Luca Massimo Barbero’s archive
The archive of Luca Massimo Barbero, critic, historian and curator of modern and contemporary art, comes to the Historical Archives of the Contemporary Arts of La Biennale di Venezia. For the occasion, at its headquarters at Ca’ Giustinian, La Biennale has organized an exhibition entitled Luca Massimo Barbero. Un Diavolo Amico, that will be inaugurated on Thursday November 16th at 12 noon.
Barbero’s archive stands out as a living archive that is constantly expanding; it will be enriched with everything that its owner will produce in the future and that he himself will continue to use. It will also be a propositive archive that will inspire initiatives for the Biennale Archives themselves.
With the intent to inventory and valorize this new acquisition – alongside the Palazzo Grassi/Fiat Funds, the Premio Oderzo Archive, the Luca Ronconi Funds, the Lorenzo Cappellini Funds, Associazione Nuova Icona Archive, Enzo De Martino Archive, and after the agreement with the Fondazione Luigi Nono – La Biennale confirms the orientation and programme of the Historical Archives: to host archives and funds, even those of third parties, that address and gauge themselves against topics involving the contemporary arts. Through these actions, the Historical Archives of La Biennale di Venezia /International Centre for Research on the Contemporary Arts, with its new headquarters currently under construction at the Arsenale, intends to expand its mission as a centre that is increasingly open, vital and generative, aiming to activate new opportunities for research, in addition to promoting the artist’ legacies, conserving them and making them available to young students and committed researchers.
The President of La Biennale di Venezia, Roberto Cicutto, describes Luca Massimo Barbero’s gesture in these words: “To define Luca Massimo Barbero’s choice, I use the word ‘gesture’ in its broadest semantic meaning (movement, the expression of a feeling, an action motivated by profound reasons) because it clearly defeats the concept of an archive to which something is left for the sole purpose of conservation. In this case, something is left increase its breathing room and let it grow within a context that can enhance it and make it available to the widest possible public”.
“I would like to thank Luca Massimo Barbero for the trust he has placed in La Biennale, which, over the years, we have endowed with a seventh art: ‘the art of connection’ through the richness of its historic funds and the acquisition of contemporary archives that are forever evolving, through the constant activity of their creators”.
“I am grateful and honoured that La Biennale di Venezia has accepted my archive“ says Luca Massimo Barbero. “I consider archives a cradle and I owe a great deal of my roots to La Biennale di Venezia, which I believe is a vital construction site for contemporary art. Ever since I was a student it has been a unique place that has given many of us the opportunity to study and learn, as I like to say, “travelling without moving”. I am very pleased with this opportunity because it allows me to give back and share my imagery, from cinema to art and photography, which has taken shape inside that same archive. At this historic moment when memory is being shortened, it has become vital to give La Biennale material that is anchored in the present and make documents available to scholars so they can be consulted in their original version”.
The ’Devil’ in the title of the exhibition Luca Massimo Barbero. Un Diavolo Amico, is inspired by the drawing by Tancredi, an extraordinary and elusive artist; it is the key to Barbero’s relationship with Venice. “To share this drawing with the Biennale Archives – Barbero explains – also means to bring it all back to life in an oxymoron: a friendly devil that leads to happy damnation: art history and the ‘curiosity’ that possesses you. The images are a living story!”
The exhibition, introduced by a text of Nicolas Ballario (a journalist and expert on contemporary art applied to media), presents a first tranche of materials from Luca Massimo Barbero’s archive, which will be exhibited on a rotating basis in the coming months. It is a sort of ‘coring’ that reveals the many aspects of his personality and methods of study and curatorship. Drawings, photographs, notes from his sketchbooks, storyboards, catalogues, objects, all bear witness to his forty-year curatorial practice, which distinguishes his professional career at the international level.
The walls of the Portego at Ca’ Giustinian host a series of historic photographs from Cameraphoto that depict events at La Biennale di Venezia from 1948 to 1981: a collection of photographs that summarise the fundamentals of Barbero’s training and bear witness to his bond with the Venetian institution through his ample photo library.
The two rooms at the far ends of the Portego display his curatorial method and practice. Barbero, in the almost obsessive attention he paid to the slightest detail in his exhibitions and publications, shares the “originality” which has led him to be considered one of the most authoritative figures in art history today. The first room presents several past exhibitions, from the one dedicated to Peter Greenaway at the Fortuny Museum in 1993, to a mosaic of images and materials relative to the installations of works by artists such as Lucio Fontana, Carla Accardi, Anthony Gormley, Shirin Neshat, Tomas Saraceno and Arcangelo Sassolino, organized from the 1990s to the present at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, at the Macro of Rome, at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and at the Kunsthaus in Zurich.
The room that has always been called as the “kids’ space” presents a world that is known to very few, it depicts a man critics have defined “the art historian who hunts images”: a selection of sketches and drawings, texts and lectures from his work as a teacher at the Scuola Holden in Turin; a previously unknown Barbero, a photographer for the national Greco-Roman wrestling team; portraits from a decade-long photography project entitled Candidi Come Colombe Astuti Come Serpenti. What emerges is an intimate relationship with photography and images, an activity he has practised since he was a teenager and has refined over the years into a method that become indispensable even to his work as an art historian. “All these materials – said Barbero – will resound through their vicinity to the present, in a place that is open to all, in contact with young people who can study and become acquainted with them and who knows, from students they might become scholars one day.”
A polymorphous personality in terms of interests and education, Luca Massimo Barbero is an art historian, curator and photographer. Born in Turin in 1963, he trained during the first part of his life in Italy and in several stays abroad. From his studies in the Humanities he moved on to Agricultural studies and Photography; he came to Venice before the age of eighteen and graduated in Art History and Criticism from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.
From the very start, his work ranged across several areas of interest, starting in 1986 with an in-depth investigation of Spatialism and Lucio Fontana; he become one of the leading scholars of Fontana’s work before becoming a Scientific Consultant for the Fondazione Lucio Fontana in Milan. His studies and publications on post-World War II Italian and American art led him to become Associate Curator of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice for over 15 years. He has presented Italian art in international museum institutions including the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the Kunsthaus in Zurich, La Biennale di Venezia and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. He regularly curates contemporary art exhibitions and special projects, from rising young artists to personalities such as Jean Michel Basquiat, Nan Goldin, Carla Accardi, Mario Schifano, Yayoi Kusama, Shirin Neshat, Jason Martin, Keith Haring, and many others.
His interest and involvement in photography and cinema have led him to conceive and curate many exhibitions and publications on these themes, collaborating several times with Peter Greenaway, Abbas Kiarostami, Wim Wenders and David Cronenberg, and collecting a personal photo library of art history, sports and news events. As a photographer, he has published portraits and scenes of daily life from his travels under various pseudonyms in international magazines. In 2007 and 2008, he published two photography books dedicated to sports and Greco-Roman wrestling, whose the Italian championship he follows on behalf of the National Federation.
He is the author of many publications on Art History and catalogues raisonnés of the work of Lucio Fontana (Works on paper and Ceramic sculptures), Pietro Consagra, Paolo Scheggi, and other post-war artists. A professor at the Fine Arts Academies in Venice and Perugia, he has also taught at the Università Iuav and Ca’ Foscari University in Venice. From 2009 to 2011, he was the director of the new Macro Museum in Rome and has been one of the teachers at the Scuola Holden since its foundation. Today, he is the Director of the Art History Institute of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Associate Curator of the Modern and Contemporary Art Collections of Intesa Sanpaolo, member of the Scientific Committee of the Farnesina Collection and of the Editorial Board of “Il Giornale dell’Arte”.