Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

Curated by Francesco Bonami, “Exit” included works by sixty-three young Italian artists. This was the inaugural exhibition for the new home of the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin, consolidating the city’s preeminence in Italy in terms of public—or, in this case, public/ private—institutions dedicated to contemporary art. Designed by Claudio Silvestrin, the new museum is consistent with the foundation’s stated purpose: to introduce and promote the most recent generation of artists. Everything follows the international model: a gigantic white container (as well as some smaller spaces) where the works can be installed in relationship, perhaps helping each other create an atmosphere, a common context, even to the extent of visually and conceptually superimposing the works.

At this point we have become accustomed to exhibitions that “provide the context”; for instance, the various editions of the Venice Biennale or Documenta. Such shows aim to identify the cultural scenario that underlies the general flow of ideas of a large number of artists. Likewise this exhibition: Beyond merely displaying individual works, it attempted to respond to questions about whether there is a specific and prevalent type of creativity evident in the work of young Italian artists and which subjects that work is addressing. Thus the curator consciously chose not to focus on a theme but instead to proceed almost statistically, as in a sampling. Sixty-three artists are a lot, at least (if you want to be cynical) in terms of the capacity of the Italian art market, which won’t be able to absorb them all. But the number is small in relation to the actual number of aspiring artists in Italy who are working at substantially the same level as those Bonami has selected. And yet despite its lack of international recognition, Italian production is often aligned with a sort of international style, renouncing those specifically Italian characteristics that made arte povera or the Transavanguardia successful. And so the goal for an Italian artist, unlikely to establish an international reputation, is simply to outlast the waves of new art that are bound to appear on the scene a year or two down the line but which probably won’t raise issues very different from those proposed today or a few years ago.

The sampling in “Exit” is organized by theme, typology, and, finally, media, representing subjects, objects, and trends that make up the current scene. There are many videos, somewhat less photography; painting shows signs of recovery while environmental installations remain stable. The subjects: diaristic intimacy; lighthearted but not always ironic views of details of reality; anthropological or sociological studies, sometimes tending toward the PC but often tinged with ethnic exoticism; reflections on the self in relationship to the art system. This system seems to have imposed a sort of duty to appear “brilliant” and amusing and therefore to adopt superficial stances and conformist visual models. Overall, there is a vague feeling of academicism, a sense that this has all been seen and done before—provoked, paradoxically, not so much by the artists’ obsequiousness to the past as by a forgetfulness of it that has enabled an unconscious repetition of actions and works seen only a few years ago. It may be that this survey mirrors Italy and its current cultural milieu. But as always in dismal or crisis-ridden periods like such as we face now, the best is found not in what is typical but rather in a few isolated artists, perhaps from different generations, who are morally and professionally strong and ethically tempered by constant opposition to the prevailing taste. But that would be another exhibition.

Marco Meneguzzo

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.