Critics’ Picks

View of “The Art of Piranesi,” 2012.

View of “The Art of Piranesi,” 2012.


Gabriele Basilico

CaixaForum Barcelona
Av. Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, 6-8
April 24–September 9, 2012

In this exhibition, twenty-four of 350 photographs by Gabriele Basilico are exhibited alongside Piranesi etchings of the same sites. The result is a rigorous documentation that formulates a comparative cartography of Rome in the eighteenth and then twenty-first centuries. The differences lie in the details, as comparisons between the respective renditions suggest that the sites have hardly changed over the centuries: A side building might have been added or a set of lush trees grown on the lungotevere. Nevertheless, Basilico sets out to oppose his images to those of Piranesi, as if to allow the viewer to appreciate the before and after, like a tourist visiting contemporary Rome with Stendhal’s detailed travel book in hand. Basilico’s photographs also draw attention to the aesthetic methods used by Piranesi, who was an architect as well as a printmaker; the deliberate distortions in his photographs serve to aggrandize the scale of the buildings Piranesi depicted as well as the technical resources that he was obliged to use. The comparisons also evidence the differences between one medium—drawing—that tends to deformation and another—photography—that is realist at core.

Translated from Spanish by Jane Brodie.