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Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna presents works works from the private collection of Ernesto Esposito
Jack Pierson, Cara domani, 1995, 150 x 100 cm., plastic, metal, Bakelite letters.


BOLOGNA.- Continuing in its investigation into the identity and functions of a contemporary museum, which is one of its principal lines of research, the MAMbo – Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna opens its exhibition spaces to offer a critical approach to the junction between the public dimension of a museum and the intimate one of a private collection, presenting the CARA DOMANI opere dalla collezione Ernesto Esposito from 29th September to 2nd December 2012.

The wide-ranging exhibition, curated by Caroline Corbetta, provides an opportunity to showcase for a wider public a selection of works from the private collection of Ernesto Esposito, the internationally-renowned designer of haute couture shoes and owner of a collection of over 900 pieces of contemporary art, one of the most significant at a European level.

The exhibition at the MAMbo explores Esposito’s unusual imagination, leading the gaze of the spectator towards a fascinating journey revealing – as though in a self-portrait in progress – a curious, refined and bold taste, which is not timid but instead gives way to an omnivorous, visceral, devouring desire to the point of compulsiveness.

The exhibition layout itself is not arranged by organic theme or style but in line with a single scenographic itinerary that offers a sense of the kaleidoscopic vitality of the collection, in which masters of contemporary art maintain a dialogue with emerging artists in a surprising continuity.

The narrative of this intellectual and emotive adventure, which is still under way, unfolds in close relation with the museum’s exhibition spaces through a selection of 76 works – comprising paintings, photographs, videos, sculptures and installations – produced by 69 artists of various generations and cultural and geographical areas.

This provides the setting for some of the most interesting developments in painting in recent decades: from the enigmatic stylised figurative work in Alex Katz’s portraits to the obsessively hypnotic signs of Yayoi Kusama, the refined monochrome work with its vibrant texture of Jason Martin, and on to Damien Hirst’s 2007 work, Beautiful Guest Must Dress in Pastel Only for the Picture Painting, from his Spin Painting series.

Similar in the provocative energy they share, originating from the New York scene that exploded at the beginning of the 2000s, are further works by Dan Colen, Terence Koh, Ryan McGinley, Agathe Snow, Dash Snow and Aaron Young, in which the urban youth subcultures are reviewed in a synthesis blending elements of pop, neodada and conceptual art.

The layout of the exhibition also offers surprising interludes of intellectual rigour with seminal works by Joseph Beuys and Joseph Kosuth: an Untitled (Braunkreuz) work from 1962 by the former, with its mystical and symbolic content, and One and three frames by the latter, dating from 1965 and marking the start of a tautological reflection about artistic language that would be continued more than 40 years later by the Claire Fontaine collective with a luminous installation of 2009 called This neon sign was made by…

The contemporary pop scene is the protagonist of the psychedelic atmospheres used by Jim Lambie and the avaf (assume vivid astro focus) collective, while with his installationSan Pellegrino Fountain Rob Pruitt regenerates the banality of everyday consumerism into bubbling joy, transforming the museum’s Sala delle Ciminiere into a public square.

Such milestones in contemporary art as Ides of March, painted by Cy Twombly in 1962, which took abstract expressionism to unreachable levels of playful emotiveness, or Robert Mapplethorpe’s photograph of Ken Moody of 1983, celebrating the perfection of classical anatomical beauty, are counterbalanced by significant works by artists who are still busy today, such as Francesco Vezzoli and Martin Creed – present respectively with a 2009 tapestry, Enjoy the New Fragrance (Lee Miller for Greed), and an installation, Work No. 180; Largo, larghetto, adagio, andante, moderato, allegro, presto, prestissimo (1995-2004).

Distant worlds and stimuli with apparently nothing in common attain a happily eccentric coherence in Ernesto Esposito’s collection, in which can be felt a sense of vitality, albeit veiled by melancholy, which it is hard not to refer in some way to Naples, where the designer was born and has chosen to live.

The inspiration for the MAMbo’s exhibition betrays an affectional reference to the city: Cara domani is the name of the1995 work by Jack Pierson in which the American artist brought together the two words he claimed to have heard most often during a stay in Naples.

Ten plastic, metal and bakelite letters form an expression in which materialises the local character, hovering between courtesy and procrastination, between sentimentalism and resignation.

Naples’s charisma also provided the inspiration for Andy Warhol’s Vesuvius, one of the 18 pictures of the volcano produced in 1985, and the metal assembly by Robert Rauschenberg, Albino Spring Glut (Neapolitan), made from refuse found in the city and put on show in the gallery of Lucio Amelio (Ernesto Esposito’s mentor) for the American artist’s one-man show in 1987.

It was in the lively climate of avant-garde modernity enjoyed in the city, created in part thanks to the activities of gallery-owners like Lucio Amelio, Lia Rumma and Pasquale Trisorio, that the very young Esposito began collecting in the 1960s, after being overwhelmed by a retrospective of Andy Warhol and his Factory that he saw in Paris.

The collection that developed over a period of 40 years reveals the physiognomy of a soul the exhibition curator describes as being “dominated by a totalising passion that has desire as its sole guide” . Constantly evolving, the collection cannot be defined as a group of works collected on the basis of predefined project criteria; rather, its increase in based on sometimes sentimental choices governed by an innate instinct and by an aesthetic sense averse to market fashion and trends.

The collector himself describes his passion thus: “It is an obsession, a bad habit… The more art I possess, the better I feel… I belong to that circle that has lived every day of its life with the unstoppable impulse of having to buy significant works for its collection, which feels art as being a veritable source of happiness, and its collection as a means to spread culture (through temporary exhibitions) in the most topical and personal way possible”.

The selection of works on show also makes it possible to focus on some specific thematic aspects developed by the Istituzione Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Bologna in documenting the most important contemporary art trends in Europe and America, highlighting a significant closeness of intent in orientation and critical intuition with the choices made by the collector. There are many artists who have in recent years been presented in group exhibitions, from Andy Warhol and Matthew Barney to Thomas Ruff and Michelangelo Pistoletto, or in one-man shows, such as that dedicated to Markus Schinwald, the first of its kind in Italy and organised by the GAM in 2006 as part of the Coming Soon MAMbo cycle; another such was that with the American Kelley Walker, protagonist in 2008 of the latest project realised as a pair with Wade Guyton especially for the MAMbo. Alberto Tadiello, Francesco Vezzoli and Vedovamazzei, meanwhile, are included in the exhibition of the museum’s Permanent Collection in the Focus on Italian Contemporary Art section dedicated to the latest generations of Italian art.









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