dimanche 9 décembre 2012

ANNI '30 - The Thirties The Arts In Italy Beyond Fascism

The pamphlet that accompanies the exhibition on Italian art in Fascist Italy is provocative and augurs well for a good two hours of art enjoyment. The exhibition does not deliver all that it promises. Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones contends that far from showing 1930s Italian art as a cauldron of experimentation, it takes the viewer through a “bleak journey into the aesthetic lifelessness of a totalitarian society”.

The day I visited the exhibition (November 24) I overheard snippets of conversation, some of which echoed my own impressions while others seemed unduly harsh. Here is a sample:

I understand that the Fascists didn't have a strict policy on art like the Nazis or Stalin did... No guidelines, no style privileged over another, no particular theme, no explicit political message...strangely liberal for Mussolini.

What happened if the state decided it didn't like a particular work of art?... I'd have been nervous about producing anything and entering any work in those state-sponsored competitions...

They were allowed to experiment but nobody did... So much of it looks like work by other artists from other places...like these Van Gogh-like paintings.

It's worth bearing in mind that what we are seeing was filtered by decisions made by a curator in 2012...

In the end, I'm not sure the exhibition has much to say about Fascism at all, at least not more than it has to say about the limiting effect of employing art as an extension of state... This stuff was not asked to do much and it does very little. Not like those great big, colourful Soviet posters we see from time to time..they're beautiful even if they were ideologically driven and heavy-handed.

If the art had been hung up somewhere and just the dates of the paintings and the names of the artists were posted, I bet that most people would say that this was an exhibition of amateur art in the Depression era in Italy...

My verdict: the little posters punctuating the exhibition which told the personal stories of people who lived through the decade were charming but too many of the paintings lacked “soul” - and perhaps that is what made them representative of the Fascist decade in Italy.

ANNI '30 - The Thirties The Arts In Italy Beyond Fascism is at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence from 22 September 2012 to 27 January 2013

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