Francesco Vezzoli, Achille!, 2021, I. Photo Daniele Molajoli /Courtesy Francesco Vezzoli, Almine Rech Gallery, Galleria Franco Noero, Apalazzogallery / Group of Achilles and Penthesilea, mid-2nd century AD. Museo Nazionale Romano, Terme di Diocleziano
Francesco Vezzoli: Vita Dulcis
Apr 22 – Aug 27, 2023
Palazzo delle Esposizioni
Rome, Italy

In recent years Francesco Vezzoli has developed his artistic practice by building a bridge between the contemporary imagination and art history, a practice that has prompted him to train his gaze on the art of the past and its icons, and to explore a variety of different artistic styles in an interplay of references and combinations involving solemn, eternal Classical culture and pop culture.

Various different levels intersect in the exhibition devised for the Palazzo delle Esposizioni: contemporary art, Roman history through artworks from the various branches of the Museo Nazionale Roman, and the depiction of Roman history in the cinema in the 20th century.

Vita Dulcis is a project that sets out to forge a new narrative, showcasing Classical Roman artworks and finds in an exhibition devoid of the “chilly” and “distant” feel typical of so many museum displays, offering visitors instead the vibrant intensity and genuine passion that the finds are capable of triggering by immersing them in an atmospheric and unexpected scenographical and conceptual layout in which they interact with some of Vezzoli’s more recent creations incorporating elements from ancient times or inspired by the ancient world.

The cinema ideally complements the tale narrated in Vita Dulcis because of all the visual arts, it is the medium that has used and celebrated the historical period of ancient Rome more than any other, invariably endeavouring to convey its truth, its passion, its stories, its psychology, its atmosphere and its colour.

From the very start of his career as an artist, Vezzoli has always celebrated the Seventh Art as a priority “medium” for interpreting reality and as a more powerful emotional and narrative focal point in the contemporary debate. Indeed it is no mere coincidence that one of his best-known works, Trailer for a Remake of Gore Vidal’s Caligula, shown at the Venice Biennale in 2005, brings the cinema and the ancient world together in an irreverent citation of “sword and sandal” movies to offer his audience a depiction of the contemporary decline of power.

Thus it came naturally to him to link Roman era finds with clips from movies set in ancient Rome to create a parallel journey into the history of the cinema, starting with Cabiria filmed in 1914 (the first major Italian epic with a screenplay by Gabriele D’Annunzio), via Federico Fellini’s Satyricon, and on up to the most recent Italian and international inroads into the period.

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