Introduction

Raffaele BedaridaSilvia BignamiDavide Colombo Methodologies of Exchange: MoMA’s “Twentieth-Century Italian Art” (1949), Issue 3, January 2020
https://www.italianmodernart.org/journal/issues/methodologies-of-exchange-momas-twentieth-century-italian-art-1949/
Abstract

A brief overview of the third issue of Italian Modern Art dedicated to the MoMA 1949 exhibition Twentieth-Century Italian Art, including a literature review, methodological framework, and acknowledgments.

VIEW PDF

 

 

If the study of artistic exchange across national boundaries has grown exponentially over the past decade as art historians have interrogated historical patterns, cultural dynamics, and the historical consequences of globalization, within such study the exchange between Italy and the United States in the twentieth-century has emerged as an exemplary case.1 A major reason for this is the history of significant migration from the former to the latter, contributing to the establishment of transatlantic networks and avenues for cultural exchange. Waves of migration due to economic necessity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries gave way to the smaller in size but culturally impactful arrival in the U.S. of exiled Jews and political dissidents who left Fascist Italy during Benito Mussolini’s regime. In reverse, the presence in Italy of Americans – often participants in the Grand Tour or, in the 1950s, the so-called “Roman Holiday” phenomenon – helped to making Italian art, past and present, an important component in the formation of American artists and intellectuals.2

This history of exchange between Italy and the U.S. therefore significantly intertwines issues of migration, exile, and diaspora, as well as questions of influence and the active construction of a nation’s historical roots. Secondly, because of the dramatically changing diplomatic relationship between the two countries during Fascism, World War II, and the Cold War, cultural exchange played an active role in setting the tone of conversation and in reconfiguring the status of the relationship. Indeed, the Italian-American exchange offers opportunity to explore the complex dynamics of cultural diplomacy. Finally, as the U.S. emerged as the hegemonic power in the West and, concurrently, New York replaced Paris as the cultural capital, Italy and Italian art became a major interlocutor and source of legitimization for the U.S. within Europe. In such a fast-changing cultural-political landscape, instruments of diplomacy including art exhibitions, artists’ travels, and transnational collecting facilitated the transformation of the relationship while also complicating power dynamics determined by the economic, military, and political imbalance between the two countries.

Reflecting the growing interest in international artistic exchanges after World War II, this issue of Italian Modern Art aims to analyze the pivotal role played by the 1949 exhibition Twentieth-Century Italian Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which constructed dominant interpretive keys that today continue to affect the study and perception of Italian modernism. By studying this exhibition from multiple angles, we intend to explore and combine various methodological approaches. The initiative involves a group of international scholars who have focused on topics connected with Twentieth-Century Italian Art and the Italy-U.S. relationship from different fields of study, including exhibition histories, cultural transfer, cultural diplomacy, art and politics, the history of collecting, the history of the art market, and more. We hope that this issue builds upon the complexity of current transnational approaches to art history.

Twentieth-Century Italian Art, held at MoMA from June 28–September 18, 1949, was the first opportunity after World War II for American audiences to see the work of a substantial group of contemporary Italian artists. Curated by James Thrall Soby and Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the exhibition was a foundational moment for the reception of Italian modernism in the international context, when twentieth-century Italian art’s history was recognized independently from French art. Through a vast campaign of acquisitions, by 1949 MoMA had added key Italian artists, from Umberto Boccioni to Lucio Fontana, to its permanent collection and thereby situated them within the museum’s influential narrative of modernism. Further, the Italian show aided MoMA curators in revising their institutional perspective in the Cold War context, moving it beyond a Paris-centered canon.

By studying the criteria, contextual circumstances, and consequences of Twentieth-Century Italian Art, the present issue aims to historicize and evaluate the peculiarity of the Italian case in the formation of European modernism, expanding on previous scholarship on the subject.3 Moreover, it explores the reception of Italian art and artists in the U.S., the growth of networks and collaborations between dealers and artists, and the role that Italy played in the idea of art-making among American postwar artists. This particular subject allows for other questions as well: How did an important institution such as MoMA shape the narrative of American modernism? How did Italy help Barr and MoMA rethink a Franco-centric vision of modern art after the war? How did the American art world deal with the problematic legacy of Fascist modernism?

After the war, for American visitors to MoMA – many artists among them – Italy came to function as an important example of decentered modernity, that is, as an alternative to the traditional hegemony of Paris. Mediterranean, ancient, rural, and controlled by foreign rulers – and therefore excluded from nineteenth-century narratives of modernity – Italy had taken part in a prominent modernist experiment, Fascism, that resulted in disastrous failure. When it opened, just four years after Mussolini’s death, Twentieth-Century Italian Art stimulated, among American artists and the general public alike, important reflections on the complexity and contradictions of modernism: Americans were discovering the work of Italian artists such as Carlo Carrà and Giorgio Morandi, Marino Marini and Lucio Fontana, Afro Basaldella and Renato Guttuso, whose engagement with Italy’s ancient and recent past informed a diverse range of modern options.

Soby and Barr declared in the introduction to the catalogue for Twentieth-Century Italian Art that the exhibition provided an occasion to acknowledge the U.S.’s delay in recognizing modern Italian art’s value, caused by “two formidable counter-attractions in Europe, the Parisian present and the Italian past.” Barr and Soby’s interest was not limited to Futurism and the Scuola Metafisica – two movements already entered into MoMA’s narrative of modernism through exhibitions organized by Barr in the 1930s­ – but extended to lesser-known movements as well as isolated figures (Morandi first among the latter). And, most importantly, the curators were focused on the postwar moment.

Twentieth-Century Italian Art opened, notably, just two weeks after Italy’s entrance into NATO, and embraced major aspects of Cold War rhetoric: the twofold message was that the climate for art was propitious in Italy now that the era of Fascist isolationism was over (it should be noted that many artists in the show had led successful careers under Mussolini’s regime) and that a “new renaissance” was blossoming after the defeat of Italy’s powerful Communist Party at the political elections of 1948 (even if key artists in the show were affiliated with that party). Despite the “new renaissance” claims, the exhibition originated in the 1930s, when the Fascist government approached Barr and MoMA to propose a show of twentieth-century Italian art, as part of the regime’s larger effort to promote Italian modernity. The exhibition proposal did not go through: first, because Barr feared interference from the regime; and second, due to the outbreak of World War II, with Italy and the U.S. on opposite fronts. MoMA resumed the project immediately after the war, once the political context was significantly transformed. As Italy was still in rubble and Italian art museums had yet to resume their activities, MoMA filled an institutional vacuum, setting the tone and paving the way for the reconstruction of the country’s art infrastructures.4

Twentieth-Century Italian Art showcased about 230 works by 45 artists.5 The emphasis was on painting and sculpture – in many cases, major works – interspersed with drawings, sketches, and etchings (no graphic design, architecture, industrial design, or photography). Organized chronologically, the survey began with Futurism and culminated with contemporary artists who had emerged in the four years following the conflict. Despite the prominence that Italian women artists such as Benedetta Cappa Marinetti, Leonor Fini, Adriana Pincherle, or Antonietta Raphael Mafai had achieved in the interwar period, the show an all-men affaire.6 The catalogue was designed with a more schematic structure than the show, to function as an addendum or revision of the genealogy of modernism developed by Barr in two foundational MoMA exhibitions of 1936, Cubism and Abstract Art and Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism. First in the Italian narrative were the movements and artists that Barr had already canonized in the 1930s: early Futurism, de Chirico and the Scuola Metafisica, and Amedeo Modigliani. Barr and Soby made sure to present this “heroic” phase of Italian modernism as predating 1922, when Mussolini took power. The following sections, which corresponded chronologically to the Ventennio (1922–43), suggest the problem of the complex intersections of Fascism and modernism, which the curators were careful to avoid addressing. Although Barr and Soby dismissed the Fascist period as a “dormant phase,” they gave considerable visibility and importance to art that had been promoted under the aegis of Mussolini: “Painting and Sculpture Since 1920” included later work of the Metafisica artists de Chirico, Carrà, and Morandi, and the uber-Fascists of the Novecento, including Mario Sironi, one of the most prominent artists supported by the regime. Among the other groupings for which margins and characteristics were deliberately left blurred were “The Middle Generation,” “Two Realists: Rosai and Donghi,” and “The Roman School.” Among these, the curators presented Morandi and exponents of the Roman School such as Scipione and Mario Mafai as major threads of continuity across the “Fascist interruption.” Despite these artists’ successful careers and state support during the Ventennio, the MoMA curators treated their work as anti-rhetorical, subdued forms of resistance, thereby initiating a long-lasting art historical myth.7 The section devoted to the postwar “rebirth” of Italian art focused on movements that reconnected with major modernist tendencies, as ratified by MoMA: the neo-surrealist “Fantasts,” the “Younger Abstractionists,” and the Neocubist “Fronte Nuovo delle Arti.” More open-ended was the section dedicated to sculpture, called simply “Recent Sculpture.” It celebrated the so-called “three Ms” (Marino Marini, Arturo Martini, and Giacomo Manzù) and embraced a substantial continuity between the Ventennio and the postwar moment; by including sculptures from 1919 (Martini’s Il poeta Chechov [Portrait of Chekhov]) to the present, this section showed, without declaring it, how the rise and fall of Fascism did not seem to affect the artistic trajectory of Italy’s three major sculptors.

Compared to the catalogue, the show presented a more fluid framework, especially with regards to Fascism, as documented by installation photographs and as illustrated by our reconstruction of the layout (figure 1).8

Figure 1. Exhibition plan of “Twentieth-Century Italian Art,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1949. Compiled by Raffaele Bedarida, Silvia Bignami, and Davide Colombo based on photographic and written documentation. Some uncertainty remains regarding the location of works, including those by Pompeo Borra, Virgilio Guidi, Antonio Donghi, Giacomo Manzù, the Fantasts, and the Roman School. Illustration by Francesco Vicari.

Although the installation’s emphasis was on the same artists and movements celebrated in the catalogue, the isolation of the Fascist period from the years before and after was less rigid. In contrast to the catalogue, the section dedicated to the “Metaphysical School,” for example, combined works from the 1910s and 20s – that is, beyond Mussolini’s coup – to emphasize, arguably, stylistic continuity. Whereas in the catalogue the curators used the regime-sanctioned label “Novecento” to describe the kernel of Fascist art, in the exhibition’s wall texts they opted for the more neutral terms “Older Generation” and “Middle Generation.” This section had no less than three large rooms, which formed the core of the show. Here, Barr and Soby juxtaposed key Novecento artists such as Massimo Campigli, Felice Casorati, and Antonio Donghi to a younger generation of postwar artists such as Virgilio Guidi, Renzo Vespignani or Fabrizio Clerici. In a gallery dedicated to the “Roman School,” works of the 1930s by Scipione, Mafai, Luigi Bartolini, and Fausto Pirandello where compared to postwar paintings by Giovanni Stradone, Toti Scialoja, and other contemporary Romans. Without declaring it explicitly, the curators aptly pointed to the continuity between interwar and postwar tendencies – against the postwar rhetoric of Italy’s “new renaissance.” Whether their critical reticence was due to lack of vision, subservience to the cultural-political agenda of the moment, or a mixture of the two is a matter of speculation.

Still, the show was an important occasion for Barr and Soby to round out and rethink MoMA’s permanent collection. Through an aggressive acquisition campaign, MoMA was intent on building one of the most important collections of modern Italian art – specifically, paintings, sculptures, drawings, and etchings – outside of Italy. Before the exhibition, the only Italian artists recognized in America had passed through Paris. As pointed out by the influential Italian magazine Domus, before 1949 MoMA only had three works by de Chirico and three by Modigliani – two artists who had emerged in Paris. After Twentieth-Century Italian Art, the magazine celebrated MoMA’s newly acquired Italian collection and cherished the museum as a leading institution in the international understanding and appreciation of Italian art.9

The consequences of Twentieth-Century Italian Art went well beyond the walls of MoMA. The exhibition had an enduring effect in creating interest in and a market for Italian art. Among the commercial galleries in New York encouraged to support Italian artists, the most important was the Catherine Viviano Gallery, which opened in 1950 with the explicit goal of promoting Italian art in America. In Rome, Irene Brin and Gasparo del Corso’s L’Obelisco gallery promoted, as of the early 1950s, Italian artists in the U.S. and Americans in Italy. By 1960, the stature of Italian art in America was so solid that MoMA could organize Twentieth-Century Italian Art from American Collections. The show, curated again by Soby in collaboration with Barr, traveled to the Palazzo Reale in Milan (April 30–June 26, 1960) and the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome (July 15–September 18, 1960). The declared goal of the show was to demonstrate the positive and long-lasting effect of Twentieth-Century Italian Art on the appreciation, understanding, and collecting of modern Italian art in the U.S., which it achieved by showing to the Italian public major works by modern Italian artists in private and public American collections – MoMA above all.

The resulting influx of Italian artists and dealers who came to work in the U.S. initiated important friendships and collaborations with American artists and created opportunities for the latter to exhibit in Italy. Afro Basaldella, who was in the MoMA show and then represented by Viviano in New York, befriended Willem de Kooning and hosted him in his studio in Rome for six months in 1959; there, de Kooning produced his celebrated enamel painting series Black and White Rome and began an enduring connection with Italy, where he repeatedly returned to work in the final decades of his career. Encouraged by the MoMA exhibition, the dealers Brin and del Corso, of L’Obelisco, came to the U.S. to promote some of the artists selected by Barr and Soby, such as Basaldella, Renzo Vespignani, and Alberto Burri. Back in Rome, they hosted the first Italian exhibition of Arshile Gorky, and, in 1953, organized the first exhibition of Robert Rauschenberg outside of the U.S. In Rome, Rauschenberg produced work incorporating ancient sculptures, as well as visiting Burri at his studio.

For other American artists, the MoMA exhibition introduced the idea of a new kind of Italian Grand Tour that focused on contemporary artistic and cultural production, and was no longer overshadowed by “the Parisian present and the Italian past,” but rather in dialogue with both. A few years in advance of William Wyler’s popular movie Roman Holiday (1953), MoMA’s Twentieth-Century Italian Art presented Italy as a vibrant center of cultural production, attracting countless American artists and intellectuals, among them, most prominently, Dore Ashton, Lee Bontecou, Milton Gendel, Milton Glaser, Philip Guston, and Cy Twombly.

Building on recent, in-depth art historical literature, the present collection of essays traces a number of trajectories that have the MoMA exhibition at their center. The collection’s main goal is to complicate histories of cultural diplomacy by considering the specific interests, agendas, and idiosyncrasies of individuals and groups of people whose stories intersect and occasionally overlap with larger historical phenomena, governmental policies, and institutional choices. Such histories participate actively in the construction of artistic discourse, and prompt the question: How much agency does an artist (or a curator, a collector, an art dealer) have in a history of transnational exchange vis-à-vis major policymakers such as governmental agencies, ministries, or museums? If T. J. Clark has addressed the methodological question of the tension between an artist’s intentionality and the public life of a work of art, the present publication presents a variety of methodological approaches to complicate a field of study – art exchange across national boundaries – in which countless institutions and individuals constantly negotiate for meaning and translation.10

Sergio Cortesini’s essay “Another History: Contemporary Italian Art in America Before 1949” focuses on an important precedent to Twentieth-Century Italian Art by studying how the Novecento movement – a crucial and most problematic section of the 1949 show – was exhibited and received in the interwar period, when it was a contemporary art movement, at a major American institution, the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh. The cultural translation process discussed by Cortesini, from the intentions of Italian artists and curators to their reception in the American context, initiated a tension that would persist after World War II. In “Alfred H. Barr, Jr., and James Thrall Soby’s Grand Tour of Italy,” Silvia Bignami and Davide Colombo follow the trip of MoMA’s curatorial team across postwar Italy as they prepared for the 1949 show. Through Barr and Soby’s travel journals and notebooks, the essay reconstructs the Americans’ impression of Italy’s artistic rebirth – their visits to studios, galleries, and collections as well as the first editions of the Venice Biennale and Rome Quadriennale after the fall of Mussolini. A key contact of Barr and Soby is the subject of Laura Moure Cecchini’s “‘Positively the only person who is really interested in the show’: Romeo Toninelli, Collector and Cultural Diplomat Between Milan and New York.” Toninelli emerges as a major player in the organization of the MoMA exhibition not only because he mediated between the institution and the main collectors of modern art in Milan, but also because, as a private dealer and collector, he embodied the ideal cultural diplomat for both post-Fascist Italian institutions and the American curators. In the essay “Neocubism and Italian Painting Circa 1949: An Avant-Garde That Maybe Wasn’t,” Adrian R. Duran turns to one of the most significant artistic movements encountered by Barr and Soby in Italy, the Fronte Nuovo delle Arti. By comparing the specificity of the Italian political discourse and the critical framework utilized by MoMA, Duran dissects the intricacies of a translation process in the fast-changing postwar landscape. Antje K. Gamble situates the curatorial choices and exhibition design of Twentieth-Century Italian Art within the history of MoMA, on the one hand, and that of major exhibitions staged in Fascist Italy, on the other. Gamble’s essay “Exhibiting Italian Modernism After World War II at MoMA in Twentieth-Century Italian Art” analyzes the political implications of Barr and Soby’s curation. Absence and instability are major issues raised by Will Norman in “Saul Steinberg, MoMA, and the Unstable Cultural Field.” Despite Steinberg’s formation as an architect, early career as an illustrator in Fascist Italy, and strong connection with Italian artists and intellectuals after the war, he was an outsider to both Italian modernism and the fine arts and was not included in the MoMA exhibition. Indeed, the strategies through which Steinberg navigated both national identity and the cultural hierarchies of Cold War America destabilized the very cultural field that MoMA was solidifying. A major consequence of the MoMA exhibition, the development of an interest in and a market for contemporary Italian art, is analyzed by Sharon Hecker in “‘Friendly Competition’: A Network of Collecting Postwar Italian Art in the American Midwest.” Hecker discusses the social dynamics, influences, and rivalries behind the formation of a collecting community and their acquisitional trends, which in turn produced major public collections in St. Louis and a group of influential tastemakers in the field of contemporary art beyond the New York-Italy axis. Ilaria Schiaffini focuses on the transatlantic activities of Irene Brin and Gaspero del Corso, the owners of the Roman gallery L’Obelisco. “It’s a Roman Holiday for Artists: The American Artists of L’Obelisco After World War II” documents how the MoMA exhibition initiated a two-way artistic exchange between Italy and the U.S. Not only did L’Obelisco invest in the exportation of contemporary Italian artists such as Alberto Burri and Afro, the gallery also opened its doors to artists coming from America such as Eugène Berman, Alexander Calder, Roberto Matta, Robert Rauschenberg, and Saul Steinberg, who experienced a new type of Grand Tour during Italy’s economic boom of the 1950s, the “Roman Holiday” celebrated in Hollywood movies. The publication ends with a conversation with artist Milton Glaser conducted by Matilde Guidelli-Guidi and Nicola Lucchi. As part of the first wave of American artists going to Italy on Fulbright Scholarships, in 1952 Glaser chose to live in Bologna and to study with Giorgio Morandi, an artist who emerged as star of Twentieth-Century Italian Art after being long unknown to American audiences. In “On Giorgio Morandi: Milton Glaser in Conversation with Matilde Guidelli-Guidi and Nicola Lucchi,” Glaser recalls his encounters with Morandi as crucial to his formation as an artist, attesting to the unpredictable ramifications of cultural diplomacy.

This publication began with the conference “Methodologies of Exchange: MoMA’s Twentieth-Century Italian Art (1949),” organized by Raffaele Bedarida, Silvia Bignami, and Davide Colombo at CIMA in New York in February 2019, in connection with the Annual Conference of the College Art Association (CAA) and upon the seventieth anniversary of the original exhibition. The conference was made possible by a Terra Foundation for American Art grant. We extend our gratitude to CIMA and the Terra Foundation for supporting this research project, which we believe is in line with the two institutions’ promotion of both the exchange of knowledge across national boundaries and transnational approaches to the study of art history. This publication could not be accomplished without CIMA’s Education and Programs Manager, Chiara Trebaiocchi, whose relentless commitment to both the conference and the editorial process cannot be emphasized enough. Our copy editor, Deirdre O’Dwyer, went above and beyond her professional duty to participate actively in a process of cultural translation comparable to our subject of study. CIMA’s former Executive Director Heather Ewing enthusiastically encouraged and supported this project since its inception, and Emma Lewis graciously hosted our study day. The feedback and theoretical framework provided by the conference respondents, Emily Braun and Melissa Dabakis, proved seminal for the development of the current publication. Likewise, the historical framework presented by Renato Camurri set the tone for a methodological reflection which exudes the disciplinary boundaries of art history. To them and to all the conference participants goes our gratitude.

 

Bibliography

Bedarida, Raffaele. “Operation Renaissance: Italian Art at MoMA, 1940–1949.” Oxford Art Journal 35, no. 2 (June 2012): 147–69.

Bedarida, Raffaele. Corrado Cagli. La pittura, l’esilio, l’America (1938–1947). Rome: Donzelli Editore, 2018.

Belli, Gabriella, ed. Afro Basaldella: The American Period. Milan: Mondadori/Electa, 2012.

Braun, Emily. “Speaking Volumes: Giorgio Morandi’s Still Lifes and the Cultural Politics of Strapaese,” in “Fascism and Culture.” Special issue, Modernism/Modernity 2, no. 3 (September 1995): 89–115.

Braun, Emily, ed. Giorgio de Chirico and America. New York: Hunter College of the City University; Rome: Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico; Turin: Allemandi, 1996.

Celant, Germano, and Anna Costantini, eds. Roma-New York 1948–1964. Charta: Milan, 1993.

Clark, Timothy J. “Jackson Pollock’s Abstraction.” In Reconstructing Modernism, edited by Serge Guilbaut, 172–242. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1990.

Colombo, Davide. “1949: Twentieth-Century Italian Art al MoMA di New York.” In New York New York. La riscoperta dell’America, edited by Francesco Tedeschi, 102–09. Milan: Electa, 2017.

Cortesini, Sergio. One day we must meet: Le sfide dell’arte e dell’architettura italiane in America 1933–1941. Monza: Johan & Levi, 2018.

Dabakis, Melissa. A Sisterhood of Sculptors: American Artists in Nineteenth-Century Rome. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013.

Dossin, Catherine. The Rise an Fall of American Art, 1940s–1980s: A Geopolitics of Western Art Worlds. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015.

Fergonzi, Flavio, and Francesco Tedeschi, eds. Arte Italiana 1960–1964. Identità culturale, confronti internazionali, modelli americani. Milan: Scalpendi editore, 2017.

Leo-True, Thomas, and Ariane Varela Braga, eds. Roma e gli artisti stranieri. Integrazione, reti identità, XVI–XX sec. Rome: Artemide, 2018.

Mocchi, Nicol Maria. “Twentieth-Century Italian Art 1949: Il caso Morandi.” In New York New York. La riscoperta dell’America, edited by Francesco Tedeschi, 110–15. Milan: Electa, 2017.

Tedeschi, Francesco, ed. New York New York. Arte Italiana. La Riscoperta dell’America. Milan: Electa/Mondadori, 2017.

Vail, Karole P. B., and Gražina Subelytė, eds. Peggy Guggenheim. L’ultima Dogaressa. Venice: Guggenheim/Marsilio, 2019.

 

How to cite

Raffaele Bedarida, Silvia Bignami and Davide Colombo, “Introduction,” in Raffaele Bedarida, Silvia Bignami, and Davide Colombo (eds.), Methodologies of Exchange: MoMA’s “Twentieth-Century Italian Art” (1949), monographic issue of Italian Modern Art, 3 (January 2020), https://www.italianmodernart.org/journal/articles/introduction-3/, accessed [insert date].

 

  1. Beginning in the 1990s with publications exploring artistic exchange between Italy and the U.S. such as Germano Celant and Anna Costantini, eds., Roma-New York 1948–1964 (Charta: Milan, 1993) and Emily Braun, ed., Giorgio de Chirico and America (New York: Hunter College of the City University; Rome: Fondazione Giorgio e Isa de Chirico; Turin: Allemandi, 1996), the field exploded in the 2010s with major conferences, publications, and exhibitions on both sides of the Atlantic. Among the conferences: “Hybrid Republicanism: Italy and American Art, 1840–1918,” American Academy, Rome, October 2016; “The Course of Empires: American Italian Cultural Relations, 1770–1980,” Smithsonian American Art Museum, October 2017, Washington, D.C.; and “Methodologies of Exchange: MoMA’s Twentieth-Century Italian Art (1949),” CIMA, New York, February 2019. Among the exhibitions: Afro Basaldella. The American Period, MART, Rovereto, Italy, March 17–July 18, catalogue edited by Gabriella Belli (Milan: Mondadori/Electa, 2012); New York New York. Arte Italiana. La Riscoperta dell’America, Museo del Novecento and Gallerie d’Italia, Milan, April 13–September 17, 2017, catalogue edited by Francesco Tedeschi (Milan: Electa/Mondadori, 2017); and Peggy Guggenheim. L’ultima Dogaressa, Peggy Guggenheim Museum, Venice, November 21, 2019–January 27, 2020, catalogue edited by Karole P. B. Vail and Gražina Subelytė (Venice: Guggenheim/Marsilio, 2019). Among the books: Catherine Dossin, The Rise an Fall of American Art, 1940s–1980s: A Geopolitics of Western Art Worlds (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2015); Flavio Fergonzi, Francesco Tedeschi, eds., Arte Italiana 1960–1964. Identità culturale, confronti internazionali, modelli americani (Milan: Scalpendi editore, 2017); Sergio Cortesini, One day we must meet: Le sfide dell’arte e dell’architettura italiane in America 1933–1941 (Monza: Johan & Levi, 2018); and Raffaele Bedarida, Corrado Cagli. La pittura, l’esilio, l’America (1938–1947) (Rome: Donzelli Editore, 2018). The latter is part of a series of books curated by Renato Camurri and published by Donzelli since 2015 on the theme of Italians in exile in the U.S. during World War II.
  2. On this topic, see Melissa Dabakis, A Sisterhood of Sculptors: American Artists in Nineteenth-Century Rome (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2013); and Ariane Varela Braga and Thomas Leo-True, eds., Roma e gli artisti stranieri. Integrazione, reti identità, XVI–XX sec (Rome: Artemide, 2018).
  3. See Raffaele Bedarida, “Operation Renaissance: Italian Art at MoMA, 1940–1949,” Oxford Art Journal 35, no. 2 (June 2012): 147–69; Davide Colombo, “1949: Twentieth-Century Italian Art al MoMA di New York,” in Tedeschi, New York New York. La riscoperta dell’America, 102–09; and Nicol Maria Mocchi, “Twentieth-Century Italian Art 1949: Il caso Morandi,” in ibid., 110–15.
  4. On the conditions of Italian museums during the preparation of the MoMA show, see Emily Braun’s intervention as a respondent at the “Methodologies of Exchange” Study Day, see video at this link, min. 1:42 (last accessed January 30, 2020).
  5. Afro, Giacomo Balla, Luigi Bartolini, Umberto Boccioni, Pompeo Borra, Corrado Cagli, Massimo Campigli, Carlo Carrà, Felice Casorati, Bruno Cassinari, Fabrizio Clerici, Giorgio de Chirico, Filippo De Pisis, Antonio Donghi, Pericle Fazzini, Salvatore Fiume, Lucio Fontana, Emilio Greco, Virgilio Guidi, Renato Guttuso, Stanislao Lepri, Mario Mafai, Giacomo Manzù, Marino Marini, Arturo Martini, Marcello Mascherini, Amedeo Modigliani, Giorgio Morandi, Marcello Muccini, Fausto Pirandello, Armando Pizzinato, Ottone Rosai, Luigi Russolo, Giuseppe Santomaso, Toti Scialoja, Scipione, Pio Semeghini, Gino Severini, Mario Sironi, Ardengo Soffici, Giovanni Stradone, Arturo Tosi, Renzo Vespignani, Alberto Viani, and Giuseppe Viviani.
  6. On the absence of women at the MoMA show, see Melissa Dabakis’s intervention as a respondent at the “Methodologies of Exchange” Study Day and following discussion, see video at this link, min. 1:16 (last accessed January 30, 2020).
  7. A revisionist effort is initiated in Emily Braun, “Speaking Volumes: Giorgio Morandi’s Still Lifes and the Cultural Politics of Strapaese,” Modernism/Modernity, Special Issue on Fascism and Culture 2, no. 3 (September 1995): 89–115.
  8. The reconstruction is based on installation views, but some information remains missing. Notably, there is some doubt about the location of a few groups of artists (Borra and Guidi, Donghi, the Fantasts, the Roman School, and Manzù).
  9. Gio Ponti in Domus, nos. 248–49 (July–August 1950), no. 250 (September 1950), and no. 251 (October 1950).
  10. Timothy J. Clark, “Jackson Pollock’s Abstraction,” in Reconstructing Modernism, ed. Serge Guilbaut (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990), 172–242.
About the Authors

Raffaele Bedarida is an art historian and curator specializing in twentieth-century Italian art and politics. In particular, his research has focused on cultural diplomacy, migration, and cultural exchange between Italy and the United States. He is Assistant Professor of Art History at Cooper Union, where he coordinates the History and Theory of Art program. He holds a PhD from the Art History Department of the CUNY Graduate Center, as well as MA and BA degrees in Art History from the Università degli Studi di Siena. Bedarida is the author of two monographs in Italian, Bepi Romagnoni: Il Nuovo Racconto (Milan: Silvana Editoriale, 2005) and Corrado Cagli: La pittura, l’esilio, L’America (Rome: Donzelli, 2018; English edition upcoming), and numerous articles for academic journals (International Yearbook of Futurism StudiesOxford Art Journal, Tate Modern’s In Focus) and exhibition catalogues (MART, Rovereto; CIMA, New York; Fundacion Juan March, Madrid; Frederick Kiesler Foundation, Vienna). His research has received support from the Italian Ministry of Art and Culture (MiBACT), The Terra Foundation for American Art, The Max Planck Institute of Art History, as well as CIMA, where Bedarida served as the inaugural fellow in 2013–14. He is currently working on the manuscript for his book: ‘Like a Giant Screen:’ The Promotion of Contemporary Italian Art in the United States, 1935–1969.

Silvia Bignami is Associate Professor of the History of Contemporary Art at the University of Milan. She is a member of the Scientific Committee of PAC and coordinator of the Research projects of Cittadella degli Archivi di Milano. Her interests include the art market in Milan between the First and Second World Wars, the artistic debates recorded in reviews of the 1930s, and the work and writings of Lucio Fontana in the 1950s and 60s. She recently published “‘The chameleon Acconci’ e una copertina camouflage,” in L’uomo nero (nos. 14–15, 2018), and “Lo Stile. La Verve di Gio Ponti,” in Gio Ponti. Archi-designer (Cinisello Balsamo, Milan: Silvana Editoriale; New York, New York: Artbook/D.A.P; Vicenza, Italy: Graphicom, 2018).

Davide Colombo is Assistant Professor of the History of Contemporary Art at the University of Milan. He was a Terra Foundation for American Art Fellow in 2014, and has, since 2015, taken part in the research project “Art in Translation: The Reception of US Art in European Art Writing in the Cold Era” (ed. I.B. Whyte and C. Hopkins). Among his recent publications are “Transatlantic Exchanges: Piero Dorazio: Non-Objective Art vs. Abstract Expressionism?,” in Postwar Italian Art History Today. Untying ‘the Knot’ (ed. Sharon Hecker; Marin R. Sullivan; New York, NY: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018), and “Unfulfilled Hopes or Misguided Expectations: Peggy Guggenheim and Italian Art,” in Peggy Guggenheim: The Last Dogaressa (eds. Karole P. B. Vail and and Gražina Subelyte; Venezia: Marsilio, 2019).
Back to Top