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Challenging Beauty: Insights Into Italian Contemporary Art

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The Parkview Museum challenges beauty and reality itself in a new exhibition that examines contemporary Italian art movements from the 1960s to now. 

Less than a year old, the Parkview Museum seems to already have a real winner on their hands with an all new exhibition celebrating and questioning beauty in all its forms. Curated by acclaimed curator and art historian Dr Lorand Hegyi, Challenging Beauty traces contemporary Italian art history over the last 60 years over four key movements.

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Saturn by Mario Merz

Challenging Beauty selects the most representative works from the late George Wong’s Contemporary Italian Collection, bringing together works that span movements such as avant-garde idealism in the Arte Povera movement and eclectic metaphor in the Transavantgarde. The collection also includes more contemporary works from The new Roman School, which reinterprets the traditions of Mannerism, as well as new works from younger generation artists, whose pieces explore anthropology and human existentialism itself.

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Dr Lorand Hegyi in front of Aldo Modino’s Darsy Manet

What unites all these pieces then, according to Dr Hegyi, is that each of these works showcase the many facets of Italian art over the years, highlighting not exhaustively, but the sheer breadth of ‘beauty’ that these artists have deigned worthy of capturing in a single piece. Said Dr Hegyi: “In Italy, it’s so rare to see an exhibition like this in a museum. I wanted this to be educational, so I chose works that could be sorted according to historical context, so you can see how movements in the past may have influenced artists of today.”

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Untitled by Marco Tirelli

Two of the artists featured in the collection include Gianni Dessi and Marina Paris, who were both present at the media preview of the exhibition to share their thoughts on their artworks. Said Dr Hegyi on discovering both artists: “I saw Dessi’s work over 30 years ago and have been following his work ever since. We’re about the same age, and I find that his work represents my reality, and connects to me in a spiritual way. Eventually, I was introduced to Marina’s work via him, and was intrigued by the way her photography has a painterly quality to it.”

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Three For You by Gianni Dessi

Gianni Dessi’s Three For You (2015) is a self portrait in three busts in different colours. But in each sculpture, his face is warped, from eyes obscured by net in the red bust, to the mouth of the black bust blocked by an oversized ping pong ball. Says Gianni: “Beauty requires an intensity to it, and some grain of truth. Art without truth is not art, because people need something real to appreciate and reflect upon, and that is what makes things beautiful.”

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My Beautiful Heart by Pizzi Cannella

Many of the works featured are in fact, not necessarily ‘beautiful’, but are more a case of breaking and restructuring the way we might choose to approach art itself, considering how art, in acting as a simulacrum of reality, may allow us to reinterpret and better understand it. In a world rife with fake news and untrustworthy facts, metaphorical art becomes the closest thing we might have to accurately represent what lies within objects and our surroundings. Pizzi Cannella’s My Beautiful Heart (2002), for example, depicts a familiar little black dress, but even bereft of a wearer, still manages to instil feelings of phantom sensuality by its symbolism alone.

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Underconstruction series by Marina Paris

For new generation artist Marina Paris, her set of photographs in the Underconstruction series (2015) depict haunting abandoned spaces, ready to be demolished. She explains that upon discovering these places, she found them to be incredibly cinematic, as if waiting for someone to capture them in a photo. She says: “Art aims to build a relationship with the viewer and awaken emotions in them. With my photos, I wanted to explore the relationship between public and private spaces, and highlight how these classic buildings represented the physical erosion of aesthetics from our history and tradition.”

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The Wolf by Paolo Canevari

Ultimately, what Challenging Beauty does is to bring viewers on a journey through one man’s view of beauty in Italian culture, showing the sheer diversity of crafts and techniques that have been developed over the years and with it, comes an air of politics, fierce intellectualism and relatable, universal human issues discussed in these selected works. Dr Hegyi concludes: “Beauty is a very sublime concept; it can be found in the embarrassing, the fearful and even the violent. But what makes things beautiful is the shock of truth you find within it, and the ability to learn and draw comparisons to life itself from art.” Perhaps in seeing these varied perceptions housed in a single gallery, you too will come away from this exhibition with an even more open mind and a newfound ability to find beauty in the most elemental aspects of the world around you.

Challenging Beauty runs at the Parkview Museum, Singapore till 19th August 2018. Admission is free. For more information, visit their website here

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