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What is Contemporary? Group exhibition of Contemporary photography and works of art from the past
Left: Signs of a Struggle no. 9, 2003, © Clare Strand Right: Gian Cristoforo Romano, Duchessa Bona di Savoia, 1490/95, basrelief portrait in marble.

LONDON.- Brancolini Grimaldi announces a group exhibition of contemporary photography and works of art from the past. Curated by photographer Domingo Milella and antiques specialist Bruno Botticelli, What is Contemporary? will place work by Dan Holdsworth, Lise Sarfati, Clare Strand and Domingo Milella alongside antique sculpture, painting and artefacts, asking us to think outside of proscribed categories of art and to re-evaluate boundaries imposed by time and place.

The exhibition aims to bring art from different periods into a single span of time, into a continuous dialogue between now and then. What relationship does an unfinished painting of a woman by Jacopo del Mazziere from early 16th century Florence have to a photograph by Lise Safarti? How does the monumental landscape photography of Dan Holdsworth relate to a piece of marble representing the Crucifixion from a Byzantine altar? What does a painting from the front of a cabinet showing a wedding procession from 1400s Perugia tell us about Domingo Milella’s photograph of the tomb of King Midas in Frigia?

When viewed through the long lens of the history of art, photography is still in its infancy. It has only been in existence for around 150 years and its use by artists as a means of expression is an even more recent development. It could be argued that photography is a more contemporary medium than say painting or sculpture. A photograph can be dated and fixed to a time period in a way which other media can escape. So how can it relate to art forms of the past and can it escape its contemporary nature?

The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has explored many of these ideas in his essay, What is the Contemporary?[1]Agamben describes being contemporary as “like being on time for an appointment one cannot but miss.” He goes on to say, “...the key to the modern is hidden in the immemorial and the prehistoric. Thus, the ancient world in its decline turns to the primordial so as to rediscover itself. The avant-garde...also pursues the primitive and the archaic....the entry point to the present necessarily takes the form of an archaeology; an archaeology that does not, however, regress to a historical past, but returns to the part within the present that we are absolutely incapable of living.”

It is these ideas and concepts that the exhibition aims to explore through bringing contemporary photography into dialogue with an unexpected and thought-provoking range of art from antique and medieval times through to Renaissance and more recent periods.

[1] What is the Contemporary? An essay by Giorgio Agamben published in What is An Apparatus?, Stanford University Press, 2009

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