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Alberto Moravia. I don’t know why I didn’t become a painter

  • Exhibition
  • 7 March 2023 - 4 June 2023
20_Mario Schifano_Doppio ritratto_1983

in collaboration with Fondazione Circolo dei lettori

curated by Elena Loewenthal e Luca Beatrice

GAM dedicates to Alberto Moravia an exhibition curated by Luca Beatrice and Elena Loewenthal as part of the project “Born To Narrate. Rediscovering Alberto Moravia” that the Fondazione Circolo dei lettori has conceived and installed together with GAM and the Museo Nazionale del Cinema in collaboration with the Associazione Fondo Alberto Moravia, Bompiani editore, and the Gallerie d’Italia.

The figure of Moravia, an illustrious protagonist on Italy’s art and intellectual scene for most of the 20th century, lends itself to a variety of suggestions that can be found at the heart of this wide-ranging event: painting, cinema, photography, and, naturally, literature.

Among the many fields of interest besides literature, the visual arts represent more than a mere passion for Alberto Moravia. His first writings on art date from 1934 until 1990, the year he died. He published his works for magazines and newspapers, including the Turin-based Gazzetta del Popolo and Il Corriere della Sera, and wrote essays in catalogues and introductions for several artists. This fascination derived, in part, from his upbringing. His father loved painting and his sister, Adriana Pincherle, who trained with Mafai and Scipione, would gain a certain notoriety on the Roman art scene. Beginning in the 1930s, but especially after World War II, artists, writers, and intellectuals visited the same places and circles. In various novels of his, art appears closely intertwined with the plotas well as with certain characters, like the failed painter Dino and his alter ego Balestrieri, modest and old-fashioned, in Boredom (1960).

In 2017 the publisher Bompiani gathered, in an important volume, most of Alberto Moravia’s writings on art, in which painting takes the lion’s share. From the 1930s to the 1950s, Moravia followed Enrico Paulucci and Carlo Levi during their Sei di Torino period; he began a lifelong friendship with Renato Guttuso; he carefully observed the Roman art scene, from Giuseppe Capogrossi to Mario Mafai. In later years, in 1960s Rome, the capital of international art, he frequently wrote about Mario Schifano, Giosetta Fioroni, Titina Maselli, and the photographer Elisabetta Catalano who took one of his most intense portraits.He also admired Antonio Recalcati, Piero Guccione, and Fabrizio Clerici.

The exhibitionat the Wunderkammer aims to offer an ideal collection of the artists Moravia thought very highly of and wrote about often. It presents around 30 works from the Casa Museo Alberto Moravia in Rome as well as from private collections and an important group of paintings and drawings held at GAM. What emerges is an interesting portrait of Italian art seen through the lens of literature, not always aligned with dominant trends or fashions. The works selected for the exhibition are accompanied by excerptstaken mainly from Alberto Moravia, Non so perché non ho fatto il pittore, edited by Alessandra Grandelis, Milan, Bompiani, 2017, which has given the exhibition its title and which evokes the relationship of mutual esteem and, oftentimes, friendship with the artists who are displayed here.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published by Silvana Editoriale that gathers images of the works on display and essays by the curators.

The artists on display: Gisberto Ceracchini, Carlo Levi, Enrico Paulucci, Giacomo Manzù, Renato Guttuso, Giacomo Capogrossi, Mario Mafai, Renato Birolli, Onofrio Martinelli, Fabrizio Clerici, Leonor Fini, Alberto Ziveri, Mino Maccari, Mario Lattes, Antonio Recalcati, Adriana Pincherle, Sergio Vacchi, Piero Guccione, Giosetta Fioroni, Carlo Guarienti, Titina Maselli, Mario Schifano, Elisabetta Catalano.

Alberto Moravia is not a writer of today, in the sense that he does not allow readers to rest on the triviality of merely overlapping the times with political, social, and cultural conditions.His entire body of work demands a sort of emotional and mental “destabilization,” an exercise in comparison, both in time and in space. Actually, he is an “inconvenient” writer, who, like no one else, can shed light on the dark spots of the human soul, those ambiguities that any of us find hard to acknowledge and admit. For example, no one can feel totally estranged from what his “conformist” is and does. In one way or the other, his entire practice puts the reader or the spectator in a more difficult and delicate position than could have been imagined before encountering Moravia, his work, and his way of looking at the world.

His novels and short stories are always a world, in reality: Moravia observes—actually, he reads—bodies as if they were universes. And at the same time he “feels” them and lets the readers, be they male or female, feel them. He has an extraordinary ability to extract sensations from the nuance of a light behind a curtain: his descriptions of places are at times shocking, for the power and gentleness they bear. But in his writing there is always profound attention to what is real: he is both visionary and realistic.