There is food for eating and there is food for thought. This is a shot of Via de’ Catinari, Rome, and, despite what their body language might impress, these people were actually hanging about and taking part in an ‘event’ — they weren’t being bored.
I had decided to attend the opening of an art gallery, as recommended to me by a close friend and former colleague of the gallerist in question, Lorcan O’Neill. Here is another shot of Via de’ Catinari. I love the little girl at the fountain.
It was a beautiful hot evening early in July (July 4th if you want to know), the kind that is infused with the promise of a long, hot indolent summer to ensue and to last seemingly forever; the kind that whispers, who knows? I might even overflow into an Indian summer. I was, in short, happily engulfed by the type of heat that was subsequently and extremely noticeably denied to us, in what turned out to be the most miserable of Roman July’s in decades (I had to resort to wearing a cardigan last night, that’s how bad this meterological effrontery has been).
I like museums and art galleries and did not mind having to go on my own. I had read that the inaugural show was to comprise work by Canadian photographer Jeff Wall; British Land artist, sculptor, and photographer Richard Long; and Italian painter Enrico Castellani, all of whom the gallery represents.
I had also read, in another article, that this new gallery is ‘meant to function as an “arts hub” in a city not yet known for its vibrant art market but which is hoping to build a place for itself in Italy and indeed Europe as a center for contemporary art. Others have opened new spaces in Rome recently: Gagosian opened a gallery here, and, after Milan, Rome is one of Italy’s few expanding center’s for contemporary art galleries. The energy is also attracting younger dealers. Not yet 30, the Glaswegian James Gardner has received much praised for his gallery Frutta, which is focusing on up-and-coming artists such as Gabriele De Santis and Oliver Osborne.’
My hands were just ‘itching’ to get a feel of the marble … but I managed to behave and take photos instead. It is not often that a ground-level ‘object’ can incur such desire for tactile satisfaction.
A fountain. And what a fountain … how old is it? What does it have to say to us, even today? Do you notice Hercules or is it Atlas … holding up a lot of weight? Do you notice the symbol of the shell? The ‘angels’ playing with the two fish? And this is when things got ‘interesting’. When Fellini would have been all agog … Who is the lady in red? The lady in red likes being photographed. She doesn’t mind posing in front of the fountain … she positively loves it. And here is the photographer … taking snaps of the lady in red. Smile. Cheese. The lady in red is seemingly oblivious to any of us looking on and wondering what this posing is all about … She consults her photographer and takes it all very seriously … These other people … mostly women …. are a sharp contrast. Their smiles may be somewhat formal but their attitude is one of fun. Their shoes say it all ….
And then, only yards away and literally around the corner from Lorcan’s new Gallery, not far from Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori, I stumbled across a second art gallery featuring Mat Collishaw’s works. ‘Golly!’ I thought to myself, ‘ What IS it with Rome and modern art at the moment?’ How nice, nevertheless.
And here is Mat Collishaw himself, although I did not know it at the time. I was intrigued by the prison-gear look of his trendy outfit. And then I went inside the 1/9unosunove Gallery to admire his work.
For the exhibition at 1/9unosunove, Mat Collishaw has selected a group of artworks among three of his most widely known series: Burning Flowers, Insecticide and Last Meal on Death Row. The fiery red made me think of Diana Vreeland’s love for this shade, ‘the red from hell’ as she termed it.
For some reason, I felt compelled to return to the Lorcan Gallery …
The crowds throng. Wine is served on the street outside the gallery … as are simple snacks. If this were London, we’d be talking about champagne and finger foods. Accents and background and pedigree would form a barrier. Here, instead, it is bicycles that form a natural ‘barrier’ … lending a pseudo-industrial ‘edge’ to the event. The fountain on the right spews out drinkable and very cold water. This is Rome. The Centre of Rome. Near Campo de’ Fiori. Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake not very far from here. He was one of the last alchemists. What alchemy is at work here this evening?
The atmosphere is warm and friendly. Some people dress up. Others wear a backpack.
It was getting very busy now. Lots of people, lots. The sheer number of people was adding to the heat, despite the fact that the evening light was dimming. The lady with the hat on the left somehow managed to keep her cool.
Museums and art galleries represent the height of civilisation. People are huddled up at close quarters and yet manage to remain self-contained and keep their grip, their ‘cool’. People come to see and to be seen.
And this lady on the left … well, she definitely wanted to be seen. It’s easy enough to be tempted to criticise her attention-seeking ‘gear’. But then again … a little eccentricity never hurt and prompt and reminds us, as adults, that we were children once. And liked dressing up and pretending and having fun. I can’t say her silver-and-black fabric ‘did’ it for me, not to mention the hideous hat … but I admired her sense of style.
I went away as much fascinated by the people on exhibition as the exhibits themselves. A truly groovy evening. Art for art’s sake. Only in Rome …