ArtAttack’s Roman Holiday: 3 Favourites from a magical Italian weekend

I find few things more desirable than pasta so traveling to Rome this past weekend, my plan was to eat as much spaghetti as humanly possible. (And so we’re clear, for me that’s A LOT!) Of course Italian coffee, Giolitti gelato and art were also on my Roman menu, and I must say nothing disappointed. I left the Italian capital Sunday night feeling utterly full, and I’m not just talking about my stomach, but culturally as well.

The first art stop on our Roman Holiday was a private tour of the Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico, a fantastic apartment on the Piazza di Spagna where the artist spent, alongside his wife, the last 30 years of his life, and which now serves as a museum. Of the house itself, Giorgio de Chirico said, “They say that Rome is at the centre of the world and that Piazza di Spagna is in the centre of Rome, therefore, my wife and I, would indeed be living in the centre of the centre of the world, which would be the apex of centrality, and the apogee of anti-eccentricity.”

But aside from the phenomenal location, this is truly a gem of a museum. Of course, it is always especially magical to see an artist’s work within his own home and studio, and the Fondazione is no exception. I fell utterly in love with de Chirico’s oeuvre, discovering his sculpture for the first time as well as his “d’après” paintings, in which he painted in the style of various Renaissance and baroque masters, before he began to dive into the iconic metaphysical art he is now most known for.

Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio di Chirico
Giorgio di Chirico

One of the 'd'apres' paintings; 'Self Portrait in a Park' (1959)
One of the ‘d’apres’ paintings; ‘Self Portrait in a Park’ (1959)
Giorgio de Chirico
Giorgio de Chirico

A real treat of the visit, is viewing de Chirico’s own studio on the upper floor of the flat, where he produced much of the work on view in the museum. Legend has it that the room has been left exactly as it was when he passed away in 1978. It gives a charming and personal peek into de Chirico himself, from the lucky charms he superstitiously attached to his canvases, to the frames he collected and photos of his family he kept nearby.

The artist's studio, just as it was when he left it.
The artist’s studio, just as it was when he left it.

Next we moved on to the always inspiring Galleria Borghese, where a real surprise was in store. Alongside the impressive permanent collection, made up of greats from Bernini to Titian, the gallery is currently showcasing what they call “couture/sculpture,” stunning gowns and other clothing designed by Azzedine Alaïa.

The juxtaposition between the classical and contemporary is beautifully shocking; the delicate, exquisitely lit skin of a Caravaggio, neighbours with an enticing and perfectly cut leather frock. I, for one, was in heaven. And that’s before I’ve even mentioned the frescoes!

Galleria Borghese and Azzedine Alaïa
Galleria Borghese and Azzedine Alaïa

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Galleria Borghese and Azzedine Alaïa
Galleria Borghese and Azzedine Alaïa
Galleria Borghese
Galleria Borghese

On Sunday, our last day in the city, we decided to spend the morning at the MAAXI, Italy’s first national museum for 21st century arts. The building, designed by Zaha Hadid, is a masterpiece in itself, and even before stepping inside, I knew we were in for something quite special.

On show during our visit, were three especially fascinating exhibitions: ‘FOOD: DAL CUCCHIAIO AL MONDO,’ ‘OLIVO BARBIERi. IMAGES 1978-2014,’ and ‘MAURIZIO NANNUCCI. WHERE TO START FROM.’

The first, which translates to ‘FOOD: FROM THE SPOON TO THE WORLD,’ is an exploration of food through art — both its’ agricultural and societal aspects. The works range from a written explanation of a Japanese tea ceremony to some seriously politically charged views of food in our world.

One such work is ‘No Seconds‘ by Henry Hargreaves, where the artist photographs a recreation of various death row prisoners’ last meals, complete with a tidy list of details of the crime, and what is on each plate. I felt mesmerised by this series, not only for the insight it gives on the prisoners themselves, but also at the profound questions it forces into contemplation.

Henry Hargreaves, 'No Seconds'
Henry Hargreaves, ‘No Seconds’

Another work that really stood out to me in this exhibition is ‘Bittersweet‘ (2015) by Minerva Cuevas. Sculpted of chocolate, the series is a comment on unfair and dangerous work practices in Central and South America, where the majority of the world’s cacao is produced. It is also a critique on Western greed, violence and commercialism.

Minerva Cuevas, 'Bittersweet,' 2015
Minerva Cuevas, ‘Bittersweet,’ 2015

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Following ‘FOOD,’ we sauntered over to the Olivo Barbieri. I must admit, I was not familiar with the photographer, but after two minutes in the space I became an instant admirer. The way he manipulates his images they almost appear like paintings, and one particular shot of Capri has just jumped to the top of my “someday” wish list.

Olivo Barbiere, 'Capri'
Olivo Barbiere, ‘Capri’

Of his practice, Barbieri states, “I’ve never been interested in photography, but in images. I believe my work starts where photography ends.” I think this really does come through in the work on view, as it all felt like a completely new vision of photography.

Lastly, I cannot recap our visit to the MAXXI without Maurizio Nannucci. His exhibition, ‘Where to Start From,” is a magical display of light — full of fun, depth and romance. Walking through the show, different colours of neon altering the shade of the different spaces, I read each and every phrase and fell hard for the work. As you can see from my face below, I was absolutely giddy.

Maurizio Nannucci
Me + Maurizio Nannucci
Maurizio Nannucci
Maurizio Nannucci

Leaving the museum, we stepped out into the sunlight to find that the building’s courtyard is used as a playground for the neighbourhood’s children; the perfect ending to an inspirational Sunday morning.

Flying home late that night, flight delayed (Italian style), I drifted in and out of sleep dreaming of all that I had seen. The best advice that I can give is, when in Rome, see these shows too!

– India Irving

1) Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico; Piazza di Spagna 31, 00187 Roma; Open Tuesday-Saturday by appointment only; Book online HERE; Admission €7,00

2) Galleria Borghese; Piazzale del Museo Borghese 5, 00197 Roma; Open Tuesday-Sunday 8:30AM-7:30PM; Book online HERE; Admission: €11,00

3) MAAXI; Via Guido Reni 4a, 00196 Roma; Open Tuesday-Sunday 11AM-7PM (Saturday until 10PM); Book online HERE; Admission: €10,00

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