A tribute to Ettore Spalletti

Preview of spring program 2014: Ettore Spalletti, in partnership with GAM, Turin and MAXXI, Rome.

An extraordinary occasion in which three of the most important Italian public institutions dedicated to contemporary art come together to pay tribute, in the spring of 2014, to one of the main figures in Italian art of recent time. The exhibition to take place in three venues and dedicated to the work of Ettore Spalletti (born in 1940 in Cappelle sul Tavo where he lives and works) is a partnership between MAXXI – National Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome, GAM – Gallery of Modern Art in Turin and MADRE – Museum of Contemporary Art Donnaregina of Naples. The uniqueness of the project lies in the synergy between the three museums, which will work together to unite the north, centre and south of our country, creating a complex and plural institutional scenario. The result, for the first time in Italy, is an action plan capable of promoting and enriching ambitious cultural projects in favour of Italian art, both nationally and internationally.

Exposure arises from the desire to show the variety, complexity and depth of the artistic practice of Ettore Spalletti, who in a period spanning forty years, has experienced some of the most significant moments in the history of international art, maintaining a status that is absolutely individual and developing a language capable of putting contemporary and classic elements in dialogue with each other. The three exhibitions will form the chapters of a perfect trip to Italy to visit Turin, Rome and Naples and it has all been conceived by the artist in close dialogue with the specificity of each museum context. Taken together, the exhibitions will describe all aspects of the works of Spalletti – from painting to sculpture to environmental installations – within exhibition routes that will feature historical as well as recent and unseen works, eliminating the idea of a chronological approach to art and the way of describing it. Each show will open within a few weeks of the other, covering a time period which will see the more recent large environmental installations at MAXXI as well as others specially designed for this occasion, a wide selection of works from the studio of the artist and major private collections at GAM and a detailed historical overview at MADRE that will trace the creative adventure of Spalletti, from his beginnings in the mid-seventies up until today.

The art of Ettore Spalletti cuts through the boundaries between painting, sculpture and space, changing colour and geometry into an intense perceptual experience. The simplicity of the shapes that the artist uses creates a tension between the daily and domestic experience – with the profile of a mountain to the archetypal forms of the house and utensils such as vases- and a metaphysical horizon of vision, in which the singular data becomes universal. The same is true for the colours dear to the artist, from fleshy pink to sky blue to absolute white: their choice draws a trajectory that combines the history of depiction with that of abstraction, the individuality of the physical sensation with ideal comprehension, thus creating a synthesis between colours of nature and rational shapes. The relationship that Ettore Spalletti establishes between his works and the display space puts the specificity of the place that we find in the frescoes of the Italian Renaissance in contact with the history of the Second World War and his idea of art as a space and place, from Lucio Fontana to Giorgio Morandi up to the Minimalist and Post-Minimalist tradition.

In the art of Ettore Spalletti, that which is visual becomes tactile and viceversa: but not only, colour in fact is conceived in a sculptural manner as shape, substance and volume, but the idea of painting is extended to space, as the articulation of floors and presence of objects. In this sense, the choice of wood as the primary media for the colour mixes instead of the traditional canvas reveals a concept of painting that goes beyond the principle of representation and aims to create a place that is both physical and mental. The same materials – such as the many marble and alabaster pieces or tissue paper – are explored for their chromatic quality before their sculptural aspect, in a continuous transition between surface and depth, density and dematerialisation. The work of Ettore Spalletti can be summed up as a place where the most fruitful experiences in existence – such as contemplation of the landscape, the perception of the house and human contact – find a higher form of understanding, an intelligence of vision that includes the other senses and sublimates them.

The partnership between GAM, MADRE and MAXXI and will be accompanied by a publication by Electa that traces the entire career of the artist, with new critical texts by Carlos Basualdo, Danilo Eccher, Gabriele Guercio, Anna Mattirolo, Gloria Moure Cao, Alessandro Rabottini, Andrea Viliani. The catalogue will also include an extensive anthology of texts, published between 1991 and 2006, retracing some of the most significant moments of critical literature on the works of Spalletti.

Ettore Spalletti has exhibited in major museums around the world, both in group and solo exhibitions. In addition to having represented Italy at the Venice Biennale in 1997, the artist took part in three other editions of the same event in 1982, 1993 and 1995 and in two editions of Documenta in Kassel in 1982 and 1993. His solo shows were at Museum Folkwang in Essen(1983), De Appel in Amsterdam and Portikus in Frankfurt (1989), Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1991), IVAM in Valencia (1992), Villa Arson in Nice (1993), South London Gallery and the MUHKA in Antwerp (1995), Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon (1996), Musée de Strasbourg and Museo di Capodimonte (1999), Fundación “la Caixa” in Madrid (2000), Henry Moore Institute in Leeds (2005), ’Accademia di Francia – Villa Medici in Rome (2006), Museum Kurhaus di Kleve (2009) and Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna di Roma (2010).