by Flaminio Gualdoni, from Not so private. Gallerie e storie dell'arte a Bologna, Edizioni Edisai, Ferrara, 2009 and translated in English by Christina Brumbach

 

After intense learning experiences in the art market field, Franco and Roberta Calarota decided to found the Galleria d'Arte Maggiore in 1978 in Bologna. The late 70s were critical years of transition for the institutionalized art system and for the Italian private art sector. Lack of a structured circuit of public institutions dedicated to classic modern art and contemporary art corresponded with the profound change of statute for art galleries and private exposition centers. Only in 1974 did the Bolognese museum take the full title of Galleria d'Arte Moderna and in 1978 Pac Milanese re-opened after a lengthy closure starting a new season of art museums. Il Castello di Rivoli waited until 1984 to open and Il Pecci di Prato opened in 1988. Alessia Franco e Roberta Calarota The gallery model that was expanding in the 60s was the gallery of trend, and in some cases was not even tied to primary economic gain. Gallery expanding happened for mundane strategical reasons which made it necessary for a cultural action group to endow the instruments needed for competitive mediation in order to bring together one taste and one official culture. And even more so, the conceptual and objective discontinuity of the new artwork, compared to artwork of the past, suggested a diverse image of collectionist, someone “militant” alongside researchers, who recovered the historical pattern – mythicizing in a way – which was embodied by figures like Peggy Guggenheim in Venice immediately after the war. The scene of the decade had changed, moreover indicated in 1969 by an exhibition held at the Galleria Civica of Modena, entitled Prima biennale delle gallerie di tendenza italiane. in which Apollinaire, Ariete, Bertesca, de'Foscherari, Fante di Spade, Gabbiano, Modern Art Agency, Notizie, Nuova Pesa, Polena, Salone Annunciata, Schwarz, Sperone, Stein and Marconi all participated. Additionally, the aggressive quality of art magazines exclusively dedicated to contemporary art, such as “Flash Art” and “Data”, did not have the same rigor or level as the those magazines specialized in classic modern art. Facing the profound change of the artistic system, the awareness that pushed Franco and Roberta Calarota was the fact that the element which threatened unallowable weakness and which threatened to change color without reason was the activity of documentation, knowledge and high-level economic mediation of classic modern art itself. These structures of classic modern art had not evolved to the same degree of sophistication. The premature aging of the historical model for art galleries, which was too often linked to rhetorical characteristics such as evocation in the bourgeois lounge, cultural lighting, outdated framing, and the presentation of artwork as complementary furnishings – prior to presentation for individual worth – risked to drown artistic generations well before their time. These generations were still largely misunderstood despite their extraordinary greatness. foto chi siamoIn the same year, 1978, Giorgio De Chirico disappeared as a misunderstood character. According to expert opinion, he had been over reported in the final seasons of controversy. Only in 1979 did the memorable Venetian exhibition of Giuliano Briganti begin to obtain serious balance of the metaphysical. At the high-cultured Pac, Briganti was genially paired with “Letteratura, arte: miti del '900” by Zeno Birolli and with the fundamental book by Rossana Bossaglia “Novecento italiano: Storia, Documenti, Iconografia”. The following year was the great exhibition at GAM in Bologna, which extended to culture of the 20s and was curated by Renato Barilli and Franco Solmi. In particular “Les Réalismes” by Jean Clair in Pompidou, was used to remind the Italian culture of the value of artists like Sironi and contemporaries in a work that was finally European. Non-improving fate risked the loss of contact with futurism. Awareness of the true importance of Giacomo Balla came only in 1982 and the monumental publication of Giovanni Lista came later than 1986. Futurismo Futurismi by Pontus Hulten held at Palazzo Grassi was the actual and scientific re-evaluation of futurism at the the international level. So by then, futurism could be said to be fully on its way. After a pioneering season of the collectionist generation of classic modern art with Feroldi, Mattioli, Jesi and De Angeli Frua, the two young gallerists still faced the serious risk that spread over the market being marked by provincialization and tending to marginalize without systemic supply. From the standpoint of taste and scientific seriousness, the market was fragile.mostra leoncillo The Galleria Maggiore therefore opened with two exhibitions whose programs were dedicated to two emblematic figures of Italian art of the Twentieth Century. The artists were De Chirico and Balla, which is to say the classic soul and the avant-garde of the century. They were two teachers of excellence who sang the course of decades of Italian and international culture. The idea of the Galleria Maggiore, to paraphrase a great writer, was a “modest proposal,” but full of worthwhile ambition. From the standpoint of immediate worldly importance, if the first initiatives of the gallery did not obtain excellent recognition, it was normal. The gallery was new, but even more so had declared a precise and brand-new vocation that was not immediately perceptible. This vocation was not like the the old standard-bearers of the artistic culture who considered even great artists as mere historical guarantees of generic figuratism. This old artistic culture had not always distinguished between the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries and had been too focused on its own standards to recognize a genius among the artists and then recognize his international worth. The plan of the Galleria Maggiore consisted of analyzing, in continuous activity and with a clear program, these great historical figures with a key of modern international culture, not decorated with “bon-ton” frills that had encrusted them before. The level of quality and actuality was above all shown with the republishing of innovative and pertinent critical readings as well as the lucid contextualization. The Maggiore did not intend to imitate art galleries of the past. Instead in the new art context, it posed itself as an internally structured and influential interlocutor acting as a modern art gallery that followed certain standards. In some ways it also pioneered what would happen in the 80s in the key redefinition of classic modern art. All of this seemed immediately clear in the choices that characterized the first years of activity. After two great exhibitions of the beginning of the Twentieth Century, 1979 aligned Lucio Fontana and Giulio Turcato, two great artists of the later Twentieth Century. In the exposition project taking shape at Maggiore, Fontana, the god of the new avant-garde, was the figure of utmost connection between art “entre deux guerres” in the process of rediscovery and Turcato, the second fervent post-war artist. Turcato, one of the “nipotini di Balla” together with Dorazio and Perilli, was a craftsman during the rediscovery of futuristic teaching after World War II. In those years, he was considered an eccentric figure still undefined critically despite the efforts of Giorgio De Marchis and Italo Mussa. Only later did the 1982 Anthology of Ravenna start to philologically repay Turcato his true historical worth.

Nineteen eighty-one was the time of another key couple, Joan Mirò and Wilfredo Lam. They were individuals of certified international worth. Mirò was viewed in perspective of a historical avant-garde horizon in which the worth of Italian art played a role that was anything but secondary. Lam was the perfect hinge figure because of his frequent Italian presence amongst avant-garde surrealism and dada-surrealism of the following generations. This would later be the case in 1996 and 2002 when Maggiore dedicated exhibitions to the intense and systemic work of another figure linked to this art, Sebastian Matta. To close the first round of a clearly-enunciated and conceptual programming was the famous, and recently disappeared, Marino Marini in 1982. This exhibition was as if to assertively declare the importance of the itinerary of art ranging from the Italian context and spreading all the way to the international horizon, refusing to connect classic modern art to the concluded perspective of the cultural past. Even more, this raised the key vitality for continuity for the art of the living and fully active generations. At this point Maggiore clearly stated its intentions. The intent was the historical avant-garde, both Italian and not, not so much as an artistic myth spent in controversy and conflict with the neoavant-garde, but instead trying to understand the continuation of critical factors more than those of discontinuity. Therefore, Maggiore reserved itself to act in the same environment of “art en train de se faire” and art already in the process of historical approval. In the heart of the 80s, two fundamental exhibitions went in the same direction. The first was dedicated in 1985 to Afro who was an artist given the prestige only today that was due in those years. He was still bound to interpretation in mere terms of Venturian abstract-concretism. All of this limited the behavior for the boundaries of a local controversy between figure and abstraction. And it forgot the extraordinary interlocution of the United States' “Action Planning” in the beginning 50s, which was the activity of New Yorker Betty Parsons. This was a line of profound reassessment of the abstract season, concrete in its international prospects, that with years would bring Maggiore to develop a specific work on other adjoining artists such as Antonio Corpora and Toti Scialoia also dedicated exhibitions in 1991 and 2007. The second exhibition was the following year with Mario Sironi as the protagonist, the real object in those years. He was one of the most conspicuous phenomenons of the rediscovery of critical history. With Sironi, the Twentieth Century culture improved to verify that he was one of the privileged points of investigation for Maggiore. In 1988 the vast exhibitions of Massimo Campigli stood-out and were followed by Ottone Rosai in 1992. In 1993 Filippo De Pisis and Giorgio Morandi (with another exhibition also dedicated in 1998) had dedications, in 1994 Felice Casorati and in 2004 an important tribute was dedicated to De Chirico. Looking beyond the exhibition events, with artists like De Chirico, Morandi and Campigli, the gallery started a systematic activity that was committed to research, rediscovery, and repetition of artwork both in and outside of the commercial circuit. The gallerists pushed themselves until they had an active role in some very important public exhibitions. Such was the case with the “Collection of Morandi” at the Tate Modern in London and at the Musèe d'art Moderne at the Ville de Paris in 2001. This was also the case with the “Collection of Campigli” held at the Permanente in Milan in 2001 and even recently with the De Chirico exhibition held in the same Parisian venue in 2009. The less specifically explored futuristic horizon, nevertheless looked at by Maggiore in 1993 with Gino Severini and in 2000 with Fortunato Depero, was a perspective opening more and more internationally that was increasingly attentive to more artistic generations. This perspective characterized the gallery during the 90s. In this context, it must be mentioned that particular attention was turned towards sculpture. 1994 was the year of the famous exhibition of Arman involving the Gallery and the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza. The gallery and the museum collaborated in a pluriannual program. It was on this occasion that the artist created the legendary Piccin Gari, the ceramic reconstruction of a Topolino car in actual scale, that was one of Arman's most famous works. From this masterpiece and this relationship, over the next five years the La Rampante would be born. It took the form of the accumulation of red bronze Ferrari automobiles placed in front of Imola's racetrack. In 1995, two exhibitions displayed the famous sculptors Louise Nevelson and Henry Moore. In particular the latter of the two was promoted by Galleria Maggiore in partnership with the Bolognese GAM as a great public initiative to put on display five monumental sculptures surrounding Neptune and was situated in the public area of the city. It was a very memorable occasion. There was, already in 1999, the retrospect of Fausto Melotti and in the same year the pluriannual collaboration started with Allen Jones, a charismatic figure of English pop art. The collaboration involved the exposition of Jones' magnificent sculptures made in recent times. In 1999 and 2002 Jones was dedicated two personal exhibitions where the latter of the two was copied from an exhibition curated by Franco and Roberta Calarota held at the Palazzo dei Sette in Orvieto. La Maggiore, in those years, had an intense organizational relation with the Umbrian public exposition venue which produced the exhibitions of Mel Ramos (2001), Davide Benati and Matta (2002), Nino Longobardi and Campigli (2003) and Corpora and Pablo Echaurren (2004). foto gal home The Umbrian program was indicative of the evolution of interests and new prospects that at the time had been adopted by Maggiore. Specializing in activity of certain great artists of the Twentieth Century this coinciding with the beginning of a focus on an eminent image of classic modernism – as was the case with René Magritte in 1997- an opening was created which focused more and more on postwar artists and the younger generation. As already mentioned with the triad Moore, Arman and Nevelson, aside from the profitable work of artists like Corpora and Scialoia, relevant cases carried-out exploration towards the area of pop. In 1997, there was Bengt Lindström with “Arte autre” of the Nordic figure on the one hand and Mel Ramos, introduced in 2001 not only in Bologna but also in Orvieto, on the other. In this environment the gallery also tended to establish an activity specialized in a few selected artists instead of dispersing its concentration amongst the changing tastes. Next came the start of the design and promotion study for Leoncillo Leonardi's work. This took place in the form of exhibitions, with the first held in Bologna in 2002, and above all in the form of the archive opening of general artists which Maggiore expected to see published in the Catalogue Raisonnè. Shortly after but perfectly insync in concept and design was the activity of Mattia Moreni. The artist was another key figure of the great generation following World War II and in the general catalogue he stood next to exhibitions like the 2005 Bolognese and “The Great Anthology” organized by Franco and Roberta Calorota at the Kunsthaus in Aumburgo in 2008, at the cultural center Le Cappuccine in Bagnacavallo and at the ancient Magazzini del Sale in Cervia. In Italy there was finally the revival work of Antoni Clavé, the Catalan-Parisian genius. Clavé embodied one of the highest qualities and was one of the most expressive of the artists of the informal international culture. In 1995 and 2007 there were two exhibitions of cutting-edge anthology which each demonstrated the continuity on the artist's work by Maggiore. “Art vivant” was then said. Also in this case the gallery, following the logic of critical continuation between historical avant-garde and current events, chose, even aristocratically, certain figures of great expressive importance. In 1992, Nino Longobardi was the first artist to form a working relationship with Maggiore. Longobardi was a representative of the famous Neopolitan school and grew together with Lucio Amelio. Amelio was the protagonist of a style of painting and sculpture that contained the living body of the painting at the center. This 1992 exhibition, with two more following in 2003 and 2006, asseverated the active role played by Maggiore in the organization of Longobardi's personal exhibitions at the Galleria Civica in Modena in 2000 and at the previously mentioned Orvieto exhibition in 2003. In 1995, Louis Cane was placed aside Longobardi. Cane was a crucial figure of the French neoavant-garde in which painting played a decisive role. The 1997 highlight exhibition Terrazze by Davide Benati, appearing thin and highly cultured with genial distillation of decorative filigree, gave him a second personal exhibition in 2001. Even more so, the exhibition represented one of the most authentic voices of the generation born in the 70s. In this same perspective, the opening of the second reading of Mario Nanni's work was fitting and so was given by Franco and Roberta Calarota. Nanni's work spread from the informal to the avant-garde of the poor genre in Bologna in the 40s and 60s and was presented by the gallery in a new cycle of his works I giochi della metamofosi. The year 2004 also marked the start of collaborative activity with Pablo Echaurren, one of the most vivid and least reduced among artists in modern Italian art. The Gallery displayed his exhibition which was a replication of his personal exhibition held at Palazzo dei Sette in Orvieto. The collaboration with Fabrizio Plessi was another key to the start of the Twenty-First Century. Three almost consecutive exhibitions were given, one dedicated to historical works in 2003, Digital Stones in 2005 and Videoland in 2006. In recent activity, highlighted as always with rare occasions and conceptual precision, Maggiore has returned to favorite post-war generations displaying the full-bodied personal exhibition of Graham Sutherland in 2007 and, at the end of the same year, of Gerard Schneider.

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