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Articles by: Alexandra m. Fanelli

  • Installation view of Ileana Sonnabend and Arte Povera. Image courtesy Tom Powel
    Art & Culture

    Celebrating 50 Years of Arte Povera

    On November 2, the Lévy Gorvy Gallery in New York opened Ileana Sonnabend and Arte Povera, an exhibition that highlights the significant role of gallerist Ileana Sonnabend in the international reception of the movement.

    The exhibition was curated by renowned art historian Germano Celant, who in 1967 coined the term “arte povera”–poor art. This term refers to a group of Italian anti-establishment artists who, during the period of turmoil at the end of the 1960s, attacked the corporate mentality with unconventional materials and style. “Arte Povera was concerned with taking away, eliminating, and downgrading things to a minimum,” said Mr. Celant.

    Ileana Sonnabend: A Career Spanning Half a Century

    The exhibition also explores the friendship between Celant and Sonnabend that grew out of their shared interest in Italian artists. 

    "The process of bringing together this project at Lévy Gorvy has been a personal journey," said Germano Celant. "My memories of Ileana and Michael Sonnabend go back to our first meeting at Venice Biennale in 1964. My friendship with them continued for decades, and our affection for each other was strengthened by professional exchanges. Ileana’s contribution to Arte Povera artists was profound: she brought them into an international context. Today, this exhibition celebrates her work and shares this history, from 1962 to 2014.”

    A gallerist and noted collector, Ileana Sonnabend, whose first husband was the extraordinary art dealer Leo Castelli, continuously discovered and promoted progressive young new talents. In her New York and Paris galleries, she showed many of the most significant artists from both continents such as Rauschenberg, Acconci, Merz, Pistoletto etc. Sonnabend was instrumental in introducing American Pop Art and Minimalism to Europe and Italian Arte Povera to the United States through a series of influential exhibitions. 

    The exhibition includes works by Giovanni Anselmo, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Giulio Paolini, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Gilberto Zorio, most of whom were originally displayed at Sonnabend’s New York or Paris galleries.

    Lévy Gorvy
    909 Madison Avenue
    10021 New York
    For more info >>

  • Alberto Savinio, I re magi (The Wise Men), 1929. Mart – Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Rovereto (c) 2017 Artists Rights Society (ARS) / SIAE, Rome. Photo: Dario Lasagni
    Art & Culture

    CIMA Sheds Light on De Chirico's Brother: Alberto Savinio

    On Tuesday November 14, in conjunction with their current exhibition Alberto Savinio, the Center of Italian Modern Art (CIMA) hosted a talk by renowned Italian art historian and critic Renato Barilli.

    The exhibition, on view through June 23, 2018, displays 25 rarely seen works of Greek-born Italian interdisciplinary artist Alberto Savinio (1891–1952) in CIMA’s graceful loft in SoHo. For the first time in the US in over two decades, this exhibition investigates the genesis of his work and the unexplored world of Savinio’s talent as a painter and not only, since, despite his achievements, he remains largely unknown to contemporary audiences outside of Italy.

    The works span a 10 year period, from the late 1920s through the 1930s, when Savinio abandoned his other creative talents to dedicate himself fully to painting. The exhibition explores two major themes in the artist’s oeuvre: the expressive power of imagined landscapes and the fraught emotional terrain of family life. 

    The de Chirico Brothers: a Freudian Tale

    Alberto Savinio is a pseudonym the artist adopted at the age of 23 to disguise his real name, Andrea Francesco Alberto de Chirico, so that he would not be eclipsed by his older and more famous brother, Giorgio de Chirico. In the lecture Giorgio de Chirico and Alberto Savinio: Two Brothers in Reciprocal Conflict, Barilli explains how the troubled relationship between the de Chirico brothers came into being.

    Much of their youth was spent abroad, in Athens, Munich and Paris, where they both made a name for themselves. However, while Giorgio was directed towards the studies of painting, Alberto studied music. His mother tried to forbid him from being a painter in order to avoid any competition with his sibling, Barilli explains, and this caused him great suffering and is the reason why he started painting much later than Giorgio.

    As a matter of fact, in paintings such as The Widow and My Parents, Savinio portrays his mother with a repulsive hen's head or other vile creatures, that clearly show his resentment toward her, whaereas he paints his father using predominately a lighter and more neutral color palette, evoking profound feelings of nostalgia. His older brother, on the other hand, hardly paints his father but vividly portrays his mother. Barilli describes Savinio as a "victim of the Freudian Theory.”

    Savinio: an Exceptional Wholesome Artist

    What is often ignored about Alberto Savinio is that, besides being an extremely cultivated man, talented in the field of music, theatre and literature, he was a key contributor to the movement known as Metaphysical Art (Pittura Metafisica) pioneered by Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà, as well as a brilliant painter. Savinio’s paintings, produced after he moved to Paris in 1926, share many of his brother’s haunting themes such as eerie spaces, mythological subjects and bizarre hybrid figures, in strange juxtapositions. However, even though the two brothers closely shared certain themes, Savinio succeded in developing his own individual expression. His desire for escapism and aesthetic liberation propelled him to excel as an artist.  

    CIMA: Ambassador of Italian Modern and Contemporary Art

    Alberto Savinio’s exhibition aligns flawlessly with CIMA’s mission of introducing and promoting modern and contemporary Italian art in the U.S.  and provides a unique opportunity to the American audience to view notable works of this underecognized artist. “CIMA’s operations are important and extremely useful because unfortunately the larger museums give selective attention to Italian artists and only reward a handful of exceptional cases” Barilli says “I suspect that no great New York City museum would have dedicated an exhibition to Savinio, whereas many of them have celebrated Giorgio De Chirico’s art.”

    CIMA’s Executive Director, Heather Ewing, states, “CIMA is pleased to introduce Alberto Savinio to a wider audience through this exhibition, as well as through related programs that explore his multi-faceted artistic pursuits. (..) His work is not included in any public collections in the U.S., and he has only rarely been exhibited here. This exhibition therefore promises to be a real discovery as it brings his original work to light.”

    CIMA’s public programs will continue to explore the many different facets of Savinio’s diverse production through lectures, readings, discussions, family programs, and artist-led drawing nights, as well as CIMA’s signature Study Days.

    For More Info >>


  • President and COO of NIAF John M. Viola awarded during the Gala
    Facts & Stories

    NIAF's 42nd Anniversary Gala Honoring the Region of Sicily

    The NIAF Gala is an occasion to carry on the organization’s mission of promoting Italian American heritage and culture, and strengthen ties between US and Italy. Each year for the past 5 years, NIAF has recognized a particular region of honor, and this year’s event paid tribute to the region of Sicily. This unique region served as inspiration for all the programs and events, with the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel all adorned in Sicilian-inspired décor.

    The celebratory events began on Friday November 3rd with NIAF University, introductory sessions in “all things Italian,” and continued with NIAF's Friday night kickoff party, featuring talents such as actor and musical entertainer, Joe Piscopo, singer Lena Prima, and daughter of the famous Italian American performer Louis Prima, and tenors Carmelo Sorce and Alfio.

    The Expo Siciliana

    Saturday, November 4, began with the Expo Siciliana, which showcased and celebrated the unique characteristics and excellence of this region. Amongst the many exhibitors was David Greco, from the historic Mike’s Deli of the Bronx, offering complimentary old fashioned sandwich box lunches and other exquisite delicatessen. Actor, producer and performer Tony De Nonno delighted the younger audiences with a playful yet traditional Sicilian marionette show Opera dei Pupi. Throughout the day, visitors could also learn how to apply for dual citizenship, sample the best Italian wines and play traditional Italian Bocce ball. Additionally, Nonna Romana, of the popular TV show Cooking with Nonna hosted by Rossella Rago, was there to teach guests how to make orecchiette pasta from scratch. Anima Italica tour operators was there to assist you in planning a dream vacation to Italy. They also introduced their new project “RADICI-ROOTS”, which consists of a personalized designed itinerary for Italian-Americans who want to rediscover and reconnect with their roots.

    The 42nd Anniversary Awards Gala

    Following the Expo was the NIAF Gala Reception, the 42nd Anniversary Awards Gala and the After Hours Party. The Gala was co-hosted by NIAF President & COO, John M. Viola and Emmy Award-winning journalist and Fox Business news anchor, Maria Bartiromo.

    This year’s event was especially significant since it marked Viola's last gala with the National Italian American Foundation after six years of exceptional dedication and visionary leadership.

    The black-tie Sicilian inspired dinner acknowledged several Italian and Italian-American honorees who have achieved special distinctions in various fields. Other important individuals present that evening included Vincenzo Amendola, Foreign Secretary, Armando Varricchio, Ambassador of Italy to the United States, Antonello Montante, president of the Chambers of Commerce of Sicily, Marcella Panucci, Director General of Chambers of Commerce of Sicily.

    2017 NIAF Honorees

    NIAF Special Achievement Award in Business and Finance was given by Vincenzo Boccia, President of Confindustria, to Alessandro Profumo, Chief Executive Officer of Leonardo S.p.a., an Italian global high-tech company and one of the key players in aerospace, defense and security.

    NIAF Special Achievement Award in Philanthropy was given to Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, the eldest sister of Charles of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Head of the Royal House, which ruled the southern half of the Italian peninsula and Sicily until 1861.

    NIAF Special Achievement Award in Business was given to Jon DeLuca, Director at Doctor’s Associates/Subway Restaurants. Other honorees include Celebrity Chef, Nick Stellino, and Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo.

    Educational Programs

    A part of the special event was dedicated to NIAF’s educational and grants programs. The organization is proud to foster and create opportunities that support the career development of the next generation of Italian Americans. Special attention was given to the NIAF and i-Italy internship in Journalism and Italian American Affairs. Amongst the other programs the hosts highlighted were the 168 Scholarships that NIAF awarded, NIAF Congressional Fellow Program, the NIAF on Campus Italian American Leadership Council Fellow Program, the Film Forum, NIAF Sonia Raiziss Giop Foundation Grants in Translating.

    Music and Entertainment

    For entertainment, guests had the pleasure of seeing young Sicilian singer-songwriter, Alessandra Salerno performing with her enchanting autoharp, along with her guitarist Umberto Porcaro. They first played Never Ending an English cover of the popular Italian song Senza Fine, wrote by Gino Paoli and interpreted by Italian iconic singer Ornella Vanoni. Secondly, Alessandra paid an homage to Rosa Balistrieri, historic Sicilian singer-songwriter, with her rendition of Cu ti lu dissi, Balistrieri’s most popular tune. Other magnificent artists on stage included Tom Sinatra, Alfio and James Valenti, Vittorio Grigolo, and Vanessa Racci.

    The night ended with an incredible NIAF After Party and Italian Karaoke where all the guests converged to sing, dance and continue the celebration.


    The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational foundation that promotes Italian American culture and heritage. NIAF serves as a resource on the Italian American community and has educational and youth programs including scholarships, grants, heritage travel and mentoring. NIAF is also the voice for Italian Americans in Washington, D.C. and works closely with the Italian American Congressional Delegation and the White House. NIAF’s mission includes advancing U.S.-Italy business, political and cultural relations and has a business council that promotes networking with corporate leaders.

    Fore more info visit the NIAF website here>>


  • Columbia University – The Italian Academy
    Facts & Stories

    Columbia University's Italian Academy Hosts Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini

    Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage and Tourism, Dario Franceschini, casually conversed with the Director of Columbia University’s Italian Academy, David Freedberg, about Italy’s role in international cultural conservation and his ministry’s initiatives. Italian ambassador to the United States Armando Varricchio and Consul General of Italy in New York Francesco Genuardi were also present at the event.

    The theme of the discussion was World Cultural Conservation, Italy at the Forefront: Innovation versus Constraints. The event was hosted by the Italian Academy, “a site dedicated to the promotion of advanced research in all areas relating to Italian society and the only one in the world that was created on the basis of an agreement between a nation, the Republic of Italy, and a university, Columbia University,” as David Freedberg remarked in his opening statement.

    Cultural Reforms to Combat Terrorism

    One of the major recent steps taken by Minister of Italian culture aims to fight terrorism by combating the destruction and looting of cultural treasures. “Italy was the first nation to sign an agreement with UNESCO for the establishment of a Task Force that deals with reinforcing the protection of cultural sites facing imminent threats, in Syria and across the Middle East,” Minister Franceschini said.

    The Task Force, called "Unite for Heritage,” was launched in 2015 and seeks to protect cultural heritage and destroy the illicit trafficking of cultural objects.  He illustrated how Heritage Sites are deliberately destroyed to undermine certain cultures, documented for propaganda and then looted to finance terrorism.

    “World Heritage Sites belong to all humanity and, therefore, it is all humanity 's duty, to protect our shared heritage from destruction and trafficking” the Minister added.

    To this point, Minister Franceschini addressed a new initiative that was undertaken with the Italian Carabinieri Art squad. A new smartphone app now allows users to create a personal profile, upload images of artwork they deem of suspicious provenance and access an existing database that keeps track of stolen works. “Italy manages one of the largest databases on stolen art in the world,” said the Minister.

    Revolutionizing the way Cultural Heritage is Managed

    Among the Ministry’s many initiatives, there is also the “Art-Bonus,” a new favorable tax credit for those–individuals or companies–who support the preservation of artistic and architectural heritage with charitable donations. While private philanthropy and corporate sponsorship are common in the United States, in Italy the government has usually been solely responsible for preserving and restoring historical sites, which is why many individuals are concerned that this might lead to commercialization. 

    The Art Bonus has already achieved positive results, such as a comprehensive restoration of the Roman Colosseum funded by Diego Della Valle, the chairman of Italian luxury brand Tod's.

    To Freedberg’s question regarding the controversy surrounding Italian museums and the first-ever international search for museum directors, Minister Franceschini replied, “Italy has long failed to adapt to a system of innovation and has also lagged behind in valuing its patrimony.”He continued by addressing the appointment of foreign directors to some of Italy’s most prestigious museums, a decision that drew a lot of criticism. 

    “This controversy just demonstrates the backwardness of Italy,” the Minister said on the topic. He aims to make Italian museums function at their best, bringing them in line with the world’s top institutions, generating more revenue and thus, reviving Italy from a protracted recession.

    Under the new international leadership, visiting a museum in Italy will no longer be simply about seeing the world’s most renowned collections, but also about the broader visitor experience, Franceschini claims.

    It will be a lengthy process but Franceschini feels strongly about guiding the largest economic assets of Italy.