Mauro Cappelletti, Astrazione Oggettiva, Untitled, 1976 @ Estorick Collection London

London - “The Experience of Colour” is the first exhibition in the UK to focus on Astrazione Oggettiva movement, at the Estorick Collection, London.

The term Astrazione Oggettiva refers to a small Italian artistic movement which was countering what they believed to be the frivolity of the contemporary culture in the 1970s.

In 1976 the movement released the “Manifesto of Astrazione Oggettiva” which was the greatest artistic movement in the region of Trentino (Italy) after the World War II. The group was composed by the following artists: Mauro Cappelletti (Trento, 1948); Diego Mazzonelli (Terlago, Trento 1943 - Trento, 2014); Gianni Pellegrini (Riva del Garda, Trento, 1953); Aldo Schmid (Trento, 1935 – Monzuno, Bologna, 1978); Luigi Senesi (Pergine, Trento 1938 - Bologna, 1978); and Giuseppe Marini Wenter (Merano, Bolzano, 1944).

Astrazione Oggettiva focused on painting and colour which are at the centre of their investigation. They released works that were both conceptual and emotional. The Estorick Collection, London, exhibition displayed some of the most important pieces by each member of the group.

It is interesting to notice that there is an issue in translating from Italian to English. ‘Astrazione Oggettiva’ should be literally, but correctly, translated into ‘Objective Abstraction’. However, ‘Objective Abstraction’ refers to an English art movement, but a totally different one – lasted from 1933 until 1936.

Astrazione Oggettiva was an original movement and it was located within the international debate of the time. It was connected with the Avant-Garde, with the Abstractionism and the Bauhaus, but also with the Concretism and with optical -perceptual research of the 1970s, reaching up to the Minimalism of the 1980s.

In the 1970s some artistic movements shifted from the subjectivity of the author to devote themselves to the search for an objectification of forms of expression, investigating the phenomenal characteristics and perceptual form, colour and space. Astrazione Oggettiva found inspiration in two major studies published in Italy at the beginning of 1960s on the perception of the image structure and on the use of colour – by Rudolf Arnheim and Johannes Itten. The latter remain unsurpassed in the teaching of the language of colour, separated from any figurative and significant self -referent.

The name of the group, Astrazione Oggettiva, suggest that instinct was put away, favouring discipline and control resulting in a creation of impersonal and intellectual art, while minimising the importance of the emotional response on both the artist and the viewer sides.

All the six painters had their own distinctive and autonomous artistic point of view. However, they shared a deep interest for colour. Their manifesto did not intend to limit the creative expression, but instead gave a general trend to the work of the group.

As the exhibition’s curator, Giovanna Nicoletti, explains: ‘A common denominator between the six artists was the relationship they perceived between colour and light, experienced as new condition of the human spirit, separated from the rest of nature. Aldo Schmid adopted a scientific approach to the subject; Luigi Senesi developed a graduated chromatic structure; Diego Mazzonelli investigated the ‘absorbency’ of black; Giuseppe Marini Wenter dilated space through the use of transparent colours; Mauro Cappelletti defined the different areas of his works with directional lines, and Gianni Pellegrini conceived of his brushstrokes as calligraphic elements possessing a pulsating energy.’

In January 1977, the group went public for the first time at the municipal library of Pergine Valsugana, near Trento, with a six serigraphs folder pulled in 60 specimens. In 1978, however, the sudden death in a railway accident of both of two of its key members, Aldo Schmid and Luigi Senesi, respectively to 43 and 40 years, marked the early end of the common experience. When both the artists lost their lives, the Astrazione Oggettiva group dissolved but left a still present legacy.

Tragically cut short by the sudden deaths of the two members, nevertheless the experimentation of the group still represents a notable contribution to the evolution of abstract painting in post-war Italy.

The exhibition “The Experience of Colour”, about Astrazione Oggettiva movement, was at the Estorick Collection, London, from 13th April until 31st July 2016.

Limestone head from a temple, Selinous, Sicily, c. 540–510 BC. Museo Archeologico Regionale A Salinas, Palermo © Regione Siciliana, image co. British Museum, London.

David Franchi – Thursday, 1st September 2016

Sicily was presented with an interesting exhibition by The British Museum, London.

Last April, The British Museum opened in London the first exhibition in the UK spanning over the 4000 years of history of the island of Sicily.

“Sicily: culture and conquest” approached differently the exciting history of the biggest Mediterranean island, which nowadays is part of the Italian territory.

Sicily has always played an essential role in the Mediterranean area. The exhibition “Sicily: culture and conquest” focused on two extraordinary periods in the island history when its culture, political importance and military ability could challenge those of the other Mediterranean dominant populations.

Over 200 objects were brought together to London to disclose the richness of the architectural, archaeological and artistic legacies of Sicily, including many coming to the UK for the very first time.

The first flourishing period began between 800 and 700 BC: Phoenicians and then Greeks arrived in Sicily and they mixed with local cultures. The second period occurred under the rule of Normans from northern France who occupied Sicily starting from 1061, kicking off Arabs.

These two periods were chosen because, according to the organisers, the rulers of the island were from Sicily itself, wanted the wealth of the region and created a unique style. It was interesting to see the exploration of these two periods, however investigated by a Sicilian point of view which could be not objective neither impartial.

The first room of The British Museum exhibition focused on the first inhabitants of Sicily. They were excellent traders and ruled the Mediterranean Sea (2200 – 480 BC). Archaeologists found evidence of early populations of the island. However, the first acceptable report was the one from e the Greek historian Thucydides (about 460-400 BC), who mentioned both legendary figures (Cyclopes and Laestrygonians) and real populations (Sicani from Iberia, Elymians from Troy, Sicels from Italy, Phoenicians and Greeks).

When the Greeks made their first official colony at Naxos in around 735 BC, they brought new ideas and made cultural and trading links with the previous indigenous settlers. The undemocratic Tyrants and the civic governing bodies – rulers of Sicily - showed their wealth and power through their temples, sometimes of colossal dimensions, rivaling with the biggest ones in the ancient Mediterranean world.

After exploring the Greek period, “Sicily: culture and conquest” exhibition then came to a room which consider a long period spanning from the Roman conquest (241BC) to the Normans dominion (AD 1091), passing through the decline of the Greeks, the brief Vandal and Goth’s invasion and the Byzantine and Arab era.

So we arrived to the Normans period who were, many of them, Christian descendants of the Vikings.

Under the Norman King Roger II, Sicily benefited of an unusual but fragile tolerance between different religions. Jews, Muslims, Orthodox Greek Byzantines, Christian Normans and Italians lived together peacefully in one multiethnic kingdom. A new art and architecture emerged and the main hub was at the king’s court - the Norman Palace in Palermo.

The new distinctive style was a mix of influences from North Africa, Byzantine East and Roman legacy. In 2015, the unique Arab-Norman architecture of Palermo, including the cathedrals of Monreale and Cefalù, was added to the UNESCO world heritage list.

The distinctive feature of Roger II was the multilingualism. Especially in Palermo, messages of public monuments were frequently in two or three languages. At the British Museum exhibition was on display an interesting tombstone in four languages, set up by Grisandus, who was the cleric of Roger II. This plaque was part of a group of five items, two of which have been lost, which were made for the graves of Anna and Drogo, the parents of Grisandus. The text recalls in four languages (Judeo-Arabic at the top, the Latin left, Greek right, and Arabic at the bottom) the death of Anna, his first burial in the Cathedral of Palermo in 1148 and its translation, the following year , in the funeral chapel built by the son in San Michele. Proof of the diversity of the Norman Palermo cultures, the plaque became the symbol of coexistence and tolerance among peoples, because it is being written in four languages, bringing the different dating systems of calendars in use in each community, and for the final formula of invocation of mercy for those who read it.

The British Museum exhibition finished with a room dedicated to the end of the Norman period, which coincided with the death of the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II (1250). He has been one of the most enlightened and famous emperors of the history, and was called “Stupor Mundi”, the Wonder of the world, for his ideas and abilities. He inherited Sicily by his grandfathers, Roger II, King of Sicily, and Frederick Barbarossa, the Holy Roman Emperor.

The exhibition displayed objects from the British Museum’s own collection together with excellent loans from Sicily and loans from Italy, the US and the UK. Objects with outstanding cultural meaning have been carefully selected through consultation with Sicilian specialists from different museums across the island. The British Museum has worked closely with the Sicilian Ministry of Culture since 2010 on several loans, both at the British Museum and in Sicily. This exhibition presented the next collaboration between curators of the British Museum and Sicily.

“Sicily: culture contest” was sponsored by Julius Baer and was organised in collaboration with Regione Sicilia, Assessorato dei Beni Culturali e dell’Identità Siciliana.

Opened from 21st April until 14th August 2016, the exhibition “Sicily: culture contest” was at The British Museum, Russell Square, London.



Linda Evangelista by Patrick Demarchelier, 1991 ©The Condé Nast Publications Ltd, co National Portrait Gallery, London

Linda Evangelista by Patrick Demarchelier, 1991 © The Condé Nast Publications Ltd, co National Portrait Gallery, London

David Franchi – Monday, 16th May 2016.


The Vogue exhibition is extraordinary, at the National Portrait Gallery, London.


To mark the 100 years of the British Vogue foundation, the National Portrait Gallery organised in London an exhibition of an outstanding variety of photography that has been commissioned by the well known magazine. 


For the first time, the exhibition “Vogue 100: A Century of Style” showcases at the National Portrait Gallery, London, over 280 prints from the Condé Nast archive and international collections, presenting the story of one of the most influential fashion magazines in the world.


The exhibition is a nice innovation for the London museum, because it has a new set- up approach for the National Portrait Gallery, full of colours and glittering lights, also reflecting the proper Vogue style.


In a chronological order, “Vogue 100: A Century of Style” spans from the foundation to the present

David Hockney, Peter Schlesinger and Maudie James by Cecil Beaton, 1968 © The Condé Nast Publications Ltd, co. National Portrait Gallery, London.

David Hockney, Peter Schlesinger and Maudie James by Cecil Beaton, 1968 © The Condé Nast Publications Ltd, co. National Portrait Gallery, London.

days. British Vogue was founded in 1916, when the First World War made transatlantic shipments of American Vogue impracticable. Therefore, the proprietor, Condé Nast, allowed a British edition, which was an immediate success. During its centennial long life the magazine never failed to be a worldwide point of reference for fashion and culture – the austerity and optimism after the two world wars, the ‘Swinging London’ during the 1960s, the drastic seventies and the image-conscious eighties. Nowadays, Vogue is a still at the cutting edge of photography and design. 

The exhibition also includes photos of many personalities that have enhanced the cultural environment of the twentieth century, from Henri Matisse to Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Damien Hirst, Marlene Dietrich and Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Diana Cooper to Lady Diana Spencer, and Fred Astaire to David Beckham, together with fashion designers such as Dior, Saint Laurent and McQueen. 

Claudia Schiffer in Paris by Herb Ritts, 1989 ©Herb Ritts Foundation/Trunk Archive, co. National Portrait Gallery, London.

Claudia Schiffer in Paris by Herb Ritts, 1989 © Herb Ritts Foundation/ Trunk Archive, co. National Portrait Gallery, London.


As photography was less used in magazines during the 1920s and 1930s, there are many illustrator and drawer works on show.

An entire room presents items from the vogue library in chronological order- usually it is hosted in the basement of the Vogue House in West End London. On display one original copy form each year of Vogue existence.

There is an interesting installation with the entire Vogue chronology written on a tape measure style and topped by a selection of magazine covers. 

Highlights of the exhibition include rarely seen photographs of the Beatles and Jude Law, for the first time showcased in a gallery since they were taken.

Diana Vreeland at American Vogue commissioned the Beatles portrait by the young British Vogue staff

Limelight Nights by Helmut Newton, 1973 ©The Condé Nast Publications Ltd, co. National Portrait Gallery, London.

Limelight Nights by Helmut Newton, 1973 © The Condé Nast Publications Ltd, co. National Portrait Gallery, London.

photographer Peter Laurie in 1964. The idea was suggested to Vreeland by her British assistant art director, Nicholas Haslam, who was send off to Northampton to photograph The Beatles after a concert. The Beatles portrait has remained unpublished in Vogue’s archives until now.Albert Watson photographed the then 23 year old Jude Law, along with other British actors and directors, at a studio in London for the March 1996 edition of British Vogue.


The 20-page special, ‘Vogue’s film star salute: celebrating 100 years of British film’, was a tribute to British cinema and featured new photographic portraits of eminent 1990s British actors, directors, scriptwriters and producers. The Jude Law image was published in British Vogue in 1996, but has not since been shown in a gallery or museum.


The Beatles, by Peter Laurie, 1964 Condé Nast Archive London, co. National Portrait Gallery, London © The Condé Nast Publications Ltd

 The Beatles, by Peter Laurie, 1964, Condé Nast Archive London, co. National Portrait Gallery, London © The Condé Nast Publications Ltd


Other highlights of the National Portrait Gallery include exhibition the controversial full set of prints of the Kate Moss underwear shoot by Corinne Day, taken in 1993 at the pinnacle of the ‘grunge’ trend; Peter Lindbergh’s famous 1990 cover shot that defined the supermodel era; a series of exceptional Second World War photographs by Vogue’s official war correspondent, Lee Miller; a rare version of Horst’s famous ‘corset’ photograph from 1939, which inspired the video for Madonna’s hit song Vogue; and vintage prints by the first professional fashion photographer, Baron de Meyer.

Theatre and opera set designer Patrick Kinmonth is the Exhibition Designer & Artistic Director for the show, taking visitors on an immersive and imaginative journey through the greatest moments in the history of British Vogue.


The exhibition is curated by Robin Muir who is a Contributing Editor to British Vogue. He has arranged many exhibitions over the last twenty years focusing on fashion and portrait photography, including Under the Influence: John Deakin and the Lure of Soho at the Photographers’ Gallery (2014), Unseen Vogue: The

Anne Gunning in Jaipur by Norman Parkison, 1956 © Norman Parkison Ltd, courtesy Norman Parkison Archive, co. National Portrait Gallery, London.

Anne Gunning in Jaipur by Norman Parkison, 1956 © Norman Parkison Ltd, courtesy Norman Parkison Archive, co. National Portrait Gallery, London

Secret History of Fashion Photography at the Design Museum (2002) and Snowdon: A Retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery (2000). Muir has also curated major exhibitions for the V&A, the Museum of London, and the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. His books include ‘People in Vogue: A Century of Portraits’ (2003) and ‘Vogue Model’ (2010).


Vogue 100: A Century of Style has been organised by the National Portrait Gallery in collaboration with British Vogue as part of the magazine’s centenary celebrations. It is sponsored by Leon Max.

The exhibition “Vogue 100: A Century of Style” is ongoing at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from 11th February until 22nd May 2016. 
















David Franchi – Monday, 25 April 2016.

Wooden face with inlaid eyes, originally part of a coffin, Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 22 (945 - 715 BC). Possibly from excavations atAbydos. Courtesy Two Temple Place and Baghshaw Museum (Kirklees Council) A © Two Temple Palace, London.

Wooden face with inlaid eyes, originally part of a coffin, Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 22 (945 – 715 BC). Possibly from excavations atAbydos. Courtesy Two Temple Place and Baghshaw Museum (Kirklees Council) © Two Temple Palace, London.

It was an intriguing Egyptian exhibition Beyond Beauty” at Two Temple Place, London.

Beyond BeautyTransforming the Body in Ancient Egypt” focused on the ancient Egyptian predilection to beautify the body, for which Two Temple Place, London, created thisexhibition.

A well documented theme, the adorning of the body in ancient Egypt is easy to find in different context, films, books, museums, etc.

However, the Two Temple Place exhibition let us understanding ancient Egyptians at their highest point: it was a culture fascinated by appearance and identity both in life and death.

“Beyond Beauty” proposed a small but fascinating exhibition, with artefacts spanning over four millennia, from 3,500 B.C. to 400 A.D. Many of the artefacts on display came from the same archaeological excavations, and are seen together collectively for the first time since their discovery by pioneering Victorian Egyptologists. Together with these objects, came their interesting stories of how they arrived at their current UK homes, supported by outstanding original archival material.

Created by the Bulldog Trust, “Beyond Beauty” was the result of a group of seven of the UK’s smaller institutions who have coordinated themselves to bring to London their remarkable exhibits: Bagshaw Museum (Kirklees Council), Bexhill Museum, Bolton Museum, Ipswich Museum, Macclesfield Museums, Royal Pavilion & Museums (Brighton & Hove) and Touchstones Rochdale.

The Two Temple Place exhibition showed rare surviving imagery on fine painted coffins, decorated funerary masks, flimsy figurines and skilfully carved reliefs. On display, also, was a significant quantity of jewellery, mirrors, hairpins, scent bottles and makeup. It offered the possibility to look into astonishingly daily routines of private life and the continuous transformation of the ‘fashion’ of the time.

“Beyond Beauty: Transforming the Body in Ancient Egypt” exhibition invited the public to question why Egyptians

Cartonnage mummy case for the chantress, Shebmut. Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 22 (945 - 715 BC). Unprovenanced; Macclesfield Museum © Two Temple Palace, London.

Cartonnage mummy case for the chantress, Shebmut. Third Intermediate Period, Dynasty 22 (945 – 715 BC). Unprovenanced; Macclesfield Museum © Two Temple Palace, London.

cared so much about transforming the way they looked and how our contemporary opinions are influenced by the objects they left behind.

Beyond Beauty was curated by Egyptologist Dr. Margaret Serpico, with Heba Abd El Gawad, a PhD student in Egyptian Archaeology at Durham University (funded by Helwan University, Cairo) currently researching self-presentation in Ancient Egypt. It has been a long-standing aim of Dr. Serpico to create such an exhibition: “The desire to unveil the fabulous objects held in these museums was borne out of a long term project to raise awareness of some of the 200 ancient Egyptian collections in the UK, many in regional museums. I have always been amazed by the many wonderful artefacts in these collections, objects that I wished could be seen by wider audiences. This exhibition is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate these collections and appreciate how important it is that we care for and preserve them into the future.”

Two Temple Place is a magnificent neo-Gothic mansion on London’s Victoria Embankment. It is owned and run by the charity the Bulldog Trust. Its Winter Exhibition Programme aims to support regional museums across the UK, highlighting the great riches that are to be seen through an annual free exhibition.

The exhibition “Beyond Beauty: Transforming the Body in Ancient Egypt” was at the Two Temple Place, London, from 30th January until 24th April 2016.