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Stefano Arienti

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Stefano Arienti was born in Asola in the province of Mantua in 1961. After earning a degree in agricultural studies, he turned to art under the guidance of Corrado Levi and made his debut in Milan in the mid Eighties at the Brown Boveri (an ex factory that many young artists used as a meeting place for free experimentation).  Arienti currently lives and works in Milan.

He has participated in numerous shows: the Venice Biennale (Aperto 1990, 1993); the Istanbul Biennial (1992); Cocido y Crudo, Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid (1994); XII Rome Quadrennial, 1996 (first prize winner); Fatto in Italia, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Geneva; ICA, London (1997); and Gwangju Biennale (2008).

Arienti’s most recent solo exhibitions: MAXXI, Rome (2004); Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin (2005); Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston (2007); Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Venice (2008); MAMbo (with Cesare Pietroiusti, 2008); Palazzo Ducale, Mantua (2009); and Museion, Bolzano (with Massimo Bartolini, 2011).

 

INTERVIEW WITH STEFANO ARIENTI

 

The masterpiece by Giovanni Della Robbia reinterpreted by Stefano Arienti.

The Antinori family, under the patronage of Antinori Art Project, have commissioned Stefano Arienti, (born in Asola, Italy, 1961), to develop a new project in dialogue with a historical Renaissance masterpiece:  the lunette depicting the Resurrection of Christ, a sculptural relief by Giovanni Della Robbia (Florence, 1469-1529/30) commissioned by Niccolò di Tommaso Antinori  in the early 16th century.
This lunette, referred to as the “Antinori lunette” by art historians, belongs to the Brooklyn Museum in New York and, after an absence of 500 years, will be publicly shown at the Bargello National Museum in Florence from November 9th2017 to April 8th 2018.  The relief has recently been restored in the United States with generous support from the Antinori family.
Stefano Arienti’s project is two fold; two separate yet complementary works of art, achieving a unique transformation and reinterpretation of the famous lunette.
Arienti’s piece titled “Scena Fissa” and the Antinori lunette will be exhibited in two adjoining galleries creating a direct dialogue between Renaissance and contemporary art in the exhibition “From Brooklyn to the Bargello:  Giovanni Della Robbia, the Antinori Lunette and Stefano Arienti”.
At the same time, the state-of-the-art winery Antinori nel Chianti Classico will inaugurate a new site-specific installation by Arienti, “Altorilievo”, that will become part of the family’s permanent collection, accentuating their strong interest in history and renewing their legacy as patrons of the arts.  The exhibition is curated by Ilaria Bonacossa.

 

Interview by Elena Bordignon / ATPdiry.com

 

Could you tell me how you developed your initial ideas regarding the important lunette depicting The Resurrection of Christ, made in the early 16th century by Giovanni Della Robbia?

Stefano Arienti: My first contact with this work by Giovanni Della Robbia took the form of photographs, which were not all that good. It was evidently a very colourful work, very pictorial, crowded with figures, to the point that it could easily hold its own in a comparison with many contemporary or pop images, which are often overloaded with figures and colour.
But I was also lucky enough to be able to see it face to face at the Brooklyn Museum, where they kindly allowed me to observe it from close up. It is a work consisting of numerous parts that fit together, and so I thought that it would be interesting to disassemble it in order to reconstruct different combinations of the pieces. In addition, in order to move away from the Renaissance technique with all its seductive colour, I tried reducing everything to a monochrome drawing, to understand what could have been the artist’s initial ideas regarding the study of the figures.

On this occasion you are presenting two projects – “Scena Fissa” for Museo Nazionale del Bargello and “Altorilievo” for the Antinori Winery in the Chianti Classico district – separate but closely related. Could you tell me about the connections between the two projects?

SA: Both works are divergent developments of the same material: the modelled parts comprising the lunette, a very busy resurrection scene in which just the donor Antinori and a sleeping soldier are apparently motionless.
“Scena Fissa” transports the figures that are crowded into the lunette into a more spacious setting, a sort of garden-theatre where observers can move around as they like, even looking behind the figures, and to an extent it maintains the overall arrangement of the figures. While “Altorilievo” actually uses exactly the same drawings, in actual fact they are transformed into detached three-dimensional pieces, for which we can imagine a relation between the different parts. This second work is wall-mounted rather than constituting a setting, and the idea is that it recalls more a group of archaeological fragments than the description of a scene.

What do you mean when you say that you have to enter images in order to “bring them to life in a new way, making them different from the past but also with respect to ourselves”?

SA: I like it when works of art achieve their own independence, the result of a healthy relationship with the public, more than of the artist’s intentions. As a contemporary artist, I take pleasure in demonstrating a possible way of relating to works from the past, providing an example of how to look at them in a new way, or giving them a parallel existence in the present, reconstituting them outside their museum display case.

To develop the works, you began from a study of the results of the Lunette’s restoration. What attracted you in this operation?

SA: When you see the lunette face to face, you are overwhelmed by the colour, the material and the movement, the great pictorial density of the entire unit; and only then do you become aware of the individual parts, that may have very different proportions, with no relation to a perspective view of the group. You understand that forms have been used in an expressionist way, an anticipation of the highly theatrical compositions that you can see in the “Sacri monti” (Sacred Mountains). During the restoration, the plaster-based mortar binding the parts together was removed, and at the end of the restoration the components were not plastered together again. The thing that struck me most powerfully was this large three-dimensional puzzle.

Could you tell me how you developed the work “Altorilievo”?

SA: I was particularly impressed by my visit to the Bargino winery, and, thinking of a possible site for “Altorilievo”, I immediately liked the “vinsantaia”, the room for making Vin Santo. I identified a wall with an unusual profile, created by a negative vault that lowers towards the centre of the hall. It has exactly the opposite shape with respect to the lunette, and it provided a justification for spreading the fragments over a larger surface. The space is rather dark and meditative, ideal for ageing vin santo, and it is perfect for a work that ends up by being more enigmatic than just a simple religious scene. The fragments are separated and the observer has to invent a landscape in which to place them.

The work “Altorilievo” is installed in the futuristic spaces of the Cantina Antinori winery in the Chianti Classico district. What was your reaction to this location with its distinctive structures? Was it difficult to relate to this setting?

SA: Even though I started from a source far removed in time, with a well-defined iconography, my work is a project that belongs to the present, and I am perfectly at home in a contemporary architectural situation. In fact I think that this actually enhances the characteristics of my work. I like futuristic lines together with traditional colours and materials, sobriety and eccentricity elegantly combined.