A few days ago I had the opportunity to visit the Andy Warhol retrospective at La Fabbrica del Vapore in Milan. For me and my friend Ali, who accompanied me, it was an opportunity to spend a morning immersed in the artistic universe of Andy Warhol, who has always been one of my favorite artists and whose work I had already seen on display at MoMa in NYC.
It had been ten years since the last art exhibition dedicated to Andy Warhol in Milan (his works have been showcased in the city on several occasions in the past decades), and for this retrospective there were more than 300 works by the artist, many of them previously unseen. The exhibition reconstructs the various historical periods in which he was a protagonist of the art scene, spanning the fields of fashion and visual arts. It starts from the period of the 1950s, in which Andy Warhol began a brilliant career as a graphic designer, through the 1960s, in which much of his most famous artistic production takes place (Campbell’s Soup Cans date from that period of time, but also portraits such as that of Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor). The 1970s and 1980s were a decisive and very interesting time for Andy Warhol’s career, as I am currently having the opportunity to read in The Andy Warhol Diaries edited by Pat Hackett and published by Penguin Classics; through Warhol’s voice you get to have a glimpse at the famous personalities of the era, including fashion designers, socialites and contributors to Interview, a pop culture magazine founded by the artist himself and still on newsstands today. In the Diaries, Warhol kept track of his personal expenses, expressed his opinions and feelings about many events of those years, characterized by hard work, parties and social events, as well as important collaborations with legendary artists such as Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat. I have almost finished reading Andy Warhol’s Diaries and I highly recommend them to everyone because I enjoyed their humor, the way they were structured, and his view of the 1980s Manhattan social scene. They are very long (more than 1100 pages) but I find them compelling in many different ways.
In the 1950s Andy Warhol made his debut on the New York art scene; a graduate of the Carnegie Institute in his hometown of Pittsburgh, he moved to Manhattan to begin his career. His talents were immediately expressed through his early work as an illustrator and advertising graphic designer for magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and The New Yorker, sparking a revolution in the world of advertising (a medium increasingly present in people’s daily lives) and transforming the work of art into a consumer product.
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.
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 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.
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.
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