Sistema: New Acquisitions and Young Artists of the Farnesina Collection

On the fourth floor of Palazzo della Farnesina, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, holds a collective exhibition displaying the new acquisitions that have entered the Ministry’s Collection since the end of 2013 to the present day. The exhibition presents a selection of artworks that intend to testify to the multifarious voices and expressions of Italy’s contemporary art scene of the last twenty years, with particular focus on the young generations. Part of the works are by artists who participated in the various editions of the ITaliens exhibition held at the Italian Embassy in Berlin (2010-2011), while the other artworks have been selected by the Board of Advisors for the Ministry Collection.  
Due to the heterogeneous nature of the works, the order of display has been laid out according to support and technique—a solution offering an inevitably partial reading of the works and of their authors, who in many cases articulate their artistic production through a variety of disciplines.
Further information about the authors and the contexts in which their works originated—some of which are part of wider projects or were conceived on specific occasions, such as residencies, site-specific projects, etc.—, can be found in the single entries on the pages that follow. 

Senza Titolo (2009) by Danilo BucchiMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

From paper to ceramic

From drawing to painting, from figurative to abstract art, from reenactment to intimism: a two-dimensional support—be it paper, canvas, or ceramic—is the media of choice for many artists, sometimes welcoming stimuli drawn from reality filtered by the artist’s personal perception, sometimes becoming a tool to articulate a meta-pictorial discourse. Some of the works on display are part of an artist’s wider and composite project, focusing on specific historic, social, or political themes; in these cases, the single work reflects a stage of the artist’s broader neo-conceptual research (as for instance, with Riccardo Benassi, Daniela Comani, Domenico Antonio Mancini, and Luca Vitone).

Senza titolo, Vanessa Beecroft, 1996, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Born in Genoa, Vanessa Beecroft has lived part of her life in Malcesine, on Lake Garda, graduating in Stage Design at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan in 1993. Brera was where she first became familiar with anorexia and bulimia, two disorders that were to become major stimuli in her artistic research centered on the image of the female body. Her personal need for psychoanalytical introspection led to Despair (1985-1993), a journal in which the artist recorded her complex relation with food, a work later followed by large-size canvases and then performances, each titled with a progressive number-code. Although Beecroft operates in the field of performance art, her output retains a strong connection to painting, as clearly testified by the quality of her videos in their exploration of visual concepts. “The drawings,” affirms Beecroft, “are the girls’ ugly and demented spirits. That which I would prefer to eliminate over time.” The artist’s naïve and infantile drawings, channeling her intimate needs, are a key towards the understanding of the pictorial quality of her performances.

Massimiliano Gioni’s interview with Vanessa Beecroft: “Un anno di arte/Vanessa Beecroft. ‘A tu per tu’ con Vanessa Beecroft,” Flash Art, no. 228, June-July, 2001.

Tutta la vita (2010) by Riccardo BenassiMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Riccardo Benassi lives and works in Berlin. His research centers on the concept of time and articulates through architectural, sound, and linguistic creations. Tutta la vita/The Whole Life was presented in 2011 as part of the exhibition entitled Attimi Fondamentali, inside the crypt of the Marino Marini Museum in Florence. The exhibition intended to revive forms of thought from a seemingly distant past to our present times. The artist’s starting point was a mistake in the lithography of the Tutta l’Architettura (1973) series published by Superstudio, the radical architecture group that theorized the Continuous Monument. On an old and slightly yellowed page are four images of the Cerimonia project, complemented by blots of color. Riccardo Benassi’s intervention consists in the insertion of three easels, thereby transforming the images into fragments of an exposition. Taking possession of these images, Benassi seems to bring Superstudio’s ideas back to life, although the group officially broke up in 1986.

Senza Titolo, Danilo Bucchi, 2009, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Danilo Bucchi lives and works in Rome, New York, and Beijing. He attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome where he also attained a Master’s degree in photography. His signature black varnish sign, inscribed with a syringe, is typical of his latest works. The black pigment intersects and drips, with the color outlining imaginary creatures’ faces, such as dolls and other invented characters inhabiting a world of dream that seems to portray today’s crazed human population. Each of Bucchi’s works originates, as the artist himself explains, “from a circular movement of the arm, that traces the first line and then continues on and on, starting to build up an independent state of mind. I do not know whether to call it a trance, a state of autism, or what else. All I know is that at one point the balance of the white canvas is broken and a new balance starts to form.” There seems to be a certain affinity with the Surrealist trance, which Bucchi acknowledges as a privileged creative moment, in which the subconscious is free to express itself.

It Was Me. Diary.1900-1999 (2002/2007) by Daniela ComaniMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Born in Bologna, Daniela Comani has been living and working in Berlin since the 1980s. Her work focuses on personal identity and social stereotypes, themes the artist tackles by using the same language employed by the media that translate our values and habits in our daily lives. It Was Me. Diary 1900-1999 offers a chronological overview of one hundred years of history, narrated in the first person through real historic facts. Daniela Comani discloses this twentieth century diary, in which the narrator alternatively assumes the role of author and victim, identifying as the protagonist of the facts that marked the history of the last century.

The work, originally in German, exists in three versions: as a digital print on vinyl fabric, as an audio-installation, and as a book; an installation version of the work was exhibited at the 54th Venice Biennale.

Mappa n.5, Gianluca Malgeri, 2011, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Born in Reggio Calabria, Gianluca Malgeri lives in Berlin and Florence. He is an explorer of contemporary myths, onto which he exerts his unprejudiced intervention. “The map” explains Malgeri, “must be read as a […] graphic rendition of experience. Throughout the pre-digital age, maps were compiled after a journey across lands that had never been explored or mapped before, and inevitably, in creating the map, the traveler’s experiences were graphically interpolated into the picture. The map is therefore the consequence of an experience, but can also be the cause of new routes […]. I have decided to focus my research on the silhouettes of sculptures representing travellers and explorers […]. Map No.5 symbolizes an intimate and solitary journey: in this case, the map is a skin tattoo testifying to individual experiences, an indelible archaic and yet modern mark […]. My maps describe experiences, no longer my experiences, of imaginary travels, and act as substitutes for travel journals.”

Mitate mono, Andrea Melloni, 2013, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Andrea Melloni specialized in drawing at the Academy of Fine Arts of Bologna, and has been living and working in Berlin since 2002. In his work, he experiments a variety of media, including electronic music, video, installation, and photography. Besides being a visual artist, Melloni also masters Bonsai techniques. The Japanese word mitate means “to see in a new way” and is pertinent to many ambits of Japanese culture, including landscape architecture and garden design: in these disciplines the word defines a recovery and a new combination of pre-existing elements with an artistic purpose. Mitate Mono is part of a series of works produced in 2013: with its explosion of color, at a first glance, this work might recall the aesthetics of Abstract-Expressionist painting. But Melloni’s works are in fact ready-mades: by ripping the pictorial surface off the canvas of pre-existing works, the artist reverses and reassembles its colors onto a new canvas, making the original picture illegible and exposing the interstices between the pigment and the canvas.

Avviso ai Naviganti # 08 (2014) by Domenico Antonio ManciniMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Domenico Antonio Mancini studied at the Academy of Fine Arts of Naples, in 2010 he was shortlisted for Premio Cairo, and in 2012 he won the Shanghai Prize. Avviso ai Naviganti #08 is Mancini’s first work on the Mediterranean Sea, conceptually focusing on the theme of Europe-bound migration flows. The project consists of a map of all the Mediterranean coasts with data pertinent to the accidents that have occurred in the described areas, from the Turkish coastlines to the Canary Islands, Europe’s outpost. For Mancini, nautical papers are a system allowing a reading of the Mediterranean Sea, and in his maps he chooses to include only the numerical indication of the depth of the sea—the principal representation of the sea on paper—leaving out any other information regarding the land, the routes, or any other aspect.

The numbers indicating the depth however, are complemented by red cyphers indicating the number of migrants’ deaths that have occurred in that area since the 1980s to the present day. Red is the color generally used to highlight updates marked on nautical papers.

Pausa Reiki, Alessandro Passaro, 2013, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Alessandro Passaro lives and works in Mesagne, near Brindisi. In his works he employs paint and canvas, with powerful colors channeling a fierce, and somewhat liberating, violence. The canvas records different layers of meaning, reflecting the artist’s perception of reality’s many levels, with textured brushstrokes complemented by seemingly singular objects, delivering surreal results. Pausa Reiki is part of a series of works based on the symbols of Reiki, a therapeutic Japanese discipline theorizing meditation as a means to achieve the union of interior energy with that of the universe. The artist’s works seem to initiate viewers to this discipline, with symbolic allusions creating a temporary connection between the practitioner and the receiver—a connection channeling energy and transcending the physical collocation of the two subjects.

Interview on

Dal 16 al 23 novembre 2013 (2013) by Federico PietrellaMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Federico Pietrella attended the Academy of Fine Arts of Rome and currently lives and works in Berlin. For over fifteen years he has been painting with date stamps, a technique he devised in 1998, while in Antwerp for the Erasmus year. This technique, which makes his work immediately recognizable, consists in simply pressing a date stamp on an inkpad and then on the canvas, creating a picture only by impressing countless dates. The dates in each painting are not casual and correspond to the days the painter actually spent working on the painting, which usually sum up to about two months. The subjects and the landscapes are generally taken from a photograph. Pietrella’s technique is a new form of pointillism, as it were, suspending and crystallizing the image in a silent atmosphere.

For Pietrella, however, it is not the color to be fragmented, but rather the pictorial action developing through time. Time ultimately becomes the only thing that really matters. For Pietrella time “is something mysterious, from which everything descends: life, work, one’s own being.”

Esercitazione nipponica (2013) by Angela PellicanòMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Born in Reggio Calabria, Angela Pellicanò lives and works in Rome, although she has always maintained strong connections to her birthplace. In Reggio Calabria she collaborates with TechnèLab producing artistic pottery and teaching young artists how to integrate this technique in their practice. Angela Pellicanò’s expressive means are painting and ceramics, with which she envisions herself as an archeologist of the future, creating works with elements of chromatic combination, collage, and layering.

Esercitazione Nipponica is an oil painting on ceramic, depicting a Japanese woman wearing a gas mask: an image with a strong iconic value unfolding from the artist’s study of original magazines published between 1936 and 1945. The picture is overlaid by another fragmented image of ancient sculpture also painted with the same technique. Pellicanò does not wish to recount history or the horrors of war, but to question the propaganda techniques that regimes adopt to justify their decisions.

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Nicola Rotiroti studied at the Academy of Fine Arts of Catanzaro and currently lives and works in Rome. His work reinterprets the tradition of figurative painting and his research is centered on water. The artist paints bodies that dive and sink into water, with a hyper-realistic description of light and transparencies and vaguely psychedelic effects. There is something indefinably disquieting in his obsessive attention for painstaking detail, but water is certainly an element integral to human life and source of life, from the fetus’ placenta inside a mother’s womb, to the regenerating power of rain. Water is also a place of mental alteration, a place capable of generating visions: water in fact disperses, deforms, discloses a sense of disquiet, and muffles sounds, immerging the body into silence and suspending man’s state of consciousness.

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Andrea Salvino was born in Rome, where he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, and currently lives and works in Berlin. His work focuses on social and political issues, drawing inspiration from news and cinema, related in particular to the 1960s and ‘70s urban class struggle. Andrea Salvino’s pictorial sign is rigorous, controlled, and essential, echoing nineteenth century socially engaged painting, such as that of Italian Divisionism. Aurora is a small-size painting, with an intimate and melancholy atmosphere, depicting a man seen from behind beholding a full moon just before dawn. With this painting, Salvino seems to draw inspiration from the art of Caspar David Friedrich, describing a landscape pervaded by a profound sense of solitude and where man is face to face with nature.

Embassy flower, Marta Sforni, 2008, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Marta Sforni studied Architecture in Venice, attended the Milan Academy of Fine Arts, and today lives and works between Berlin and Venice. Inspired by the history of decoration, her research focuses on meandering and interlacing ornamental patterns. Embassy flower depicts a detail of one of the Murano chandeliers—a subject the artist is very fond of—hanging in the central hall of the Italian Embassy in Berlin and is part of a series of paintings deriving from the artist’s direct observation of these institutional spaces. This painting, part of a wider series, can be read as a homage to the Italian glass-making tradition, an art which finds its highest expression in Murano. By using Payne’s grey, a pigment employed in the eighteenth century to paint dark shades, Sforni delivers a suspended painting, made of light paint layerings, symbolically alluding to time and memory.

Riot's atlas (2013) by Pietro RuffoMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Pietro Ruffo studied architecture at the Roma Tre University in Rome where he currently lives and works. Ruffo’s artistic flair blends with his architectural upbringing: pencil, paper, and drawing are the cornerstones of his work, always centered on a meticulous and accurate preliminary preparatory phase. Thanks to a particular technique he personally devised, based on cut out of paper that is then superimposed with a system of large pins, his work acquires a three-dimensional presence. His artistic research is centered on individual freedom and dignity, themes which he investigates with his layered works that lend themselves to a variety of visual and semantic interpretations.

In Riot’s Atlas Ruffo takes a map of the world, overlaying it with slogans used by the demonstrators from the different countries of the world. Every word is cut out and placed in relief, establishing a virtual network covering the globe and symbolically connecting faraway regions and countries.

Non sapendo che fare, prese il vento e poi si lasciò portare alla deriva, Matteo Tenardi, 2013, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Matteo Tenardi is from Castelnuovo Garfagnana, a town near Lucca, and currently lives and works in Massa. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts of Carrara, attending Omar Galliani’s courses and graduating in Visual Arts. Tenardi describes his subjects with great realism and skill. His work focuses on the relation between the human being and space understood as an architectural notion as well as as a physical boundary and a limit to escape. Non sapendo che fare, prese il vento e poi si lasciò portare alla deriva describes an anonymous man wearing a black overcoat, mysteriously showing his back to the viewer. The painting seamlessly fits into the architectural space of the corridor where it is displayed, creating interesting interactions and new spatial hypothesis.

Holy circle (2008) by Luca TrevisaniMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Luca Trevisani studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna and currently lives and works in Berlin. In his artistic research, he creates short circuits and interactions between a variety of disciplines: art, physics, philosophy, design, alchemy, biology, and natural sciences. To appreciate Holy Circle in its complexity, the work must be observed very closely. Swarms of ants, within a fixed time and space, tend to move together, shifting from a situation of chaos to one of circularity, forming a single dot-shape. Then follows a new phase of desegregation, with the ants maintaining an orderly formation, creating circular shapes alluding to a sacred dimension, eventually returning to a state of chaos.

The overall effect is that of a rhythmic, elegant, and ornamental movement. Luca Trevisani focuses on creatures’ migration and transformation processes, a research that leads him to an understanding of natural processes that could also well apply to society.

Luca Lo Pinto and Renate Wiehager, Luca Trevisani, Koln: Snoeck Verlagsgesellschaft, 2014.

Sùrrealisma (2013) by Jolanda SpagnoMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Jolanda Spagno is from Bari, where she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. Pencil, paper, and OLF (Optical Lighting Film) are the ingredients of her surrealist vision. Two androgynous, inexpressive faces look at the viewer without asking for identification. In the center is a tree, an ancestral reference to nature described in detail with a sapient chiaroscuro effect. The three drawings are multiplied by OLF, a special optical lighting film that factorizes light and vision, generating an effect of bewilderment and disorientation. The vision becomes metaphysical, completely stripped of any spatial or temporal coordinates. Jolanda Spagno’s research focuses on the human figure, creating images that change depending on the beholder’s point of view, on the light, and on the space in which the drawing is set. What varies is the perception of the eye, our doorway to vision, then elaborated by our mind. What is at play is the other’s recognizability and often inaccessible intimacy.

Finestra VII (isola dell'arte), Luca Vitone, 2004, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Born in Genoa, Luca Vitone has been living in Berlin since 2010. His work, based on contamination between art, geography, anthropology, music, literature, and sociology, investigates the relations between man and his environment, with particular focus on the anthropological experience within ever-changing environments subject to topological and cultural alterations. During the 1990s, Vitone began his research on monochrome. The canvas, understood as a limited space for creation, integrates dust and ashes, the “anti-pigments.” The project entitled Finestre (2004) is part of this line of work: seven large watercolor paintings on paper, painted with the dust collected from the Stecca degli Artigiani in Milan, a former factory at the time owned by the city, not far from the Garibaldi Train Station. By fixing an intrinsically ephemeral material like dust on paper, the artist records the memory of a place to hand it down to posterity.

Sculptural language—Contemporary Inflections 

Sculpture: a medium that can express human condition (D’Oria) and also lend itself to an investigation of the relation between sculpture and architecture (Catelani).

Reziario, Antonio Catelani, 2008, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Active since the mid-eighties, Catelani was born in Florence, and is now living and working in Berlin. His work offers a reflection on sculpture with an experimental exploration of its principles in relation to space, shape, and composition. During the nineties, Catelani began working with color, producing abstract meta-pictures, visualizing his interest for plastic relations, lines, and color. While his works of the Tipologie series, from the end of the eighties, appear as special frames endowed with a constructive quality, Reziario originates from a later phase of Catelani’s research focusing on structure and environment: Reziario is a lattice, a seemingly minimal grid surpassing a rigorous two-dimensionality to challenge the limit of the plane; a work that can be perceived as an abstraction of the plane that could ideally extend beyond the physical borders of the work, leading to further constructive possibilities. But Reziario is also the structure of a plane, a synthesis charged with perceptive elements and powerful meanings.

Giorgio Verzotti, “Tre note per Antonio Catelani,” in Antonio Catelani: Compresenze, Bologna: Edizioni d'Arte Renografica, 1992.

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Carlo D’Oria lives and works in Turin. Since his early years of activity, his work has investigated man as an individual entity and humanity as a community of relationships. His creations present us tiny figures, alone or in groups, placed on vast surfaces, in an overpowering universe suppressing their individuality—a multitude of little men who have lost their distinctive features but who all share the same destiny. D’Oria experiments with different materials—bronze, steel, paper, and terracotta—sounding out history, human work, and relations between man and the world around him. For the artist, Go Down is an expression of today’s dramatic situation. His figures allude to precarious and risky systems, where the downfall of one can provoke the downfall of all the others: heavy sheets of steel that, if pushed, may fall onto each other, as in an infernal domino, producing an immediate, dramatic, and deafening noise.

Zooffice (Muflo) (2001) by Loris CecchiniMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina


Photography is a medium chosen by many contemporary artists, who use it either on its own or in combination with other media. Photography is a means of expression that may serve a wide range of artistic projects: from semantical reinterpretation of photographic quotations and the development of subject-specific photo archives/collections, to the creation of visual short-circuits and historical, self-identity, and time explorations. 

Under the sun of Onomichi Under the sun of Onomichi (2009/2011) by Martina Della ValleMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Martina della Valle studied photography at the European Institute of Design in Milan and her work has been exhibited in many venues in Italy and abroad. She currently lives and works in Berlin, Milan, and Florence. The project from which Under the Sun of Onomichi evolves originates from the artist’s residency in Japan at AIR Onomichi, near Hiroshima, thanks to which she was able to meet a master of origami, Niitani, and so learn more about this art. Origami is used as offerings in Japanese temples, but it is subject to deterioration, alluding to the cycle of life, an integral part of Japanese culture.

Under the sun of OnomichiMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

It is precisely to this concept that this video refers: we see the master of origami holding a blueprint paper polyhedron, with the color gradually changing due to sunlight. At the end of the process, the man throws the polyhedron into the air, hitting it with his hand and so obtaining the initial twelve elements of which it was composed.

Lettera 'T' (Tyrant), Loredana Di Lillo, 2013, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, Loredana Di Lillo today lives and works in Milan. Her artistic production encompasses a variety of materials and media, such as drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, photography, and video. The object of her research is to express the artist’s thoughts on society, through references to historic memory and a disenchanted analysis of the human condition. Lettera “T” (Tyrant) is part of a work composed of six photographs that form the word “Tyrant.” Each photograph—which can be read independently of the others, as a single work—originates either from a collage, from a collection of different elements, or from re-photographed compositions, and is the outcome of her synesthesia experiences. With this work, the artist makes a silent but striking allusion to the violence of dictatorial regimes.

Trauerarbeit war theatre #20, Ninni Donato, 2013, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Ninni Donato lives and works in Reggio Calabria. Trauerarbeit War Theatre is a work the artist presented with Angela Pellicanò’s work in the Officina delle Zattere spaces at the 55th Venice Biennale. For this project, Donato used photographs of the American Aviation taken during World War II. Found on-line in a public United States archive, these photos capture the moment before a tragic occurrence, such as a plane crash, or a bomb being dropped on a sensitive target. The word Trauerarbeit in German means “grieving process” and it is to this process that Donato alludes with his digitally-manipulated photographs charged with aesthetic value by post-production interventions. The artists takes photographic documents produced by history, and displays them after having transformed them into aesthetic objects, creating a framework in which a single person’s drama becomes a human tragedy, a testimony to the horrors of war given new value through newfound aesthetic values.

Kreuzberg, Alessandro Dal Pont, 2010, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Graduated in Painting at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, Alessandro Dal Pont today lives and works in Berlin. In 2002, he participated in the Fondazione Antonio Ratti Advanced Course in Visual Arts in Como, and since 2015, he has been co-director of the mezzaterra11 – flat gallery project space. Dal Pont’s mediums of choice are sculpture and installation, and in his work he establishes a strong connection with the two-dimensional and photographic images which he turns into an integral part of his installation works, even when they are not of an ephemeral nature or site-specific. Kreuzberg, however, differs from other Dal Pont’s works because it consists of just one single photograph: taken on a September morning, the image shows an apartment window in Berlin where the artist once lived. The title comes from the district where the photo was taken, which in turn takes its name from a hill surmounted by a cross. In this case, the artist’s installation is in his own home, already set, and all he must do is photograph it.

This Placement Incheon #1 - Chiang Ma i#1 - Sao Paulo #1 - Yerevan #1 (2011/2013) by Sabina GrassoMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Der Sabina’s mise-en-scène projects, fed on cinematographic cross-references and personal narrations based on emotion, are the result of an interaction between the artist and the inhabitants of a certain location—either the destination of one of her journeys or one of her residency projects. The artist asks to be invited into people’s homes, where she is photographed while playing the role of those people in their domestic environment. Hers is a sort of personal psycho-geography addressing the themes of the visible/invisible, private/public, translated into an artistic expression by photography and video.

The title of this series of works recalls the term displacement, an explicit reference to the theme of the journey (in particular the journeys she has made from 2007 to the present day) and the questioning of the identity of the individual, which is an inevitable consequence. Regarding the East, destination of many of her journeys, Sabina affirms: “the East fascinates me, for me the East is madness, a type of madness I enjoy every time I go there.”

Die Projektion (2002) by Christian NiccoliMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Christian Niccoli lives and works in Berlin. His media of preference is video, a technique he began working with while a student at the Academy of Fine Arts of Florence, developing an independent and personal research. His work is centered on man and his needs, expanding from an intimate dimension of self to the mechanisms of human relations within a specific social context. In the Die Projektion photo-diptych, we see two subjects apparently sharing no relation, placed in a forest, perhaps in Alto-Adige. In the foreground, is a child involved in a sports competition, while in the background we see an adult, perhaps the child’s father. With the use of photographic devices, like focusing, Niccoli channels a feeling of estrangement and bases the scene on a system of relations of power. The atmosphere, however, is endowed with incommunicability, made eloquent by silent gestures and looks.

Land Escape (1997) by Luca PancrazziMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Luca Pancrazzi lives and works in Milan. After attending schools and the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, he worked as an assistant to Sol LeWitt in the US and to Alighiero Boetti in Rome. The themes Pancrazzi is most fond of are the city and urban landscape, and he usually works with a variety of techniques, such as painting, drawing, photography, environmental installation, sculpture, collective actions with other artists, and publishing projects. Pancrazzi terms his art as an “action that is functional to thought,” unfolding from his bodily and intellectual experience of the world. Land Escape is a photographic diptych, a “crossable landscape,” a “landscape that needs a temporal variable, and that therefore is the result of a modern equation of the crossing of a territory that has been given infrastructures to respond to this very same need.” In Pancrazzi’s notion of landscape “movement is an essential dynamic component,” and movement can only perform across time, another key concept of his work: while space escapes, time is “tangible and ever-present.”

Interview with Luca Pancrazzi on

Noon Clouds, 14 luglio 2015 (2016) by Bartolomeo PietromarchiMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Benedetto Pietromarchi studied Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts of Carrara and Architecture in London, where he lived for over twenty years. His output is strongly related to his many travel experiences, from which he draws visual inspiration for his works. Noon Clouds is one of the twelve works of a series part of the Of Saints and Sailors project that Pietromarchi developed during the one-month residency program on the Cielo de Vaiano, a dry cargo ship sailing from Uruguay to Holland carrying wood pulp, the raw material employed in paper-making. Noon Clouds documents an exact moment of his journey, indicated by the midday log-book record debossed on the line of the horizon. At the center of this picture is a root, ideally suspended on a cloud in the middle of the sky. This work has a strong conceptual connotation: during a journey in which time is marked only by numerical data, the root appears as the last handhold.

Interno, Zacheta, National Gallery of Art, Varsavia (2007) by Giuseppe PietroniroMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Giuseppe Pietroniro was born in Toronto, but grew up in Italy, where he moved to when he was still a child. He later graduated in Stage Design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, city where he currently lives and works. Pietroniro’s research unfolds from his questioning of everyday reality, searching for answers through photography—a media, however, that his work transcends, declaring its intrinsic limits. The artist extrapolates visual fragments of a site or of an architecture, and creating new combinations of photographs, drawings, and installations, he constructs environmental interventions, establishing a conceptual dialogue between shapes, places, and perspective, offering the viewers new visions. Pietroniro reacts to a present in which the limit between reality and fiction is increasingly feeble, taking responsibility, as an artist, for “showing what cannot be seen.” With this work, the artist creates an extremely rigorous virtual duplication of the spaces of the Galleria Zacheta, questioning the perception of the architectural structure.

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Displacement island #16, Marco Poloni, 2006, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Marco Poloni is a Swiss-Italian artist living and working in Berlin. His research is based on different media, such as cinema, photography, installations, texts, and narrations. In the sixty-seven photographs of the Displacement Island series, Marco Poloni develops his personal narration of Lampedusa, an island of great contrasts. Lampedusa usually is a destination after a long journey: it is so for tourists who choose the island for their holidays, and also for Tunisian and Libyan refugees who usually land on the island during the winter, after a perilous dramatic journey. Poloni records the traces of these two antithetical groups of travellers by collecting his own photos, amateur photos, images extrapolated from tour operator catalogues, paper cuttings, and film stills. Marco Poloni’s work has a strong socio-political connotation: Lampedusa is Europe’s furthest southern outpost where Europe and Africa meet.

Senza titolo (2014) by Mustafa SabbaghMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Mustafa Sabbagh is an Italian-Palestinian photographer; graduated in architecture at IUAV in Venice, he lived in London working as assistant to Richard Avedon. He is currently based in Ferrara but he works internationally. His self-declared sources of inspiration are seventeenth-century North-European painting, Pieter Paul Rubens, Caravaggio, and Kubrick’s films. His research focuses on skin, seen as a way of telling the story of man through the signs, the scars, and the imperfections that life impresses on it. Untitled belongs to a series of portrait and landscape diptychs in which man and landscape—two realities with a soul, the human soul and anima mundi—establish a dialogue. As Sabbagh explains “man and landscape together—in perfect harmony or total disharmony—share a common element [...], proving the matrix is the mother.”

Interview with the artist on and

Zooffice (Muflo) (2001) by Loris CecchiniMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Loris Cecchini combines photography, drawing, sculpture and installation, creating a unique and multifarious language of artistic expression. His rich imagination-reservoir mainly draws from a direct experience of a wide range of means of communication, feeding on his omnivorous curiosity. Fascinated by the synthesis between art and life, he incorporates elements of various disciplines, from chemistry to state of the art technology, investigating the limits of creation and exploring the undefinable borders of artistic creativity. In 2001, Cecchini started working at his Zooffice series—photomontages in which organic elements, both human and animal, cohabit in miniature work environments reconstructed by the artist himself. For Cecchini this is a “search for a visual paradox. In the accumulation of data, in the conventional rendition of function, in the recurring paradoxes, the theatre of existence recreates itself in accidental assemblages, in territories where neither permanence nor an enduring occupation are considered.”

Marco Bazzini and Stefano Pezzato, Loris Cecchini. Dotsandloops, exhibition catalog (Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato, 4 April – 2 August 2009) Milan: Skira, p. 234.

London calling (2013/2014) by Daniele PuppiMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina


No space is neutral, and this principle very much applies to a setting such as that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, where some works, although not site-specific, take on new meanings. 

Archivio (Specchio) (C112), Flavio Favelli, 2008, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Favelli’s work originates from his personal history: his grandmother used to have a flat in via Guerrazzi, in Bologna, a flat that Favelli renovated himself, even choosing the furniture and the fixtures. It was that experience that originated his need to construct and reconstruct, an inclination that is an integral factor of his artistic experimentations which began in 1995. Most famous are his black glass mosaic-mirrors in gold painted frames: these are mirrors that do not reflect one’s image but that give voice to the beholder’s intimate feelings and imagination. The mirror thus becomes an archive of memory, able to recount the past to those who look in it. As Favelli states, “the black mirror, placed in a large frame, corresponds to what I see as an expression of beauty [. . .] the process is important just as much as the finished work. I display even the time of work, of play, of concentration, which is necessary for the making of this slightly shiny black domino.”

Sergio Risaliti and Sandra Solimano, Flavio Favelli. Prima sala d’aspetto, Exhibition catalog (Genoa, 6-29 May), Genoa: Neos Edizioni, 2006, p. 9.

Wood and wood, Vedovamazzei, 2007, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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This artistic duo, working together since 1991, is hard to categorize. Simeone Crispino and Stella Scala both studied at the Academy of Fine Arts of Naples and currently live and work in Milan. Their works, encompassing visual arts, sculpture, video, and installation, intend to bewilder the viewer, recombining with subtle irony elements of realty to reveal the objects’ symbolic meaning and the rigidity of social conventions. In this respect, they are the ideal interpreters of the precarious and contradictory nature of our times. For Pierpaolo Pancotto, the first twenty years of Vedovamazzei’s production corresponds to the biological cycle of a human being, from birth to death. Wood and Wood—a kit of wooden boards to build a pen-drawn cross—is a playful allusion to this aspect, ironically alluding to art as a chance to escape death.

Pierpaolo Pancotto, Vedovamazzei par Stella Scala e Simeone Crispino, 2011.

Sore (2010) by Pietro SanguinetiMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Pietro Sanguineti was born in Stuttgart and currently lives and works in Berlin. In his work, he follows what he personally defines as a “slow-down strategy:” Sanguineti samples digital and virtual images taken from the media and isolates them, slowing them down and making them an object of artistic contemplation. His works therefore appear as logo-images, where the word becomes an objective presence replete with meaning. Isolated in its pure material nature, the word Sore takes on new meanings, interacting with the space around it and with the viewer who is entitled to the final interpretation. His work therefore stands as a critical analysis of the images of our current times. Having been one of Joseph Kosuth’s students, Sanguineti’s research is inspired by conceptual art, yet refusing its dismissal of material, color, shape, and objective presence.

London calling, Daniele Puppi, 2013/2014, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Daniele Puppi studied at the Academy of Fine Arts of Venice, Bologna, and Rome, where he currently lives and works. His creations are conceived in relation to the space where they will be placed so as to modify the perception of the architectural elements therein. In the corridor of a public office, a rotary dial telephone starts to ring. An unaware viewer that picks up the receiver would not hear the words of a mysterious interlocutor, but only some sounds that, considering the location, would prove most inappropriate: the imitation of a howl, sobbing followed by a raspberry, a woman’s sighs during a private moment of pleasure. With London Calling the artist interferes with the way a space is perceived according to its function, in this case the space being the institutional offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Compared to previous works by Puppi focusing on the physical peculiarities of space, in London Calling the key issue is mental perception addressed by generating a strong sense of puzzlement in the viewers.

Text by Emanuele Riccomi.

The fox and the wolf: struggle for power The fox and the wolf: struggle for power (2014) by Elena BellantoniMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina


Video-art experimentations, from Turbo Films circulating on the web (Alterazioni Video) to conceptual site-specific projects (Bellantoni).

Don Puke/Mama was right, Alterazioni Video, 2012, From the collection of: Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina
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Alterazioni Video is an artist collective founded in Milan in 2003, operating in New York, Berlin and Milan, and whose members (Paololuca Barbieri, Alberto Caffarelli, Andrea Masu, Giacomo Porfiri and Matteo Erenbourg) only meet to work on specific projects communicating via the web. Don Puke/Mama was right is a lenticular print part of the project gravitating around FRED, a Turbo Film produced by the collective in 2012. That of Turbo Film is a cinematographic genre invented by Alterazioni Video on which the group has been working over the last five years: designed to be launched on the web, a Turbo Film is produced according to the principles broken down in the Turbo Film manifesto, which states: no rules, no script, creative solutions defined by necessity, allowed technology only that at hand, and lastly, location is key. The film thus become a never-ending media, recounting the story of the actual shooting of the video, day after day, with the plot developing with an impetuous language and often following a circular pattern, many times interrupted and resumed.

The fox and the wolf: struggle for powerMinistero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale. Collezione Farnesina

Elena Bellantoni lives and works in Rome. One of the issues addressed in her artistic research is the concept of power within relations, a theme on which she offers a multi-layered exploration in The Struggle for Power: the Fox and the Wolf, a video shot in the international conference hall of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. In the center of the room, we see two tango dancers, a man and a woman wearing a wolf and a fox mask. The two dance as if competing for space in which to move, trying to assert their power. A science-conference-like voice linguistically inflects the terms “fox” and “wolf,” with reference to Sigmund Freud’s “Wolfsmann,” to the Grimm Brothers’ fairytale Der Wolf und der Fuchs, and to anthropologist Eric Robert Wolf’s theories on power. Of all dances, Bellantoni chooses tango, where the man leads and the woman is supposed to follow and then eventually disrupt the partner’s moves: during the video in fact the woman suddenly takes the lead of this conflictual dance representing a play between male and female, beastliness and violence, public and private space.

Credits: Story

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Paolo Gentiloni
Minister of foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Elisabetta Belloni
Secretary General

Raffaele Trombetta
Head of the Minister's Private Staff

Vincenzo De Luca
Director General for the Country Promotion

Massimo Riccardo
Deputy Director General for the Country Promotion - Principal Director for Promotion of Italian Culture and Language

Giovanni Battista Iannuzzi
Deputy Principal Director for Promotion of Italian Culture and Language and Head of Office IV - Directorate General for the Country Promotion

Enrico Vattani
Head of Office VIII - Directorate General for the Country Promotion

Office VIII - Directorate General for the Country Promotion
Michela de Riso, Stefania Eusebi, Paolo Ivaldi, Nicola Locatelli, Tiziana Mirabelli, Christian Emanuel Norberg-Schulz, Fabrizio Petricca

Scientific Committee Collezione Farnesina

Gabriella Belli
Fabio de Chirico
Luigi Ficacci
Gianfranco Maraniello
Anna Mattirolo
Angela Tecce

Photo credits

Giorgio Benni

Unless otherwise stated, texts are by Michela De Riso

Thanks to the lenders and artists of the works on display

Credits: All media
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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