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07/11 2018 – 19/01 2019


Curated by: Fernanda Brenner, Erika Verzutti, Milovan Farronato

In the XV and XVI centuries, Dutch and Flemish painters created a symbolic hyperrealist painting genre known as Vanitas. Departing from the opening lines of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible: ‘Vanity of vanities, said the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity’, those paintings depict still-lives, luxury objects, skulls and flowers aiming to raise awareness of the shortness and fragility of life and the vanity (in the sense of worthlessness) of worldly pleasures and pursuits. The ambivalent presence of these paintings – the moral approach is somehow shadowed by the skilfully painted compositions, as if the artists could overcome death by giving permanence to the ephemeral – recall painting’s primordial role as a recording-device of a certain time and a luxury-good that last centuries, and at the same time they remind us not to mistake the changeable for the permanent.   

Marlene Dumas said in a poem: ‘Painting doesn't freeze time. It circulates and recycles time like a wheel that turns, those who were first might well be last. Painting is a very slow art. It doesn’t travel with the speed of light. That’s why dead painters shine so bright.’ Why we insist on painting in a world flooded with fast snapshots and digital images that confusingly express both our time’s inexorable finitude, while promising escape and immortality (one can notice that simply by shifting the pages from the cover news to the science section of any newspaper, where symptoms of global warming meet planetary colonization start-ups and new life-extending drugs). ‘The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery,’ the British painter Francis Bacon once said. So, here is a possible answer: we insist on paintings because they hold mystery. These mysterious objects, which supposedly outlive us, have always acted as humanity’s ‘guarantors’. Paintings can as well baffle conventions and reinforce cultural paradigms and, besides its much-heralded dead claims, it remains the dominant referent for art historians and critics.   

Nowadays, the question of which artistic means one takes up has become a critical issue. In this exhibition, we plan to investigate the reasons why very little has changed since the 1600s regarding painting’s allure and mysterious power, by assembling together the work of several artists, hailing from many different backgrounds and different times, who insist on painting. We will draw from Vanitas imagery, and its aim to fully recognize our mortality as subject matter to highlight the obscure aspects of this infamous media. This exhibition is an ongoing pursuit for unrivalled, bewitching, heretical, unorthodox – or nearly impossible – forms of expression.   

The exhibition will feature new commissions and works by many artists from different generations and locations, as well as historical works. Among them: Jacqueline de Jong, Jakub Julian Ziolkowski, Issy Wood, Amelie Von Wulffen,  Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, Mathilde Rosier, Lucas Arruda, Erika Verzutti, Giangiacomo Rossetti, Patrizio di Massimo, Celia Hempton, Paulina Olowska and Rodolpho Parigi. Historical names include:  James Ensor, Paul Delvaux, Jean Fautrier, Félicien Rops (TBD).

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