METAPHYSICAL MASTERPIECES 1916-1920: Morandi, Sironi, and Carrà

Annual Installation

19 October 2018 - 01 June 2019

For its 2018-19 academic year, the Center for Italian Modern Art is pleased to present its first group show, Metaphysical Masterpieces 1916-1920: Morandi, Sironi, and Carrà, in collaboration with Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, and curated by that museum’s Director James Bradburne in collaboration with CIMA President Laura Mattioli.

The exhibition is focused on a short period that ends the first phase of the avant-garde movements of Cubism in France and Futurism in Italy and blossoms into a new poetics, which will eventually lead to the “Return to Order” in the first years of the 1920s.

In 1916 the war takes victims among the artists at the front, including Umberto Boccioni (August 16, 1916) and Antonio Sant’Elia (October 10, 1916), while Guillaume Apollinaire is gravely wounded on March 17th the same year. A general re-thinking about painting begins and new investigations develop that see the birth of ‘metaphysical’ painting in Ferrara, where Giorgio de Chirico and his brother Alberto Savinio are sent by the military command. There they meet, among others, Carlo Carrà and Filippo de Pisis, with whom they strike up a fruitful friendship. Giorgio Morandi, called up in 1915, is immediately taken seriously ill and discharged after only two months. He returns to work, despite his unstable health, where he meditates on the previous avant-garde experiments and explores the significance of the new metaphysical works. Mario Sironi, discharged from the front in 1918, establishes himself in Milan the following year and becomes one of the most dramatic witnesses to this critical moment in Italian Modern art and the opposing poetics of Futurism and metaphysical painting. From 1918 to 1921 the painter and collector Mario Broglio publishes the magazine of art criticism “Valori Plastici,” which becomes for all these artists the primary way to meet and discuss their work in an international context, favoring their return to classical themes and forms in the following years.

The rare works from these years were primarily acquired by a few ardent Milanese collectors, including Carlo Frua De Angeli, Emilio Jesi, Riccardo Jucker, Gianni Mattioli, and Lamberto Vitali. The Frua collection has since been dispersed; Riccardo Jucker’s artworks were acquired by the Comune di Milano and are currently the core of the city’s Museo del 900. Gianni Mattioli’s collection, still with his heirs, has been promised on long-term loan to the Pinacoteca di Brera, the museum to which Emilio Jesi and Lamberto Vitali also donated their artworks.

This extraordinary exhibition is made possible by unforeseen delays to the rehabilitation of the Palazzo Citterio in Milan, an historic palace adjacent to the Brera purchased in 1972 to house the museum’s magnificent 20th-century collections. The exhibition at CIMA offers to the American and international public a preview of the newest Milanese public institution for modern art, now scheduled to open as Brera Modern in 2020.




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Annual installation

06 October 2017 - 23 June 2018

For its fifth season, CIMA – The Center for Italian Modern Art was proud to present the first exhibition in the United States of the work of Alberto Savinio (1891–1952) in over two decades. Hailed by poet and critic Guillaume Apollinaire as the paragon of a Renaissance man, Savinio was not only an exceptional visual artist and member of the Parisian avant-garde, but also a gifted pianist, composer, musicologist, set designer, critic, and writer. Yet despite his achievements, Savinio, the younger brother of Giorgio de Chirico, is today virtually unknown outside of Italy.

Alberto Savinio featured 25 rarely seen works by the artist, focusing on paintings produced after his move to Paris in 1926, when he put his other creative pursuits on hold in order to devote himself fully to visual arts. The exhibited works were characterized by Savinio’s vivid color palette, his fantastical interpretation of mythology and voyage, and his eccentric vision of landscape.

Continuing CIMA’s practice of introducing work by contemporary artists in dialogue with the principal subject, the installation also featured select sculptures and prints by French-American artist Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010). This juxtaposition, explored in a conversation program with Robert Storr and Lawrence Weschler, brought to the fore the two artists’ commonalities, including their flirtation with Surrealism, shared interest in the subconscious, their roots in the grotesque, and the profound influence that familial relations had on their respective artistic imagery. 

The season’s rich array of public programming explored many aspects of the artist’s multi-faceted career: his music, his literature, his theater work, as well as his art-making. Highlights included a Study Day organized by CIMA’s fellows, featuring speakers from Italy, the U.S., Germany, and Mexico, and a Study Day dedicated to the art dealer and patron Léonce Rosenberg; presentations by Savinio’s son Ruggero Savinio and also by his granddaughter Enrica Antonini; artist talks by a number of contemporary artists, including the Oakes Twins, Lucas Blalock and Saya Woolfalk; talks by renowned publisher and author Roberto Calasso, esteemed professor Renato Barilli, and the late Irving Sandler. Franco Baldasso introduced Savinio’s literary works to CIMA’s audiences, and in a collaboration with the Italian Institute of Culture, Luciano Chessa and Luca Valentino explored Savinio’s career as a composer. The season closed with Isabella Rossellini in conversation with Yasmine Ergas on the legacy of 1968 in Italy, and the U.S. premiere of Savinio’s 1914 avant-garde operetta, Les chants de la mi-mort (The Songs of the Half-Dead), curated by Lauren Rosati and performed at ISSUE Project Room in Brooklyn.








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Annual installation

13 October 2016 - 24 June 2017


For its fourth season, CIMA presented an exhibition exploring the relationship between one of Italy’s greatest living artists, Giulio Paolini (b. 1940), and one of its most celebrated modern masters, the Metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978). Paolini has often expressed his admiration for de Chirico, hailing him as an “illustrious model” and incorporating numerous references to the artist in his own photographs, sculptures, and drawings throughout the course of his career. CIMA’s show featured an ongoing conceptual work by Paolini, Interno metafisico (2009–16), reconceived specifically for CIMA’s galleries, as well as a series of historical and new works related to various tropes in de Chirico’s paintings. The installation also showcased a selection of de Chirico’s most iconic Metaphysical masterworks, on view in the U.S. for the first time since 1970, including most notably Le Muse Inquietanti (The Disquieting Muses) (1918). The exhibition marked the first time the relationship between de Chirico and Paolini has been explored in depth through a focused exhibition; it also represented the first time that CIMA closely examined issues of post-war Italian art.

Highlights from the season’s public programming include two Study Days: one organized by CIMA’s fellows and devoted to the construction of identity and the reception of both artists’ work; the other organized by Distinguished Professor of Art History Emily Braun and focused on issues of postmodernism and Italian art. Ara Merjian spoke on de Chirico’s “Willful Claustrophilia,” and Neil Printz on Andy Warhol and de Chirico. Artists Lisa Yuskavage, Matvey Levenstein, and Stephen Ellis discussed de Chirico’s late work, CIMA hosted its first poetry evening; continued the tradition of Drawing Nights, inviting artists from the International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP) in Brooklyn to lead the programs; and introduced a new arts workshop for children, called CIMA Kids!








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Annual installation

09 October 2015 - 25 June 2016

The third season at the Center for Italian Modern Art was dedicated to Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964), one of the best known Italian artists of the 20th century. The exhibition focused on the artist’s rarely seen works from the 1930s—the decade when Morandi reached full artistic maturity and developed his distinctive pictorial language. These works until now have remained relatively little known or exhibited outside of Italy. Featuring circa 40 paintings, etchings, and drawings by the acclaimed Italian modernist, the installation marked the first time in decades that many of these works have been on view in the US. CIMA’s show drew from major international public and private collections, including those of the MART Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto; the MAMBo, Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna; the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, Venice; and the Kunstmuseum Winterthur in Switzerland. The installation also presented select paintings from the very beginning of Morandi’s career in the 1910s and from the very end of his life in the 1960s, to illustrate thematic and pictorial continuities in the artist’s process. It also included a selection of contemporary works inspired by Morandi’s practice by artists Tacita Dean, Wolfgang Laib, Joel Meyerowitz, and Matthias Schaller.

Highlights from the season’s public programming included a number of artist talks, by Tacita Dean, Lawrence Carroll, and Joel Meyerowitz, as well as by two artists who studied with Morandi: Milton Glaser and Janet Abramowicz. CIMA introduced Drawing Nights for the first time, led by the Dean of the New York Studio School, Graham Nickson. And CIMA’s fellows in residence, who studied various aspects of Morandi’s career and influence during their time in New York, organized the spring Study Days, which featured senior curators and art historians alongside emerging scholars.










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Annual Installation

17 October 2014 - 27 June 2015

The second season at the Center for Italian Modern Art (CIMA) was dedicated to acclaimed modernist Medardo Rosso (1858 – 1928) and was the first exhibition to showcase his serial sculpture alongside a large body of his drawings and experimental photography, revealing the masterful range of an artist known chiefly for his three-dimensional work. Anchored by an important loan from the Museo Medardo Rosso in Barzio, Italy, the presentation explored the broad range of materials—from gesso, wax, and bronze, to photography and drawing—in which Rosso worked.

Highlights of the public programming included a symposium on Rosso’s technique and approach to serial sculpture; an artist talk by Richard Nonas; a Study Day on Alfred and Margaret Scolari Barr; and a Study Day on Medardo Rosso.

Together with Rosso, CIMA presented two works by the American artist Cy Twombly, including the painting Untitled (New York City), 1956, and the work-on-paper diptych Idilion, 1976. Born in the U.S., Twombly spent much of his life in Rome and frequently drew inspiration from classical mythology and the Italian Renaissance. His paintings and drawings often feature large-scale, freely made, calligraphic marks—emotive gestures that foster a dynamic dialogue when presented alongside the drawings and collaged photographs of Rosso. CIMA hosted a conversation with Nicholas Cullinan and Isabelle Dervaux, exploring the affinities between the artists.






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annual installation

22 February - 28 June 2014

The inaugural season at the Center for Italian Modern Art was devoted to the work of Italian artist Fortunato Depero (1892–1960). Throughout his career, Depero worked beyond the Futurist movement’s orthodoxy, engaging in fruitful dialogues with Dada and Metaphysical Painting, Esprit Nouveau and the Bauhaus, Valori Plastici and Art Deco. More than any other artist, Depero embodied Futurism’s desire to merge the boundaries between high and popular culture. He did so through non-traditional work, which included, besides painting and sculpture: furniture, industrial design, advertising, architecture, photography, tapestry, ballet scenography and costume design, and more.

Coinciding with the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s landmark exhibition, Italian Futurism, 1909–1944: Reconstructing the Universe (February 21–September 1, 2014), CIMA’s exhibition introduced this multifaceted artist to an American audience and was the most comprehensive presentation of the artist’s work in New York since Depero’s residence in the city in the late 1920s. The exhibition featured more than fifty works, encompassing painting, sculpture, textiles, drawings, and more, drawn from the Gianni Mattioli collection. One room was dedicated to the display of Futurism’s first book-object—Depero’s “bolted” book, Depero Futurista (1927)—an experiment in typography that challenged the very idea of a book as cultural object and design product.

Public programming highlights included a conversation on Depero’s marionette theatre work with Dan Hurlin; a roundtable on Depero’s graphic design work with Steven Heller; and a Study Day exploring many facets of Depero’s career and legacy.

On view alongside the main Depero installation were two works by Fabio Mauri (1926-2009), including a video of the performance piece Gran Serata Futurista. CIMA hosted a Study Day on Fabio Mauri, an artist whose work explored the legacy of Futurism in light of Fascism, the horrors of WWII, and the Holocaust, which included the first U.S. staging of one of Mauri’s performances, L’Espressionista.








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