Rome Travel Guide

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Home is where the art is: "in situ" from Rome to Los Angeles

The wall-to-wall art displays in Renaissance Roman palazzi never cease to amaze us. That there are collections still in place is more amazing still.

The first time I can recall seeing one of these "my art tops your art" excesses was the Pitti Palace in Florence. And one of the Rome ones we saw recently for the first time is Galleria Colonna very close to the busy Piazza Venezia (and the wax museum). Inured as we are to Renaissance excess, Galleria Colonna is a stunner. Perhaps because it doesn't have blockbuster pieces that people come to see, ignoring the rest, we were enthralled. Maybe too because it's only open for a few hours on Saturdays (and not all of those either, as we painfully discovered), it seems exclusive. Adding charm as well is the cannonball remaining on the interior steps of the Galleria, where it landed when shot thru the Palazzo Colonna wall in 1849. The cannon belonged to the French who were then besieging Rome to take it back for the Pope after it has been claimed by the Garibaldi forces; the French and Papacy won that one, but lost for good in 1870. (click on the British flag at the bottom right for English)

In keeping with our theme of Los Angeles/Rome comparisons, the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation museum, which we recently toured seemed to us a modern version of art-in-every-room-of-your-house, and on every wall and surface. It too has an exclusivity, since tours are only for a few mid-day hours Monday-Friday and you must be accompanied by a docent for the hour and 40 minutes, as well as make a reservation ahead of time (and arrive only within 5 minutes of that; waiting on the streets of the exclusive Holmby Hills, just west of Beverly Hills, is prohibited). Weisman has some blockbusters too, and some Italians, including an interesting, relatively colorful DeChirico and several Giacomettis. (photos of the interior generally are not permitted; best we could do is this photo of the "sun room"; the website has good photos of the rooms)

Art put in place by collectors must drive curators nuts. And we have to admit having only a sheet of paper with names of the works of art and the artists by room - where you have to hunt for the works - can be frustrating. But there's also something pleasurable about the surprise and even idiosyncracy of the vision of a self-educated collector. Seeing Giacomettis next to flowered chintz overstuffed chairs (the Weismans kept the furniture in the house as they bought it - tho' why one can only guess). One of the stories we heard about Weisman is that he kept a hammer and nails beside his bed - and would wake up in the night and move the paintings around. Another tidbit - Frederick Weisman is the father of Richard Weisman, from whose LA home millions of dollars worth of Warhols were stolen last week.

We encourage suggestions for everyone's favorite "private" gallery in Rome (or even elsewhere - the Frick in NYC?) - Doria Pamphili? Spada? Palazzo Corsini in Trastevere?

Dianne (title by Bill)

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