When two countries with centuries of great artistic traditions celebrate a landmark in their diplomatic relations, even a technology summit becomes an ideal backdrop for an art exhibition. This year marks the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between India and Italy. A highlight of the anniversary celebrations was the 24th edition of the India-Italy Technology Summit held in New Delhi recently.
While Italian PM Giuseppe Conte came to India to attend the summit and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a cultural dialogue stood out during the exchanges between scientists, as well as political leaders. Extraordinary visions.Italy—an exhibition of works of some of the masters of Italian photography in New Delhi—gives a rare insight into the transformation of a society through changes in its art, architecture and culture.
Drawn from the permanent collection of photography of MAXXI (National Museum of 21st Century Arts) in Rome, the exhibition has Italian masters such as Franco Fontana, Letizia Battaglia, Gabriele Basilico, Luigi Ghirri and Massimo Vitali. The 100 photographic works on display at the Italian Cultural Centre in New Delhi are as much a display of artistic genius as a deep analysis of the social and political canvas of a country in transition.
Battaglia, one of Italy’s most influential photojournalists, reflects the civil and moral dilemmas of her country through photographs of Sicily, the centre of the Italian mafia network. The photographer, who was born in Sicily’s capital Palermo, works as a witness to her country’s social and political situation. A 2003 photograph by Battaglia at the exhibition shows the building, which is described as the ‘chamber of death’ where the mafia tortured its victims and dissolved their bodies in acid, aided by the silent and fearful complicity of the local people.
The works of another Italian great, Franco Fontana, reveal why he is a master of the study of space. Fontana’s photographs show the transformation of landscapes into abstract works through the juxtaposition of planes of light, making them extraordinary visions of Italian landscapes.
There is also Fabio Ponzio’s account of the Adriatic Coast, which highlights different aspects of the delicate relationship between the people and their surroundings. Works of renowned landscape photographer Olivo Barbieri are also part of the exhibition—his works focus on more than 40 cities around the world, filmed from a helicopter.
“The photographers (who are part of the exhibition) include numerous representatives of the ‘Italian landscape school’, as well as photographers from later generations and those working in different areas, from social reporting to artistic and conceptual experimentation,” says Margherita Guccione, director of MAXXI’s architecture section. “Italy represents a happy stage within the art- and culture-based diplomacy on which MAXXI has always focused,” says MAXXI Foundation president Giovanna Melandri. “Now, as it (the exhibition) arrives in India, a country that plays a crucial role in the essential dialogue between the east and west, between Asia and Europe, our journey of artistic and civilian research and comparison culminates by offering the two opposite sides of the world an opportunity to improve their reciprocal knowledge of one another and mark out new lines of creative development,” adds Melandri.
Well-known photographer Rohit Chawla was impressed by the works of Walter Niedermayr, whose photographs reflect the one-sided relationship between nature and man. “Photography is a language that the whole world speaks… I like his (Neidermayr’s) sense of composition and form,” said Chawla, who will have an exhibition of his own works, intimate portraits of people and faces that have shaped India, in New Delhi in January next year.
Extraordinary visions.Italy, which opened with Mappa, a tapestry representing a map of the world in which every country is distinguished by the colours of its national flag by Italian artist Alighiero Boetti, will travel to Mumbai in March next year.
-The exhibition, Extraordinary visions.Italy, is on till January 13, 2019, at Italian Cultural Centre, New Delhi. Faizal Khan is a freelancer