Critics’ Picks

David Cotterrell, Foreign Body, 2003. Installation view.

David Cotterrell, Foreign Body, 2003. Installation view.


“Palazzo delle Libertà”

Palazzo delle Papesse Contemporary Art Center
Via di Città 126 Siena
June 20–September 14, 2003

A massive palace built by the family of a fifteenth-century pope now houses a contemporary-arts center, and with “Palazzo delle Libertà,” Siena’s CAC makes its curious location its subject. The exhibition includes thirty-odd artists from Italy and beyond who were enjoined only to produce something new and site-specific. Some of them take on the building as a physical, almost phenomenological entity. James Casebere offers a trademark photo of a flooded maquette presented in the room it represents, while Alex Hartley fills a nook with a dizzying, Turrell-like installation of a black-and-white photo printed on plastic; the corridor depicted in the image seems to collapse as one approaches it. Other artists treat the building’s history and its relation to power. Gleefully provocative writer Aldo Nove has scrawled a hilarious counterhistory of the palazzo across one of its exhibition-clean white walls. In the next room, David Cotterrell reflects on power in what is, for this show, an unusually topical context: He transforms the Renaissance palace into one of Saddam’s by installing a hyperrealistic Iraqi Freedom GI plopped down on a divan. The creepy animatron—it breathes!—is straight out of Newsweek, down to its stubble and crushed cigarette butts between its boots. Others works take on local history or Italian history more generally, and, frankly, quite a few don’t seem site-specific at all. But all of the artworks benefit from the imposing surroundings. And diversity, recall, is an inevitable consequence of liberty.