On Friday, September 10, Museo Novecento presents the exhibition Arturo Martini and Carrara. Woman swimming underwater, curated by Lucia Mannini with Eva Francioli and Stefania Rispoli, set up in the museum’s ground floor rooms and open until November 14, 2021.
The exhibition, which was born as a section within the exhibition Arturo Martini and Florence, is dedicated to that special relationship that Martini, like many other sculptors, had with the Apuan Alps, where statuary marble was extracted from the times of ancient Rome, preferred by artists for its purity and brightness. The link between the sculptors of the twentieth century and the Versilian area is therefore renewed within this new exhibition project, which ideally follows the one just concluded and intended to investigate the relationship between Henry Moore and Tuscany. In fact, it was in Versilia that the British sculptor came into contact with that enormous tradition of craftsmanship and artistic knowledge preserved in the hands of stonecutters and quarrymen. The fascination for the landscape of the Apuan quarries and for the healthy serenity of the coast between Forte dei Marmi and Carrara contributed to creating a lasting partnership between Moore and the local artistic and intellectual community.
“Museo Novecento has conquered its position of scientific importance in recent years with a series of projects that, one after the other or at the same time, talk to each other”, says Sergio Risaliti, director of Museo Novecento. “After Medardo Rosso, for example, the subject of a beautiful exhibition three years ago, in June we inaugurated the one dedicated to Arturo Martini. Two artists of fundamental importance to reconstruct the evolution of plastic language between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Now, as an appendix to the Arturo Martini and Florence exhibition, a very significant chapter is added which has as its protagonist a sculptor’s masterpiece, that ‘Woman swimming underwater’, considered by the author himself to be the flower of his research. As proof of a program that links themes to themes, topics to topics, on this occasion the focus is on Martini’s special relationship with Carrara. An aspect of the link between artists and the territory that recalls how Henry Moore had also chosen the Apuan Alps as his laboratory, where he found the raw material for his creations. This editorial line distinguishes ours which pursues a scientifically satisfying route, with the aim of raising cultural awareness in the Florentine community and beyond, offering the opportunity to broaden the knowledge of twentieth century art with depths on territories and protagonists perhaps considered less spectacular but whose protagonism in history is undeniable. There are gaps to be filled and missing tiles to be recovered and the Museum fulfills this civil function. A preparatory profile that is transformed into a poetic epiphany with the presence of works such as the ‘Woman who swims without water,’ on loan from the Cariverona Foundation, and thanks to evocative installations such as today’s that recreate the auroral moment of fruitful inspiration , like the one that Martini had when watching a film, ‘White Shadows’ which we wanted to present in its entirety, immersing visitors in that same magical atmosphere that ignited the creative intelligence of our great sculptor.”
Martini’s relationship with Carrara and with marble in fact presents the character of discovery and adventure: the sculptor from Treviso arrived there in mid-1937, following the contract for the large bas-relief La Giustizia corporativa, intended for the Palazzo di Giustizia in Milan, and returns there several times, working at the Nicoli laboratory.
In the years between 1939 and 1940 Martini also matured a profound dissatisfaction with the monumental statuary which led him to temporarily abandon sculpture to devote himself to painting, as evidenced by the painting The marble quarries, exhibited in the exhibition. In 1941, however, he was commissioned by the University of Padua to build a monument in memory of the Latin historian Tito Livio. It is said that Woman swimming underwater was born from an echelon of the great block of Tito Livio, the result of a long intellectual gestation. Only then did the sculptor find the linguistic means to give substance to the impression he had, years ago, from the vision of the 1928 film White Shadows (White Shadows of the South Seas), set in Polynesia and interpreted by the Mexican-Tahitian Raquel Torres, beautiful like a primitive goddess. Martini decides to complete the sculpture by beheading it and, with a sharp and ruthless blow, thus transforms “the work from” dated “into” eternal “”, as Carlo Nicoli will observe. The extreme research conducted by Martini in the 1940s therefore finds synthesis in the Woman swimming underwater, who floats suspended, floating in space, on three metal pins designed by the architect Carlo Scarpa for the first presentation of the work at the Venice Biennale of 1942.
The exceptional loan granted by the Cariverona Foundation represents the extreme research conducted by Martini in the 1940s, which is accompanied by the possibility of seeing the film Ombre bianche and the precious volume A sculpture published by the gallery owner Roberto Nonveiller in 1944 to present the work , in which there are numerous views of the same taken from different angles. Particularly significant is the cover, with the assembly of two glimpses and the transcription of a quatrain taken from Air de Sémiramis (Aria di Semiramide) by Paul Valéry, where the Aurora invites the legendary queen of Babylon to awaken her creative will with the force with which the swimmer comes out of the water.
“As in the volume published by Nonveiller, with a rich sequence of images, a careful observation and from multiple points of view of the ‘Woman swimming underwater’ was proposed, so here is the rare opportunity to observe, with the due calm , this sensational response by Martini to the statuary of his time.” declares Lucia Mannini, curator of the exhibition. “In fact, two emblematic works have been chosen to commemorate the Carrara season: a painting, ‘The marble quarries’, to testify the creative crisis experienced by Martini in the 1940s and his approach to painting, and a sculpture, ‘Woman swimming underwater’. , which the artist himself defined as “the flower of my research”. In support of the choice is a page of “Style” in which Gio Ponti, in April 1947, shortly after the premature death of the sculptor, published some thoughts that Martini had expressed on paper in ‘The sculpture’ dead language and reproduced the two works close together”.
The Arturo Martini and Carrara exhibition – in line with a scientific vision of the museum as a research and training laboratory – is the result of a collaboration between the Museo Novecento and the SAGAS Department of the University of Florence. As part of the From the Classroom to the Museum project, launched in 2019 with prof. Giorgio Bacci, two young students of the master’s course in the History of Contemporary Art, Margherita Scheggi and Valentina Torrigiani, worked together with Lucia Mannini and the curatorial staff of the Museum on the organization of the exhibition. In fact, this project intends to bring the academic research sector closer to that of museum training and dissemination to the general public, while offering a unique opportunity to study the great masters of the Italian twentieth century and enhance our heritage.
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