A modern Wunderkammer

The Ariane de Rothschild Prize for contemporary art lies at the heart of the activity pursued by the Fondation Ariane de Rothschild, which is committed to cultural development through education across the globe.

The presence of the Fondation Ariane de Rothschild in Italy strengthens the role of private individuals and entities devoted to the development of contemporary culture, bringing vital support to public institutions as well. For this Prize, a group of “ambassadors” – the presidents of six Italian foundations whose mission is to promote contemporary art – was created to enhance the impact of the Foundation’s support. They have been entrusted with raising awareness about the Prize’s cultural and philanthropic objectives and conveying its values in the fields where they are active, ensuring lasting support for the professional growth of young Italian artists.

The Prize, being organized for the fifth time, is intended to present a “snapshot” of the Italian artistic scene, expressing the sophistication and richness that have always characterized the visual arts in Italy. It is designed to single out excellence and highlight the unique characteristics of emerging artistic talent by involving some of the leading figures of today’s contemporary art world in Italy and beyond.

The 18 artists taking part in the Italian edition of the Prize were chosen at a point in their careers when their participation and a possible artistic residency in a foreign country represent a real opportunity for professional growth. Hailing from various regions of Italy, these budding talents offer great potential, at times not yet fully expressed. Through their artwork, they already demonstrate originality in their ability to communicate using languages both innovative and accessible, beyond all theoretical considerations. The desire to reach a broader audience is one of the principal objectives they share with the Fondation Ariane de Rothschild, which considers the Prize a means of cultural dissemination that allows artists, through their work, to become vectors of choice.

In a system where it is increasingly difficult to draw on external resources, learning how to make the best use of internal ones is essential. Because contemporary art is closely tied to the act of observation, it is a fundamental part of any possible and objective conscious experience of the world. It prompts a different way of seeing, does away with conventions, develops alternative thinking, reverses roles and underscores the importance of chance as well as the value of mistakes. Art is a privileged cultural catalyst that allows one to break with acquired behaviors and codified attitudes, anticipating new codes and alternative models of ethics. Against a backdrop of constant change, where one must rapidly adapt to new social, geopolitical and economic situations, art becomes a playing field of innovation for the up and coming generations, who must interpret an ever more variable reality.

Through different forms of expression, the exhibition in the historical apartments of Palazzo Reale represents a thoughtful look at the state of art in Italy. Photography, painting, installation, sculpture, performance art and video are the many languages in which the artists speak to us. The result is a multicolored, rich panorama that is not unlike what may be found among artists of the same generation in other countries. This is further evidence that the language of art has withstood the test of globalization to become a form of communication shared by an entire generation, while still preserving its own identity. If one feature characterizes the Italian artists of this generation, like previous generations, it is their talent for narrative – an ability to interweave their own personal tales with the grand tale of History, exploring themes that range from question of identity, politics and society to a re-examination of historical periods such as the Resistance, and sensitive topics like the mafia.

Designed by the studio of architects Salottobuono, the exhibition space was inspired by the idea of creating a modern-day Wunderkammer, a Wonder Room to showcase precious and curious objects. Contemporary artwork and neoclassical architecture appear side by side, a powerful statement of art’s capacity to decipher the present based on our experience of the past, while ceaselessly questioning the world and making way for original scenarios of the future.

Laura Barreca and Marcello Smarrelli
Curators of the 2011 Ariane de Rothschild Prize

Laura Barreca

Laura Barreca is an art historian and curator. From 2007 to 2009 she was junior curator at PAN (Palazzo delle Arti Napoli). In 2009 she won a research grant for post-doctoral work at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies, Columbia University, New York. Also in 2009 she began working with Fondazione MAXXI, curating “Committenze contemporanee” with UniCredit and Galleria Borghese, as well as the project on contemporary art conservation and documentation. She has curated exhibitions at the Fondazione Pastificio Cerere in Rome and is a member of the scientific committee for Riso, Museo d’Arte Contemporanea della Sicilia. She teaches at several institutions, including the Academy of Fine Arts in Palermo, the Preservation of Cultural Heritage Faculty of the University of Tuscia and the IED-Istituto Europeo di Design in Rome. She has served on the awards committees for prestigious contemporary art prizes. She has given lectures on New Media Art preservation in Italy and many other countries (Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid 2007; McGill University, Montreal 2008; Galleria nazionale d’arte moderna, Rome 2008; University of Maine, Bangor 2009; Columbia University, New York 2009; Universitad do Miño, Guimaraes 2010; University of Cincinnati 2011).

Marcello Smarrelli

Marcello Smarrelli is an art historian, critic and curator. After completing a specialization in contemporary art history, he focused on the study of the relationship between aesthetics, education and training. He has taught art history and the history of design at the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Rome-La Sapienza. He has been artistic director of the Fondazione Ermanno Casoli since 2007 and of the Fondazione Pastificio Cerere since 2011. He has curated a number of public art projects as well as many exhibitions in both public and private spaces. He has been a member of important juries to award national and international contemporary art prizes (the Furla Prize, Premio per la giovane arte italiana, Prince Pierre Foundation of Monaco Prize for Contemporary Art). He is a member of Nuovi Mecenati, a Franco-Italian foundation to promote contemporary art in Italy. He is a contemporary art consultant for many institutions, including Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and the French Academy in Rome (Villa Medici).

Top of page
Commune di Milano Palazzo Reale The Ariane de Rothschild Foundation University of the Arts London Central Saint Martins Civita Links to sponsors