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"Santiago Calatrava: The Metamorphosis of Space" on view at the Braccio di Carlo Magno
Cascade, s. d. Legno di palissandro, cm 65 x 15 x 68 Proprietà Studio Calatrava © Santiago Calatrava.

ROME.- Santiago Calatrava: The Metamorphosis of Space exhibition is on view in the monumental spaces of the Braccio di Carlo Magno. The exhibition will be open until February 20, 2014.

The exhibition, sponsored by the Vatican Museums and the Pontifical Council for Culture, and curated by Micol Forti (Curator of the Collection of Contemporary Art of the Vatican Museums), presents a collection of approximately 140 works of art to the public, showing the complex and multiform artistic productions of the famous Spanish architect and engineer.

The selected core of architectural models is accompanied by the corresponding preparatory studies, but also by watercolor paintings, which were generated by a creative inspiration completely independent from the genesis of the same projects. In addition, there is a rich anthology of sculptures, both monumental and in a more reduced size, made out of bronze, marble, alabaster, and wood.

The combination of works pertaining to different artistic codes, although closely related, directs the observer's gaze to different levels of interpretation of the architectural volumes, and of the vision of space and shapes, typical characteristics of Calatrava's artistic path.

The great model of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in New York City, adjacent to the site of the former World Trade Center, is placed next to striking watercolor drawings where the artist's gaze wanders from the studies of mosaics and Hagia Sophia cupolas in Istanbul, to the blossoming of a camellia, and from the arch drawn by the weight of a palm leaf to the face of Christ, an ideal model for the centrally designed church.

The splendid twisting sails that give life to the project of the Roma Palasport, for the University of Tor Vergata, are placed next to three wonderful paintings of crouched figures: an almost unexpressed, contained, dynamic tension in the study of the balance among forces.

The uprightness of the Malmö Towers or of Chicago is reflected in the unsteady balance of the sculptures matched with them.

The reflection on the human face finds completeness in the roundedness of the marble and alabaster sculptures, in the contained shape of the Opera House of Tenerife, which seems to dissolve into the transparency of the colored surfaces of a series of geometrical watercolors.

The movement is real when, like a flower's petals, it opens the links composing two coiling bronze columns; when it modifies the chromatic shades of the Moving Painting; when it climbs over the void with the torsion of the Buenos Aires Bridge. It is a visionary movement, but not less real for this reason, in the twist of the horns of the gathered bulls, in the dry branches of a dark forest, or in bodies which delineate physical, psychological, and spiritual spaces with their gestures.

Besides the new St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, the exhibition also features the splendid plastic model of the daring project for St. John the Divine, also in New York. The magnificence of this extraordinary idea of sacred space that converges with and in nature is counterbalanced by the model for the Los Angeles Chapel, consecrated to Father Junipero, a Franciscan friar who was sent to the Baja California missions in 1767. The hut, the first church built by the small community, is the model for a chapel immersed into space, water, and air; its non-walls open up to the outside, lifting up, like the leafy branches of a tree, rejecting every physical boundary between the sacred space and the community.

The catalog for Edizioni Musei Vaticani is introduced by Antonio Paolucci, Director of the Vatican Museums, with contributions from Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture; Antonella Greco, full Professor of History of Architecture of the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Rome, La Sapienza; and Micol Forti, curator of the Contemporary Art Collection of the Vatican Museums.

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