Identity and Beauty between Art and Science
Curated by Pietro Bellasi and Martina Mazzotta
For the first time in Italy, an exhibition that brings art and science together over the subject of the skin.
The survey arises from a project of Fondazione Antonio Mazzotta, for years a leading light in the world of art, together with Boots Laboratories, the iconic wellbeing brand known for its “hero” anti-age product Serum 7, marketed in Italy by P&G.
Through a rich array of works of art – antique, modern, and contemporary – documents, and antique objects, the visitor explores a fascinating itinerary that leads to a science laboratory.
Much space is dedicated to modern and contemporary artists who use the most varied languages, from painting to sculpture, from the conceptual to the new technologies, and on through to experimental filmmaking, with site specific events as well. Among the artists on show are: Giacomo Balla, Franz von Bayros, Vanessa Beecroft, Adriana Bisi Fabbri, Andrea Chisesi, Giuliana Cuneaz, Gillo Dorfles, Marcel Duchamp, Lucio Fontana, Grazia Gabbini, Robert Gligorov, Abel Herrero, , Roy Lichtenstein, Luigi Maio, Lazhar Mansouri, Piero Manzoni, Alberto Martini, Bruno Munari, Giuseppe Penone, Marinella Pirelli, Pietro Pirelli, Karl Prantl, Man Ray, Odilon Redon, Auguste Rodin, Omar Ronda, Mimmo Rotella, Maia Sambonet, Alberto Savinio, Andreas Serrano, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Andy Warhol, and Tom Wesselmann.
The exhibition unfolds along an itinerary of six sections that examine in transdisciplinary terms the subject of the skin, beauty, and the female identity, accompanied throughout by contemporary art installations. Throughout, there is a fascinating interplay between the macro- and the micro- cosmos, between images of the surface of stars and planets and images of the epidermis seen under the microscope.
The first section is entitled The Discovery of the Skin, and it shows very rare waxworks by the eighteenth-century sculptress and anatomist Anna Morandi, “Woman’s Face” and “Sensitive Hands”, and Ettore Sobrero’s extraordinary miniatures of antique apothecaries, one of the first places dedicated also to skincare. In line with this approach, the itinerary continues with Paradise of Hygiene set in contrast with Hell of Modesty: the modern-day boom of the concept of hygiene is illustrated by bathrooms and “hygiene gadgets” from yesterday and today, contributed to the show by corporate museums. Works by Sam Shaw, Mel Ramos e John Kacere may be seen all along the way.
A “tunnel of monsters”, made in collaboration with the Cineteca Italiana di Milano, acts as the link to the next section, the heart of the exhibition: the Face of Beauty, the role of the skin. A history of cosmetics, from antiquity through to our own times, is accompanied by works that highlight how the concept of beauty and different ways of interpreting it have changed over time.
From a classical vision of beauty in Canova’s plaster cast and in the woman shown in Alfons Mucha’s large paravent entitled The Four Seasons, in perfect Art Nouveau style, the visitor is catapulted into oneiric, metaphorical visions made concrete in the portraits by the French painter Odilon Redon, Alberto Martini, and Adriana Bisi Fabbri.
In this lingering gaze at the female identity, much space is also dedicated to the skin, with the aim of highlighting its peculiarities in its various manifestations. The show offers a range of significant examples, from the complexions and the icy beauty of the female icons immortalized by Man Ray, by whom the show can boast an extraordinary and choice group of black and white photographs dating from the Twenties to the Thirties, including Noir et blanche (1926), Natasha (1931), and the Juliet portraits (1945), to the skin and the iconic beauty of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn (1967), Portrait of Daniela Morera (1981) and Ladies and Gentlemen (DATA??), as well as Tom Wesselmann’s Maquette for Monica in the Bedroom (1986). Among the most recent examples of the phenomenon, outstanding are the works of Giuliana Cuneaz, with her imposing Corpus in Fabula (1996), Robert Gligorov, Abel Herrero, Andreas Serrano, Yoshie Nishikawa.
References to the literary milieu are not lacking, such as Luigi Maio’s Azazello’s Cream (from Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita), made for the occasion.
Metamorphosis of women’s skin, instead, is a suggestive lighting installation, made expressly for the exhibition, that presents the transformation of the same woman made up and dressed according to the "style" of the time (from the Twenties to the new millennium). The exhibition proceeds with a more contemporary approach that analyzes skin and identity together, thanks to the contributions of Milan’s Tattoo Museum, with particular attention to woman and tattooing, understood as a complement to individual identity, in various contexts and historical periods, plus a selection of extraordinary photographs by Lazhar Mansouri.
The itinerary concludes with a real interactive scientific laboratory and a multi-sensory room. Here, it is possible to admire works by Bruno Munari, Karl Prantl, Pietro Pirelli, and Giuseppe Penone, as well as pieces from Milan’s Institute for the Blind and from Bologna’s Anteros tactile museum. Finally, every woman can leave her own mark by “contributing her own face” by means of a snapshot that will become part of a wall installation, as evidence of the present reality.
Plates, manuscripts, period photographs, curios, alembics, and personal care products – many of which come from the Boots Historical Archive in Nottingham – form a backdrop to the rich selection of works on show. All this is just a taste of what actually awaits visitors to “Women’s Skin”.
Moreover, during the four weeks that the show will be open, Boots Laboratories has invited a group of cosmetologists from Rome’s Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore to explore together with the public various themes related to the skin. The event will profit from the valuable support of a committee of experts from various sectors, which counts among its members: Chiara Cappelletto, Leonardo Celleno, Rosa Chiesa, Luisa Gnecchi Ruscone, Marco Montemaggi, Massimo Papi, Loretta Secchi, Fulvio Simoni, and Beba Restelli.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by Edizioni Gabriele Mazzotta with critical texts in Italian and English by Pietro Bellasi and Martina Mazzotta and the entries of the specialists from the various sectors.
By A Web Design