Max Ernst Retrospective At Palazzo Reale In Milan

My mother at the Max Ernst retrospective

I had not planned very far in advance to see Max Ernst’s exhibition at Palazzo Reale; in January, before the sales campaign began, I had a morning off from work and was curious to visit this retrospective.

During the course of my visit, I was able to admire the complex works of the German artist, whose body of work nevertheless needs an in-depth look at the historical and philosophical context in which he lived (I heard a professor who was visiting the exhibition make this very observation), as he is still little known by the general public and may need to be studied in relation to other disciplines as well.

The retrospective traces the entire career of Max Ernst, who is also remembered as one of the greatest intellectuals of the 20th century. He was one of the most cited and controversial artists of his time and his masterpieces are scattered in numerous museums and private collections around the world, mainly in Europe and the United States. The one at Palazzo Reale is the first retrospective about Max Ernst ever staged in Italy; many of the works at the museum have not been viewable for numerous decades, including a series of books and documents collected by the artist that are on display for the very first time.

Both his life and his artistic body of work represent a unique journey through the 20th century, one of the most relevant centuries in history in terms of facts and currents of thought. A century which to this day appears both near and far, but whose major events still influence our lives and our times. The exhibition opens with one of Max Ernst’s most important works, Oedipus Rex (1922), which turned a century old just last year and evidences how fascinated the artist was with both Greek myth and Freudian psychoanalysis.

Oedipus Rex, 1922
Justitia / Butcher’s Shop, 1919

Maria Mulas: Portraits Of The Late 20th Century At Palazzo Reale In Milan

Miuccia Prada, Gianni Versace and Krizia

Last week I visited the Palazzo Reale in Milan on the occasion of a Richard Avedon retrospective, which I will write about in the next weeks. The rooms preceding the retrospective are currently hosting a gallery of portraits taken by photographer Maria Mulas; since photography is my biggest passion, I had already read about this exhibit and was really looking forward to seeing it. The portraits taken by the photographer represent a tribute to great figures in fashion, film, and culture while also including prominent figures from the world of publishing and design.

Maria Mulas started working for her brother, renowned photographer Ugo Mulas, but very soon she developed her own career independently. Taking part in the most important events of the Milanese cultural life in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s brought her into contact with artists, critics, gallery owners, fashion designers, writers, actors and other famous personalities who became the subjects of her portraits.

Her pictures reveal the humanity of her subjects, as they are predominantly shot in an intimate and private dimension; these are the people who characterized Italian cultural life in the last decades of the 20th century and helped make Milan a city of innovation and experimentation.

Maria Mulas was able to listen to the spirit of Milan and helped define the city’s identity on the level of genius and creativity. Her portraits make prominent figures in fashion, film, and literature look more familiar and authentic, thanks to the kindness, sympathy, and selflessness of the photographer, who was able to make her subjects feel at ease. As Domenico Piraina, director of Palazzo Reale, expressed it, “Photography is an eternal presence.”

Maria Mulas: Self-portrait – Milan, 1981
Maria Mulas: Self-Portrait – Milan, 1979
Maria Mulas by Lorenzo Barbieri Hermitte – Milan, 2022

Maria Mulas has always worked as a photographer in the city of Milan, where she arrived in the 1950s (she is originally from Manerba del Garda, a small town in the province of Brescia). The photographer’s series of shots represents a veritable archive of personalities who have intertwined their paths with Milan, playing an important role in its artistic and economic development.


Newton, Riviera At Villa Sauber In Monaco

Shoe, Walter Steiger, Monte-Carlo, 1983

Earlier this month I visited “Newton, Riviera” at Villa Sauber (part of the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco) in Monaco.

I have been loving photography since I was seven-year-old, when I started using a disposable Kodak during school trips, and this passion has grown with me over the years; “Newton, Riviera” was one of the best exhibitions about photography I have ever attended.

The German-born photographer already had ties with the French Riviera and the area around Bordighera, Italy, when he first arrived in Monaco in 1981. He was also a regular at the annual Cannes Film Festival and would spend his summers in Ramatuelle with his wife June.

Moving to Monaco at the age of 61, he was established as one of the greatest fashion photographers of his generation; the period from 1981 until his death in 2004 is one of the most interesting and productive of his career.

Monaco was the ideal setting for Newton’s fashion photographs. The city’s construction sites have often served as backdrop for fashion campaigns and this also gave Newton the chance to take numerous portraits of iconic people like David Bowie, Paloma Picasso and Michael Cimino; some of them were Monaco residents while others were just visiting the city.

He also worked on a series of photographs with stars of the Ballets de Monte-Carlo and the princely family, especially Princess Caroline, a close friend of his.

In Monaco, Newton was fascinated by the elegant way of life and immersed himself in a world of appearances and glamour in which he was both an actor and a privileged witness.

Newton, Riviera at Villa Sauber (NMNM) in Monaco
Princess Stephanie and Princess Caroline photographed by Helmut Newton in Monaco

Throwback Thursday: ’80s Nostalgia At WOW Spazio Fumetto (Comic Art Museum) In Milan

In June 2017 I got to attend a very original exhibition held at WOW Spazio Fumetto (Comic Art Museum) with my friend Rebecca in Milan. It was called “’80s Nostalgia” and focused on the Eighties and their relevance in pop culture.

The ’80s were an incredible decade. We are talking about the years of video-games and Japanese cartoons, the triumph of commercial television, of hit parades and the fantasy movie genre. Nowadays we are living in an era which puts a lot of emphasis on the idealization of the past, so even teenagers and young people are interested in discovering what went on during those days.

This exhibition was not merely an historical, sociological and cultural in-depth study about one of the most controversial decades of the 20th century, but also an entertaining journey meant to rediscover symbols, passions and icons that many people grew up with.

Authentic memorabilia courtesy of private collections and the Fondazione Franco Fossati was included in the exhibition, which was divided in years (1980-1989) and gave an insight on the most relevant aspects of this time. We got to see some iconic pieces like the Rubik’s Cube (which sold 100 million pieces in 1982 only) and the Sony walkman (with its own Bic used to rewind the tape without consuming the batteries); some big panels were documenting pop culture facts and news stories, including music and cinema. We had the possibility to see ’80s toys, video-games, newspaper pages, discs, original movie posters, magazines, comics tables, robots, board games and so on.

My friend Rebecca with Charlie Brown from the Peanuts
L’Ape Maia (Maya the Bee), a popular Japanese cartoon in the 80s

In 1980 Ronald Reagan became President of the United States and the sequel to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, came out. The Buggles’ Video Killed The Radio Star played on the radio, along with AC/DC’s Back in Black album. In Italy there were various music hits that became popular, like Gianni Togni’s Luna and Heather Parisi’s Disco Bambina. Pac-Man was the year’s most played video-game.