Thursday, June 1, 2023

Minerva Contemplates - But is it art?

Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea - Antonio Solà - Minerva, 1939Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea - A bucket collecting water or a work of art?
Left: A statue by Antonio Solà contemplates a pail and some rags at the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome. Right: On closer inspection the pail says "Not a work of art", but who is to say?

We were in Rome for two nights to meet with friends who were visiting from the States. We spent some time with them and then they left the next morning to head back. We instead headed off to explore Rome where we came across the wonderful Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea. It was one of the best museum experiences we had in a long time. The setting and the curation of the pieces were top notch.

The Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (or the National Modern and Contemporary Museum) is located on the edge of the Villa Borghese (a large park). It’s a pleasant walk if you are staying in the center of Rome and are up for it. The gallery was founded in 1883 and as the name says is dedicated to modern and contemporary art.

If you are like us, you might confuse these two terms. Modern art refers to the period extending roughly from the 1860s to the 1970s. Contemporary art is the art of today, produced in the second half of the 20th century or in the 21st century.

On our walk to the museum, there we have beautiful skies one minute and torrential rain the next. We took shelter under trees in Villa Borghese waiting for one squall to pass. But it was worth it. We saw many wonderful pieces at the museum from Albero Burri, Carlo Siviero, Cy Twombly, Emilio Vedova, Filippo di Pisis, Giacomo Balla, Giovanni Fattori, Guilio Aristide Sartorio, Giuseppe Capogrossi, Günther Uecker, Jannis Kounellis, Josef Albers, Lucio Fontana, Renato Guttuso, Richard Long, Tancredi, Tranquillo Cremona – just to name a few.

But the thing that grabbed us the most was something that wasn’t supposed to be art, or was it? It turns out the roof has some leakage problems in this museum and pails with rags were placed at various points in the gallery to catch the water. At first, we thought they were ART and we were looking for the information on the piece. But alas, they weren’t.

In the attached photo, a "real" work of art (a statue) called “Minerva” (1939) by Antonio Solà sits at the edge of room staring at a pail and some rags. On closer inspection, a note at the base of the pail says “Non è un'opera d'arte” translated as “Not a piece of art”. Or was it? Any composition – even if by staff – can be considered art, no?

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