Photo by Marco Anelli and Tommaso Sacconi.

Mario Schifano: Germinal

A fresh look at the breakthrough paintings of Mario Schifano

Magazzino Italian Art is proud to announce the presentation of a newly imagined survey of a decade of breakthrough paintings by the restlessly inventive artist, filmmaker, photographer, and musician Mario Schifano (1934-1998). Organized by Magazzino Italian Art Foundation in collaboration with the Archivio Mario Schifano and the Fondazione Maurizio Calvesi in Rome and curated by Filippo Fossati, the exhibition titled Germinal, the artist’s own term for paintings of major, generative effect, will be on view in Magazzino’s Robert Olnick Pavilion from March 23 through August 5, 2024.

Photo by Marco Anelli and Tommaso Sacconi
Photo by Marco Anelli and Tommaso Sacconi.
Photo by Marco Anelli and Tommaso Sacconi
Photo by Marco Anelli and Tommaso Sacconi.

According to Filippo Fossati, "This exhibition features germinal works from 1960 to 1970, a time of great social, economic, political, and artistic turmoil, in which Schifano was an eager participant. In these years, with his abundant charisma and exuberance, he became one of the most popular artists in Italy and a renowned figure abroad, creating art that he envisioned as being for everyone, and not just for an elite."

In keeping with this open and active spirit, Magazzino is planning a series of events, outreach to the community and education including film screenings, days of study, lectures, a bike ride, and a final concert, to be conducted both at Magazzino and at partner institutions throughout the run of the exhibition. A schedule will be announced shortly.

Photo by Marco Anelli and Tommaso Sacconi
Photo by Marco Anelli and Tommaso Sacconi.
Photo by Marco Anelli and Tommaso Sacconi
Photo by Marco Anelli and Tommaso Sacconi.

Germinal begins with an installation of the monochrome paintings with which Schifano introduced himself in 1960: fields of a single color, painted with enamel. The titles, meant to spark the viewer's imagination, reveal the range of Schifano's own thoughts, from jazz (The Music of Ornette) to art history (Venus de Milo 3 (A Plinio)) to the crowding and excitement of contemporary Rome (La Piazza del Popolo). Installed opposite the monochrome paintings are works from the early 1960s in which the single-color surfaces begin to be "populated by signals, numbers, letters, signs, shapes, brands, and notes," as Fossati writes. These include paintings that famously incorporated the Coca-Cola logo, considered by Schifano to be "propaganda" for the penetration into Italy of corporate-driven U.S. consumerism.

Photo by Marco Anelli and Tommaso Sacconi
Photo by Marco Anelli and Tommaso Sacconi.

Germinal continues with works made from 1965 through 1970, the period when Schifano attained the status of a pop superstar in Italy. Prominent among these works are paintings from the series Futurismo rivisitato (Futurism Revisited), in which Schifano looked toward the early 20th-century Italian avant-garde movement for inspiration, claiming that the Futurists were "pioneers in capturing silence, noise, or the essence of a state of mind." Taking up this challenge, Schifano asked in effect whether it was possible "to depict life as a kaleidoscope," as Fossati writes, and at the same time "indicate the structures of that apparent chaos."

Photo by Marco Anelli and Tommaso Sacconi
Photo by Marco Anelli and Tommaso Sacconi.
Photo by Marco Anelli and Tommaso Sacconi
Photo by Marco Anelli and Tommaso Sacconi.

Germinal is dedicated to the memory of art critic and historian Maurizio Calvesi (1927-2020) and his wife, the writer, editor, and museum director Augusta Monferini (1934-2022), who were the first to propose an exhibition in the U.S. focused on the work of Schifano. Magazzino first took up this project in the exhibition Mario Schifano: The Rise of the '60s, curated by Alberto Salvadori, which was shown from September 14, 2023 through January 8, 2024. Using many of the same 80 works, Germinal presents a thoroughly new and different view of Schifano’s achievement, seen from the perspective of Filippo Fossati’s forty-year career in bridging Italian and international contemporary art.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue featuring never-before-published materials and texts by leading scholars in the field.

Organized by Magazzino Italian Art
Curated by Filippo Fossati
Architecture Project by MQ Architecture
Generous support in kind is provided by
Fondazione Maurizio Calvesi and Archivio Mario Schifano, Rome

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