This exhibition, devoted to Lucio Amelio (1931-1994) on the twentieth anniversary of his death and organised in collaboration with the Archivio Amelio, recounts the story of one of the unquestioned protagonists of contemporary art, who helped make Naples one of the most important centers of artistic production and reflection in recent decades, both nationally and internationally. But it is also the story of the many artists, collaborators and traveling companions who shared their researches with Amelio. And it is in some ways also the story that has led to the existence of a museum such as the Madre today.
In 1965 the opening at Parco Margherita of Lucio Amelio’s Modern Art Agency, devoted to the most experimental artistic languages and practices, helped radically transform the artistic debate under way in a period notable for the activities of galleries such as Il Centro (run by Renato Bacarelli and Dina Carola), critics and curators such as Filiberto Menna, Germano Celant, Achille Bonito Oliva, and patrons and collectors such as, at that time, Vittorio Baratti, Peppino Di Bennardo, Renato and Liliana Esposito, Graziella Lonardi Buontempo, Giuseppe Morra, Pasquale Trisorio or Marcello and Lia Rumma. The last two were the promoters of an extraordinary event, the three editions (1966-1968) of the Rassegna di Amalfi, which came to an end in 1968 with the three days of Arte povera + azioni povere. This discourse was to unfold in Amelio’s activities all through the 1970s, with the production of public art projects, support for major institutional exhibitions, including those at Villa Pignatelli and the Reggia di Capodimonte, an intense publishing activity and the organization of solo and group exhibitions which were often pioneering and seminal, marking the emergence of Arte Povera and the Transavanguardia, among other movements, exploring the relations between American and European art (exemplarily represented in the gallery’s program by the relations between Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys), and delineating research that ranged from conceptual practices to performance, from photography to film and theater, and from literature to sound. Without forgetting a constant concern for the Neapolitan art scene and the “New Creativity in the South,” the practices of feminism and the definitions of gender, down to the critical debate about the role of art institutions, influenced by the activity in the late 1960s and early 1970s of the Galleria Inesistente, founded in 1969, whose history was interlaced on various occasions with Amelio’s gallery, which had become a symbol of a contemporary art system whose foundations were being laid in Naples at that time. The institution of the Amelio Foundation on November 20, 1982, would mark the genesis of another important chapter in this story, both artistic and institutional, namely the project Terrae Motus: a collection in progress conceived to stimulate the reaction by some of the most important artists of the period to the devastating earthquake in Irpinia (November 23, 1980). Terrae Motus confirmed the active and direct involvement of art in the social, civic and cultural context increasingly sought by Amelio, who significantly, towards the end of his activities, conceived around the Terrae Motus collection, now on display at the Reggia di Caserta and an ideal continuation of this exhibition, a veritable museum located in a wing of the monastery of Santa Lucia al Monte, endowed with its own collection as well as exhibition rooms, spaces for residencies and educational activities, workshops and a library. The projects of this museum devised by Lucio Amelio for Naples, symbolically open and close the exhibition at the Madre, together with the collection of all the invitations, from the Modern Art Agency to the Galleria Lucio Amelio. A figure of primary importance on the art scene in Naples, as well as nationally and internationally, Lucio Amelio is still a source of great inspiration today, in his constant search for a close involvement between art and the community to which the Madre partly owes the very reason for its existence as a conscious and responsible witness to this intellectual and institutional heritage.
The exhibition, which focuses on the years 1965 to 1982 (namely the founding years of a method and a vision of art that culminated in the establishment of the Amelio Foundation and the genesis of Terrae Motus), presents major works by over fifty artists, the result of meticulous archival research into the exhibitions organized by Amelio, together with impressive documentation consisting of a selection of more than five hundred historical documents, many now exhibited for the first time, from the Amelio Archives and other public and private collections: autograph letters, exhibition projects and drawings of exhibit designs, photographs, invitations, posters, books, catalogs, brochures, limited editions, architectural and engineering projects.
The first rooms document research into the relations between Abstract and Figurative in the late sixties (with works by, among others, Renato Barisani, Bruno Di Bello, Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni and Paolo Scheggi, down to the subsequent collaboration with Alberto Burri, culminating in the presentation of Grande Cretto Nero in Capodimonte in 1978). This is followed by the galleries devoted to the Arte Povera artists, presenting fundamental works by Pierpaolo Calzolari, Luciano Fabro, Mario and Marisa Merz, Giulio Paolini, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Gilberto Zorio, among many others, starting from the reconstruction of the exhibition by Jannis Kounellis which, in 1969, inaugurated the gallery’s premises in Piazza dei Martiri and also marked a turning point in its planning. This section is developed in the following rooms with works and documents devoted to the “New Creativity in the South” and research into performance art and theater (Vito Acconci, Lea Lublin, Charlemagne Palestine, Gruppo XX, Falso Movimento and the Teatro Studio di Caserta), conceptual research (with an unusual presentation of works on paper by James Lee Byars, together with works by Daniel Buren and Dan Graham), the galleries devoted to Pop Art and Beuys’s “revolutionary” and “social” sculpture. Also exhibited, together with portraits, drawings and multiples, are two works symbolizing of the collection Terrae Motus created before 1982: Andy Warhol’s Fate Presto (“Hurry”), 1981, inspired by the cover of Il Mattino for November 26, 1980, and Joseph Beuys’s Terremoto in Palazzo (“Earthquake at the Palace”), 1981. The second part of the exhibition is articulated around key works by artists such as Francesco Clemente, Mimmo Paladino, Nicola De Maria, Nino Longobardi, Luigi Ontani, Ernesto Tatafiore, set alongside works by Tony Cragg, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerard Richter and Cy Twombly. The exhibition walkthrough is brought to an end on the third floor by a selection of photographic and filmic works by, among others, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Fabio Donato, General Idea, Gilbert & George, David Hockney, Mimmo Jodice, Wilhelm Von Gloeden, and a large documentation gallery that includes a portrait of Amelio by Mario Schifano related to the start of the project Terrae Motus. Finally, within the ambit of the exhibition, the gallery that dominates the museum’s second courtyard presents Delle distanze dalla rappresentazione (“Of the Distances from Representation”, 1969), an environmental installation by Carlo Alfano acquired in 2013, together with the work by Nino Longobardi, Terrae Motus, 1980, and now belonging to the Madre’s permanent collection.