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Museo Archeologico Regionale Antonino Salinas displays works by Evgeny Antufiev
Evgeny Antufiev, Untitled, 2015. Wood, 40 x 120 cm.

PALERMO.- The exhibition, curated by Giusi Diana, marks the collaboration between one of the most prestigious archaeological museums in the Mediterranean area and an important Italian private cultural institution devoted to contemporary art which was the first to bring the artist in Italy with a large exhibition in 2013 and continues to support his research.

The exhibition has been included in the Collateral Events of Manifesta 12 and represents an ideal link with the last edition of Manifesta 11, held in Zurich in 2016, where Antufiev, invited by curator Christian Jankowski, showed the complex installation, Eternal Garden, in Wasserkirche near Helmhaus and other works in the first floor of Löwenbräukunst.

The Archaeological Museum Salinas, the oldest in Sicily, is the most important public museum institution devoted to Greek and Punic art in Sicily. As stated by Francesca Spatafora, the Museum director: “The purported detachment between the art from the past and the art of the present is only a misperception. As archaeological museum we guide visitors towards the erasing of this bias through the works of contemporary artists helping us to redefine the relationship with the artworks from antiquity through a novel awareness.”

This statement is in line with Antufiev’s words: “Only our obstinate will to discover something new, to feel different from what has preceded us, makes us believe that there are an ancient art and a contemporary art. Perhaps there are dead artists and living artists […] but art is exactly what goes beyond the artist, his mere existence. Art is, in essence, only the work.”

Evgeny Antufiev’s works alongside the exhibition itinerary of the archaeological museum, intends to bring this approach to a fascinating and stimulating assessment. In this way the exhibition offers us a special revisitation of the very concept of archaeological collection becoming the premise and the extension of a contemporary artist. According to this vision, the archaeological museum becomes a real museum of contemporary art, because – in Antufiev’s words – “We are contemporary of all the art that has seen the light and has been preserved.”

The display itinerary of the exhibition develops alongside the Chiostro Maggiore – the Big Cloister – under the loggia and inside the garden, to expand to the entire ground floor and to the recently inaugurated Agorà; in a sort of dialogue and counterpoint with the museum artifacts and finds, including the group of the lion-shaped eaves of the Victory Temple of Himera and the large mask of the Gorgon.

Thirty works are on display: from carved wood sculptures, castings, terracottas, all formally linked to symbolic images, found in religious and pagan rituals pertaining to archaic cultures. Special relevance is given to funerary iconography which Antufiev explores and reanimates with his personal gaze, by unfolding an “evoked immortality”, a core element in all his artistic research.

In the last few years Antufiev has explored Magna Grecia and Etruscan cultures in Tuscany, Lazio and Sicily, by starting an interesting manufacturing of ceramic works in Italy - during a residence at the Zauli Museum – experimenting with different earths and firings, creating special patinas made only with organic materials. These artifacts will also be present in the exhibition.

The ceramics – like the objects in carved wood – play with special textures: oxidized and/or aged surfaces, evoking old discoveries which seem to us a “gift” found amidst the landscape, thus becoming part of Nature itself. The formal outcome is absolutely unique, intriguing and maze-like: his works take on hybrid identities, capable of generating resonances between diverse worlds and cultures, but inevitably filtered by the visual culture of his country of origin (Siberia) and Russia’s handcraft tradition in his work with materials.

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