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Portraits of Major Artists by Important Italian Photographers at the Estorick Collection
Aurelio Amendola, Giorgio de Chirico, Venice, 1972. Colour print, 40 x 40 cm.

LONDON.- United Artists of Italy, an exhibition of portraits of some of the 20th century’s best-known artists by twenty-two leading Italian photographers, will be staged at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, 39a Canonbury Square , London N1, from Wednesday 22 June to Sunday 4 September 2011. The exhibition, comprising around 90 photographs of artists including De Chirico, Fontana and Morandi by such photographers as Mario Giacomelli, Mimmo Jodice and Gianni Berengo Gardin, tells the story of the Italian contemporary art scene from the 1960s.

This rich group of photographs has been assembled over many years by Massimo Minini. He was born in Vallecamonica, near Brescia . From 1964 to 1968, he studied law, but he was drawn to a career in art and worked for Flash Art from 1971 to 1973, when he opened his own contemporary gallery in Brescia . He also has a long-standing interest in prehistory and archaeology, having spent two summers on archaeological digs around Vallecamonica in his youth.

Minini’s strong personal interest in the subject of this exhibition grew through his contact with the photographers who welcomed and supported the project. His has been a journey into the world of photography, an expedition through archives, boxes, films and files which has resulted in a unique anthology of Italian photographers’ portraits that Minini conceived as an international exhibition. The accompanying publication, also entitled United Artists of Italy, is published by Photology, Milan 2011, with texts by UK curator Gabriele Magnani, Stefano Boeri and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Lorand Hegyi, Massimo Minini and Pier Luigi Tazzi.

While Minini’s initial plan was to select only portraits of artists, in time the project broadened and began to embrace portraits of writers such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Italo Calvino and Alberto Moravia, as well as a number of foreign artists. In addition, there are portraits of some of Italy ’s most important gallery owners such as Lucio Amelio and Leo Castelli. These brilliant portraits are by no means conventional ‘studio portraits’ as this exhibition reveals.

United Artists of Italy shows a cross-section of Italian photography spanning more than thirty years, revealing the extraordinary skills of the photographers while at the same time paying homage to the great artists who are the subjects. The photographs present a history of contemporary art and artists not through their art works but through faces, poses and expressions. The most striking portraits capture the spirit of the times but this is more than just a simple collection of chronological images. Different facets of the artists’ characters are revealed by different photographers. For example, Aurelio Amendola’s portrait of De Chirico reveals an elderly, passive and bemused man, while Claudio Abate’s image of Pino Pascali captures the artist in playful mood, engaging with his own work. At other times, photographers train their lenses on one another – as in Berengo Gardin’s candid study of Ugo Mulas, or Mario Dondero’s intimate portrait of Elisabetta Catalano.

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