curated by Elena Volpato
The project won the PAC2020 – Programme for Contemporary Art public competition, promoted by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity of the Ministry of Culture.
The exhibition presents a single work composed of 278 monograph booklets of the well-known series I Maestri del Colore published by Fratelli Fabbri Editori, released in Italian newsstands between 1963 and 1967. This was a major cultural phenomenon that revolutionized the publishing market during the economic boom in Italy. For many Italian families, these booklets represented a symbolic object, a statement of belonging to a growing social class, characterized by a longing for culture and wellbeing that went hand-in-hand.
Flavio Favelli worked on each of these iconic covers, interacting with their formal elegance and their balance between the graphic design and photographic style of the painting details. He used one or more golden Ferrero Rocher chocolate wrappers to conceal the faces of the portraits, the anecdotal scenes, sections of paintings, frescoes, and mosaics where the human figure stands out, where the gaze in the paintings seems to search for an answer or understanding in the eyes of the viewer. Favelli brings the reproductions of these major works of art to a state of impenetrability, almost of closed sacredness: it is a gesture that combines attention to iconoclasm, almost as if a renewal of significance were necessary for images that are perhaps too well-known, even too suggestive in their well-earned emblemicity.
If, however, Favelli on the one hand conceals parts of the works behind shimmering gold, on the other he fosters a panoptic vision of how art history has unfolded as well as how the Fabbri publishing project was able to narrate it. The 278 booklets/collages are displayed in three rows to entirely embrace the space of GAM’s Wunderkammer. This installation welcomes visitors as if entering a basilica where the succession of reproductions and names of artists, all around, recreates a sort of ideal group portrait where each “painting” represents the fulfillment of a different measure, of a different canon, of a different manner and sensibility.
Being able to view all the covers of the series laid out in a single room seems to heighten the encyclopedic spirit that characterized the publishing endeavor of the Fratelli Fabbri, but Favelli’s choice to break the lines of the design, to complicate the two-dimensionality of the paintings, to hide the sense of completion and perfection coming from many of those works, allows the viewer to sense a more conflicting relationship with history and the value of the past. It conveys an aesthetic restlessness that is typically contemporary, for which the fullness of meaning and form is never given and each Master is, at the same time, acknowledged yet obliterated, the object of both genuine yet feigned admiration, just as Favelli’s gold leaf is fake, an imitation: shimmering, but made of paper, appearing valuable, but in reality taken from a box of chocolates.
The work I Maestri Serie Oro, which is now part of the Museum’s collections, represents a new development in Favelli’s practice, which over recent years has explored, on various occasions, the theme of gold from different perspectives, reflecting its own soul in the opaque and blind shimmer of this material which is taken from cookie tins, mirrors, ice cream advertising posters: pervasive brightness, an Eldorado, where our culture is mirrored in search of a blaze of light to cover ourselves in just as it clouds over.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue published and distributed by Viaindustriae.
Thank you to Fondazione Ferrero Onlus for their collaboration and support.