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la Biennale di Venezia
Visual Top Art EN (new)


Italian Pavilion

vice versa
Curator Bartolomeo Pietromarchi
Commissioner Maddalena Ragni
Venice (Tese delle Vergini, Arsenale)
1 June – 24 November 2013


Vice versa is the title chosen by curator Bartolomeo Pietromarchi for the Italian Pavilion exhibition project at the 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, promoted by the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities through the Directorate-General for the Landscape, Fine Arts, Architecture and Contemporary Art.

Vice versa picks up on a concept introduced by Giorgio Agamben in his book Categorie italiane. Studi di Poetica (1996), in which the philosopher maintained that in order to interpret Italian culture, we must identify a “series of diametrically linked concepts” capable of describing its underlying characteristics – binomials like tragedy/comedy, architecture/vagueness and speed/lightness thus become original keys for reading the fundamental works and artists of our cultural history.

This reflective and dialectical approach, and in particular the dimension of duality, is one of the most profoundly characteristic aspects of Italian contemporary art. We need only cite the poetics of artists like Alighiero Boetti, Giulio Paolini, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Luigi Ontani and Gino De Dominicis, whose experimentation is based on opposing polarities: order and disorder, image and reflection, visible and invisible, and the boundaries between reality and fiction, original and copy, tragedy and comedy that tend to dissolve. The antithetical nature of our culture thus produces works that turn reality into fiction and fiction into reality, in which, playing the game of vice versa, landscape becomes stage, history becomes performance, artwork becomes theater and pop imagery becomes personal history.

Inspired by this vision, vice versa proposes an exposition made up of seven rooms, seven spaces, each of which hosts two artists in dialogue with one another, in which the works shown reveal the profound sense of this dialectical approach.

The exhibition is thus an ideal journey through Italian art of yesterday and today, an itinerary that tells of identities and landscapes – real and imaginary -, exploring the complexity and stratification of the country’s artistic and anthropological vicissitudes. It offers a portrait of recent art, no longer read as a clash between movements and generations, but as an atlas of themes and approaches that can be traced back to our national history and culture, in a cross-dialogue of correspondences, derivations and differences, among the figures of acclaimed maestros and artists of later generations.

The fourteen invited artists are:
Francesco Arena, Massimo Bartolini, Gianfranco Baruchello, Elisabetta Benassi, Flavio Favelli, Luigi Ghirri, Piero Golia, Francesca Grilli, Marcello Maloberti, Fabio Mauri, Giulio Paolini, Marco Tirelli, Luca Vitone,
and Sislej Xhafa.

Vice versa
will thus be presented as an exploration of the fundamental traits of our cultural and contemporary artistic identity, organized by theme and divided into seven areas. A dualistic way of looking at the landscape, in which the meaning of a place, suspended between vision and memory, emerges in the works of Ghirri and Vitone; the troubled and contradictory relationship with history in its personal and collective dimensions comes to the fore in Mauri and Arena, who deal with unresolved gaps in history through the filter of the body and of performance. Dialectic slipperiness and continual swerves between tragedy and comedy turn up in works by Golia and Xhafa, hovering between lived life and imagined life – a dimension also found in the works of Maloberti and Favelli, who chip away at the boundaries between autobiography and collective imagination through references to culture and pop-folk traditions. A dialectic propensity also characterizes the work of Giulio Paolini, who dialogues in this context with Marco Tirelli on the theme of art as illusion, as perspective gaze: an invitation to enter another dimension, one that forces us to teeter on the edge between reality and representation. This gambit turns up again in the exhibition in the juxtaposition of sound and silence, freedom of speech and censorship, as in the work of Massimo Bartolini and Francesca Grilli; the showcase closes with the works of Baruchello and Benassi, in the tension between fragment and system in which the human desire to archive and classify things clashes with impossibility and the failure to do so.

The exhibition presents mainly works produced specifically for the occasion: installations, sculptures, paintings, performances, sound and ambient interventions, inside and outside the Pavilion. They express the vital complexity of our recent art, made up of intuitions and contradictions - among the originating elements of the concept of vice versa -, affirming its originality and international significance.

The coordinated image of vice versa – from the logo to the communications campaign, from the invitations to the exhibition panels to the catalog – will be developed by Mousse Agency. The publication accompanying the exhibition will be published in Italian and English, and will contain an important selection of original material documenting the conception and creation of the works on exhibition. In addition to sections dedicated to the individual artists, including technical details and information on their work, the catalog will reflect the structure of the exhibition itself, with seven essays, one dedicated to each of its thematic dialogues, by important Italian and international critics.

In support of the exhibition vice versa in the Italian Pavilion at the 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale, the curator is proposing a crowdfunding project, in the wake of successful recent international experiences such as the Louvre’s Tous Mécènes campaigns and Let’s Build a Goddamn Tesla Museum in the U.S. Vice versa will thus become an opportunity to test new pathways for support and alternative modes of financing and participating in a cultural event.
February 12th, 2013 is the launch date for the crowdfunding project, which will allow anyone who wishes to actively participate in and personally support the event.
This initiative is intended to support the artists’ work, cultural mediation and educational efforts geared towards schools, universities and exhibition visitors, promotions and communications, the organization of encounters with artists and opinion leaders, and a concluding conference on the Pavilion’s themes.
The spirit of participation and support for the exhibition project will be recognized through a series of benefits corresponding to target support levels.
The 90-day fundraising period will be inaugurated with events in Rome, Milan, London and New York, and will continue on the web (

Italian Pavilion Inauguration: Thursday, May 30th, 2013, 11.30 am
Open to the public: June 1st to November 24th, 2013
Location: Venice, Tese delle Vergini all’Arsenale

• Italian Pavilion Press Office
Maria Bonmassar | M. +39 335 49 03 11 |
Ludovica Solari | M. +39 335 577 17 37 |
• Italian Pavilion International Press Office
Rhiannon Pickles | M. +31 (0) 6158 21202 |
Maria Cristina Giusti | M. +44 (0) 792 581 0607 |
• Communications – Directorate General PaBAAC / MiBAC
Alessandra Pivetti | M. +39 366 64 82 897 |
Gaia Gallotta | T. +39 06 58 43 48 16 |
The artists selected for the main exhibition, VIVA ARTE VIVA
National Participations
Countries exhibited in their own pavilions at the 57th Intl. Art Exhibition
Collateral Events
Additional exhibitions and initiatives in Venice during the 57th Biennale