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Saturday, October 6, 2018

Palazzo Barberini Opens Up with Show Juxtaposing Renaissance and Contemporary Art

Giulio Paolini's contemporary "Eco nel vuoto" (Echo in the void)
 in the same room as Caravaggio's "Narciso" (Narcissus) (1597-99) (also below right).
Palazzo Barberini - that staid old lady in the Centro housing major Renaissance paintings and sculpture - has something new to offer. Following an accord between the Ministers of Cultural Heritage and Defense, the entire South wing of the building, comprising 10 rooms and a small chapel, has been turned over to public use.

From 1934 until this agreement in 2015, the "circolo" - or social center - for the Armed Forces occupied these rooms, perhaps not their highest and best use. We saw some of these odd uses when we highlighted the grounds of the Barberini in a 2014 post. Pursuant to this unusual agreement, the Defense Ministry contributed almost €2 million (about $2.3 million). And they get to use the rooms for 40 days/year - for "reasons of high representation."

That curious story aside, the rooms are magnificent and the opening show - which closes at the end of this month (Oct. 28), is a great one with which to open the South wing. Titled Eco e Narciso ("Echo and Narcissus"), it's a creatively curated matching of Barberini Renaissance works and contemporary pieces. I admit, I'm a sucker for that type of juxtaposition dating from when I saw a show entitled "Antiques in the Modern Home" - or something like that - in the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence in the 1960s.
Bernini's sculpture of Pope Urban VIII flanked by Yan Pei-Ming's
paintings of Pope John Paul II (2005) and Mao (1999?)

Paired for example are Gian Lorenzo Bernini's sculpture of.Pope Urban VIII (Cardinal.Francesco Barberini) with paintings of Pope John Paul II and Mao by Yan Pei-Ming; Renaissance paintings of women with Kiki Smith's sculptures; a room richly frescoed by Pietro da Cortona with Luigi Ontani's "Le Ore" ("The Hours").
Ontani's "Le Ore" (1975) in the large salon with
 da Cortona's ceiling fresco, "Allegory of Divine
 Providence"  (and Barberini Power), 1633-36.

The theme is portraiture and self-portraiture, and certainly Ontani about whom we've written before, fits the "Narcissus" theme.

Signature works by Caravaggio and Raphael are also prominent in this show, which features 19 more masterpieces from the collection of the Gallerie Nazionali, in dialogue with 17 contemporary works from MAXXI or loans, with three works realised for the occasion (including 2 for which there are photos here - by Giulio Paolini (top photo) and Yinka Shonibare (last photo).
Ontani again.

The juxtaposition of works was created by a Renaissance art curator and a contemporary art one: Flaminia Gennari Santori, of the Barberini/Corsini galleries, and Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, director of the 21st- century MaXXI Arte.  There's another piece to the show at MAXXI, featuring one Renaissance and one contemporary work.
Kiki Smith's "Large Dessert" (2004-05) against the backdrop of female portraits
by Rosalba Carriera and Benedetto Luti (both late 17th to early 18th centuries).

After the current show closes, the entire collection will be re-arranged. For those familiar with the Barberini, this likely is welcome news.  For those of us who visit intermittently, we probably won't notice the difference, except for one change - visitors now will enter on the Bernini stairs and descend on the magnificent Borromini stairs (left), until now closed to the public.  

More pictures of the show below. 

Pierre Subleyras, "Nude from behind," 18th century, paired with
Stefano Arienti's piece below.

Arienti's "SBQR, netnude, gayscape,
orsiitaliani..." 2000.

Yinka Shonibare's "The Invisible Man" (2018) with Marco Benefial's "Portrait of the Quarantotti Family (The missionary's family)" 1735.

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