Amazing documents!

What treasures might a contemporary art and culture archive contain? What stories are hidden in the materials it preserves? Join us as we explore the Mart’s Archivio del ’900.

By Mart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

Portrait of Vittore Grubicy (1910 circa) by Benvenuto BenvenutiMart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

Vittore Grubicy De Dragon

Vittore Grubicy De Dragon (Milan 1851-1920) was a merchant and art critic affiliated with the Divisionist movement. Together with his brother, Alberto, he promoted the work of artists such as Emilio Longoni, Gaetano Previati and Giovanni Segantini. He was also a painter and engraver, and his archive was purchased by the Mart in 1998. It’s thanks to the study of this documentation that the Mart was able to host a large exhibition entitled “Vittore Grubicy and Europe. At the Roots of Divisionism” back in 2005.

Objects belonged to Vittore Grubicy (fine Ottocento-inizio Novecento)Mart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

Grubicy’s collection also features a few objects, such as this box containing various tools of the trade.
Grubicy started creating art under the influence of Dutch painters – namely Anton Mauve – and his works were exhibited at important events such as the Triennale di Milano and the Venice Biennale.
The box contains various brushes, bottles, paints, containers, palettes, and a funnel for paint thinners.

Objects belonged to Vittore Grubicy (fine Ottocento-inizio Novecento)Mart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

Another wooden box found among Grubicy’s possessions also contains personal belongings, including pairs of glasses, theatre binoculars, a plaque placed outside his home and the emblem of the Famiglia Artistica Milanese, made from bronze by the sculptor Eugenio Pellini.

Perhaps the most curious object of all is the small ear trumpet. In fact, this instrument appears in a portrait of Grubicy by Giovanni Segantini, which is kept in the Museum der bildenden Künste in Leipzig.

Giannina Censi in "Aerodanze 3: rovesciamento d'apparecchio" (1931)Mart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

Giannina Censi

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti postulated the evolution of Futurist dance back in 1917, and it was the dancer and choreographer Giannina Censi (Milan 1913-Voghera 1995) who really brought the concept to life. Among her best known perfomances of the 1930s are the famous "Aerodanza" choreographed by Enrico Prampolini, and "Simultanina" by Marinetti. The ballerina’s personal archive was purchased by the Mart in 1998 following the “Giannina Censi. Dancing Futurism” exhibition hosted at the Casa d’Arte Futurista Depero.

Personal and stage jewelry belonged to Giannina Censi (anni Trenta)Mart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

Censi’s archive also contains photographs, which date back to 1915 and show numerous jewels adorning the dancer’s body.
In with the documents were a few pieces of personal and stage jewellery dating back to the 1930s and 1940s.

Personal and stage jewelry belonged to Giannina Censi (anni Trenta)Mart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

A few examples? A silver pendant engraved with the dancer’s initials (GC), three hair pins, and a snake-shaped necklace.

Portrait of Margherita Sarfatti (1931-1932) by Ghitta CarrellMart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

Margherita Sarfatti

Margherita Sarfatti (Venice 1880-Cavallasca 1961) was one of the most influential art critics of the 20th century. Her name is inextricably linked to the artists of the Novecento Italiano movement, many of whom championed a return to pictorial traditions and shunned the tumultuous avant-garde. Sarfatti’s vast personal collection documents her intense work as a writer and publicist, and was purchased by the Mart in 2009. In 2018, the Mart dedicated an exhibition entitled “Margherita Sarfatti. Novecento Italiano in the World” to her.

Little box belonged to Margherita Sarfatti with souvenirs of her trip to Tunisia (1923)Mart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

Sarfatti’s archive also includes a few objects. These are mostly memories related to her life and travels, such as a small box containing fragments of stones and mosaic collected in Tunisia in 1923 – an experience that led the writer to publish Tunisiaca that same year.

Casts of Greek coins, a present from Paolo Orsi to Margherita Sarfatti (1930)Mart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

This curious cardboard box – which once held the first volume of the Treccani Encyclopaedia – contains plaster casts of 35 Greek coins dating back to the 4th, 5th and 6th centuries BC.
But why is it included in the Mart’s Archivio del ’900? Because it was gifted to Margherita Sarfatti by Sicily’s Archaeological Superintendency at the time, Rovereto-born Paolo Orsi – testament to their shared passion for classical antiquity.

Portrait of Enrico Baj (anni Cinquanta)Mart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

Enrico Baj

Enrico Baj (Milan 1924-Vergiate 2003) was a leading Italian artist in the second half of the 20th century, and the founder of movements such as Nuclear Art (1951) and the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus (1953). His non-fiction work was also extensive, and was primarily dedicated to curiosities and anecdotes related to contemporary art. His collection was donated to the Mart by his wife, Roberta Cerini, in 2014.

Standard of the Institutum ‘Pataphysicum Mediolanense (anni Sessanta)Mart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

Baj was partly responsible for bringing ‘Pataphysics to Italy (yes, apostrophe and all!), which was the science of the imaginary realm, as promoted by the writer Alfred Jarry. Taking the French Collège de ‘Pataphysique as a model, with which he had come into contact, Baj founded the Institutum ‘Pataphysicum Mediolanense in Milan in 1963.
This is the institute’s heraldic flag, displayed during pataphysical dinners at the Cassina de Pomm, along the Naviglio Martesana in Milan.

Standard of the Caisse de Prévoyance des ouvrièrs italiens fumistes en France (inizio Novecento)Mart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

This standard is taken from Baj’s house and was most likely purchased by the artist due to its unique appearance.
Dating back to the beginning of the 20th century, the standard references the pension fund for Italian chimney sweepers in France, and one such worker is embroidered on the lower part of the standard.

Amelia Etlinger in her studio in New YorkMart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

Amelia Etlinger

Amelia Etlinger (New York 1933-1987) was an experimental American artist known for her research into artists’ books, visual poetry and mail art. It was under the banner of the latter that Etlinger created some very original letters using fabric and plants. The Mart’s Archivio del ’900 contains dozens of letter-works of this kind, in the funds of the artist Betty Danon and the collector Marco Fraccaro.

Letter of Amelia Etlinger to Betty Danon (25 gennaio 1979) by Amelia EtlingerMart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

Here is a typical letter-work by Amelia Etlinger, sent to Betty Danon during the 1970s. The letters contain writing concealed beneath a web of silk thread, ribbon, tissue paper, sequins, fragile leaves and dried flowers.

Every time these letters are requested for consultation or on loan, the age-old dilemma arises: how can we guarantee both the display and proper conservation of these documents at the same time?

Artist's postcard (1973) by Amelia EtlingerMart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

This postcard-work by Amelia Etlinger was made in 1973 for the Cards From the World exhibition held at the Centro Tool run by Ugo Carrega in Milan. Dozens of artists, such as Ben Vautier, Mirella Bentivoglio, Ketty La Rocca, Eugenio Miccini and Bruno Munari participated in the event. In fact, it was one of the first Mail Art exhibitions in Italy.
The exhibition featured 165 postcards, all of which are held in the Fraccaro-Carrega collection, along with photographs of some of the postcards hanging from the ceiling on thin nylon threads.

Guglielmo Achille Cavellini portrayed by Andy Warhol on an artist’s stamp (seconda metà degli anni Settanta)Mart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

Guglielmo Achille Cavellini

Guglielmo Achille Cavellini, also known as GAC (Brescia 1914-1990), was one of Italy’s most eccentric late-20th-century artists. His works tended to focus on the central theme of ‘self-authorisation’ – a hyperbolic (and ironic) glorification of his own role as an artist. The Cavellini papers kept in the Archivio del ’900 were donated to the Mart by his son, Piero, in 2013.

Sticker promoting a fictional Cavellini’s exhibition (anni Settanta) by Guglielmo Achille CavelliniMart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

Along with artists’ books, postcards and stamps featuring his own portrait, Cavellini loved to glorify his own name using stickers.
This is undoubtedly the best known of those self-produced by the artist, starting in 1973. Printed in the tens of thousands, it advertises a non-existent exhibition for Cavellini’s 100th birthday which, according to the artist, was to be held at the Palazzo Ducale in 2014.
In many ways, the ‘sticker’ is symbolic of the artist, as it was used by Cavellini in countless performances and has reached every corner of the world.

Memorial pin for the anniversary of Cavellini’s tour in Japan (1987) by Guglielmo Achille CavelliniMart, Museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto

Cavellini’s self-historicisation also consisted of real international tours that took the artist to the United States and Japan.
One such tour is documented by a pin celebrating the anniversary of his arrival in Osaka in October 1986. Here, in the Shitenno-ji temple, Cavellini wrote part of his autobiography on the shaved head of Shōzō Shimamoto, leader of the avant-garde group Gutai, which published Cavellini Japan that same year – a Japanese anthology on Cavellinian thought.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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