both Italian and international artists we know and love in Rome and Naples. The exhibition aims to provide a marvelous overview of the way Italy embraced avant-garde art in quite a unique way.
“La rivoluzione siamo noi. Arte in Italia 1967-1977” is on view at CAMERA in Turin through 2 October 2022. You can buy your tickets at the venue or online.
Gianni Berengo Gardin at MAXXI Rome
We move on to Rome, where MAXXI has mounted an exhibition of yet another master of photography. More than 200 images show the anthropological, yet artistic research of one Gianni Berengo Gardin, from the most famous to the never-before-seen shots.
The show title “The eye as vocation” is perhaps the perfect way to describe Berengo Gardin, who always claimed to be “an artisanal photographer,” rather than an artist. The oeuvre presented in the capital spans the years between the end of WW II to today, a wonderful visual heritage to Italy. His protagonists are the people: industry workers, intellectuals, psychiatry patients, gypsies, stars of the everyday life. They might be candid shots in essence, but one simply cannot miss the simple, yet immensely strong artistic quality of these images – the way only Berengo Gardin knows.
“Gianni Berengo Gardin. The eye as vocation” is on view at MAXXI in Rome through 18 September 2022. You can buy the tickets at the venue or online.
INTERTWINGLED at La Galleria Nazionale Rome
At Rome’s National Gallery, an exhibition is exploring rugs and tapestries in a new light. Just as the way threads and fabrics entwine and make up the structure of a rug, our society is defined by the complexity of interconnections, across all fields of life. Furthermore, the artworks on view here guide us through the conceptual realms such as nomadism, real estate, or decentralized power, all through the media of textile.
See more than 80 works of painting, photography, design, and craftwork, including those by notable names such as Carla Accardi, Eduardo Chillida, Jiri Kolar or Ettore Sottsass. Notably, there will be Alighiero Boetti’s iconic “Mappa” from 1989, as well as tapestries, carpets and handkerchiefs made by Afghan women.
“INTERTWINGLED – The Role of the Rug in Arts, Crafts and Design” is on view at Rome’s National Gallery through 4 September 2022. You can buy the tickets at the venue or online.
Sean Scully at MAMbo Bologna
The renowned Irish painter Sean Scilly returns to Bologna after 26 years, with an exhibition at MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna. A total of 68 exhibited works, among which oil paintings, acrylics, watercolors, drawings and a monumental sculpture, are shown. One of the highlights is surely “Opulent Ascension” from 2019, shown in Venice on the occasion of the previous Art Biennale – a marvelous tower made of felt.
Scully’s artistic practice was initially rooted in figuration, but his transition into abstraction was swift and memorable, to say the least. He continues to be one of the most important figures in abstract art, yet his most recent series of works marks a return to figurative painting. Titled “Madonna,” the paintings depict the artist’s wife and son as they play with sand.
“Sean Scully. A Wound in a Dance with Love” is on view at MAMbo in Bologna through 9 October 2022. You can buy your ticket online.