Ca' Pesaro was born, as Venice's Gallery of Modern Art, from the dream of a woman, Duchess Felicita Bevilacqua La Masa, who at the end of the nineteenth century decided to donate her palazzo to the city so that it could become a home for contemporary art and artists.
Today, once again thanks to a woman, Ca' Pesaro is renewed: in December last year, the City of Venice received the most important donation for the Gallery's collections, in terms of the extent and quality of the works, since the de Lisi Usigli bequest in 1961. It consists of 105 works donated by Gemma De Angelis Testa that round off and integrate the Ca' Pesaro collections for art after 1950, testifying to the passion of the collector who acquired them over time and then selected them for the exceptional donation to the city. Exhibited until 17 September on the second floor of the Museum, the works tell of her love for art through the protagonists of the international contemporary scene.
The Gallery is thus experiencing a new course in its history in line with a new balance, which has shifted the weight of the collections towards contemporary art. The works on display share some general characteristics: they belong to artists from the second half of the twentieth century and the new millennium and thus round off and fit in with the Museum's collections, bridging the gap – and with absolute masterpieces – that, since the 1950s and 1960s, prevented Ca' Pesaro from truly documenting its own time; they provide a snapshot of the globalised society of our contemporary age, introducing voices from the five continents, with different approaches, linked to the nations and cultures of origin; finally, they bring together numerous female artists, a rarity for our collections.
The exhibition is organised according to elective affinities, dialogues that are triggered between the authors and the works, describing Gemma De Angelis Testa's passions and, at the same time, themes and new narratives in contemporary art.
Some of the artists describe the birth of Gemma's collecting love, such as Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly and Gino De Dominicis, and are placed side by side with the masters of Arte Povera such as Mario Merz, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Gilberto Zorio, and the protagonists of the Transavanguardia and Italian Pop Art, such as Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi and Mario Schifano. Monumental sculptures by Tony Cragg and Ettore Spalletti stand alongside iconic works by Anselm Kiefer and the productions of the other half of the avant-garde, with Marina Abramovic, Vanessa Beecroft, Candida Höfer, Mariko Mori, Shirin Neshat, and the Italians Sabrina Mezzaqui, Paola Pivi, and Marinella Senatore.
Among the donated works is a precious nucleus of 17 works from the hand of the creative genius Armando Testa, whose imaginative universe is in continuous dialogue with the international artists in the collection. And again, photography and the theme of identity are well represented by the works of Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth, by the works of John Currin, Thomas Demand and Marlene Dumas, by the canvases of David Salle and Julian Schnabel, in continuous reference to the creations of Tony Oursler, Gabriel Orozco, Kcho and Bill Viola. Echoes and evocations of contemporary art thus appear at Ca' Pesaro through messages from all the cultures of the world. The themes of our present are articulated according to different sensitivities and are sometimes addressed with irony and desecrating vitality, in other cases with the force of denunciation of discrimination, migration, injustice, or by placing the viewer in a state of suspension and expectation. The extraordinary works of Kendell Geers and William Kentridge, for example, address the theme of racial discrimination with monumental works. The most diverse cultures speak to the younger generations through the visions of Chris Ofili, Ai Weiwei, Trisha Baga, Pascale Marthine Tayou, Subodh Gupta, Adrian Paci, to name but a few, and tell of a globalised, so far so near present.
Until 17 September, the luminous rooms on the second floor of Ca' Pesaro will celebrate the arrival of this extraordinary donation and pay tribute to the passion and eye of a collector who, with great generosity, desired to donate her works and make them available to all. The exhibition becomes a fundamental part of the story that begins on the first floor, with the historical collections of Ca' Pesaro housing the masters of the twentieth century, and the visit to the Museum is transformed into a great journey, in time and space, from the birth of the modern to the spirit of a new contemporaneity.
All images: courtesy MUVE