The ancient architectural and civic fabric of Rome attracts millions of visitors each year to bask in one of the most important historical and artistic cities in the world. It’s right that we visit the Coliseum at least once in our life and the brutal exercise of visiting the Vatican Museums does pay dividends, despite the aching feet! I’ve often written about the Rome I love, that Rome which you can easily miss and is what certain travel pundits like to call “off the beaten track.”
But there is another Rome as well. A Rome that sometimes embraces the best of modern art, and exhibits it in what can only be described as intriguing, historical spaces that litter this ancient town! Such exhibitions create a mesmerizing juxtaposition of time, space and artifact that this city pulls off better than most. Such a space is the magnificent Chiostro del Bramante, created by the master architect in 1501 and for some years now has transformed itself into one of Rome’s most interesting exhibition spaces, currently showing the work of Miró.
Born in April 20, 1893, Miró by his death in December 25 1983 had become a towering figure in the world of modern art and surrealism in particular. International acclaim followed every exhibition of his work in his later years, and any gallery worth their salt cannot be without one of his paintings in their contemporary collections. His work has been interpreted as Surrealism, a sandbox for the subconscious mind, a re-creation of the childlike, and a manifestation of Catalan pride. In numerous interviews dating from the 1930s onwards, Miró expressed contempt for conventional painting methods as a way of supporting bourgeois society, and famously declared an "assassination of painting" in favour of upsetting the visual elements of established painting.
I think it’s a delightful irony then that Miró’s painting should be exhibited in this delightful space in Rome, created by perhaps the first bourgeois artist in western art. A man so obsessed with his position in society that the continued presence of Michelangelo in the same city compelled Bramante to convince Pope Julius II that the great sculptor was the man to paint the Pope’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel – a hopeful strategy to drive the artist to conflict with the Holy Father and perhaps prison. It failed miserably and the rest they say is history!
Miró’s quasi abstract compositions sit beautifully in Bramante’s clositer, making for a damn fine exhibition to see during a visit to Rome. The painterly legacy of Miró has been a significant influence on late 20th-century art, in particular the American abstract expressionist artists such as Motherwell, Calder, Gorky, Pollock, Matta and Rothko, while his lyrical abstractions and color field paintings were precursors of that style by artists such as Frankenthaler, Olitski and Louis and others. His work has also influenced modern designers, including Paul Rand and Lucienne Day, and influenced recent painters such as Julian Hatton.
To see these modern day masterpieces on display in a Renaissance architectural masterpiece is what in part makes Rome, Rome. Enjoy . . .
Miró! Poesia e luce from 16/03/2012 to 10/06/2012 at the Chiostro del Bramante in Rome.