Liberty. Torino Capitale
- 26 October 2023 - 10 June 2024
Palazzo Madama – Museo Civico d’Arte Antica di Torinopresents, from Thursday, 26 October, 2023, to Monday, 10 June, 2024, the exhibition Liberty. Torino Capitale, curated by Palazzo Madamaand SIAT – Società degli Ingegneri e degli Architetti in Torinoin partnership with MondoMostre.
The exhibition describes, through around 100 works, the fundamental role played by Turin in consolidating Art Nouveau – known in Italian as the stile Liberty or “Liberty style”. In the Savoyard capital, this “new art” revolutionised every aspect of life and society, defining an architectural and artistic experience that, by building on the trail blazed in Turin, would spread right across the world.
The exhibition is sub-divided into five sections, with the introduction entirely given over to the eternal female, to the image of the woman who, in the shift from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, comes to the fore thanks to her astonishing visual power and new social role. Through the great works of Boldini, Bistolfi, Corcos and Canonica, the exhibition contextualises the exceptional nature of this step change, and not just in Italy. From here we move to the domestic sphere of the modern home, encapsulated by a bow windowof Palazzina Turbiglio, where we can appreciate and glean an understanding of the unbridled innovation of the architectural element that became distinctive within the panorama of the Liberty style in Turin. Here, visitors will be given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the elegant fashions of the time, as they admire the pieces of furniture and exquisite accessories illuminated by a Mazzucotelli chandelier, and become aware of the role of dance and movement thanks to images and works such as the magnificent fruit bowl by Leonardo Bistolfi. From this captivating interior, visitors are launched out into the streets and quarters of the city, where the rules of the Liberty style were applied to all types of buildings. La Grande Via (The Great Boulevard)is the heart of the exhibition. It describes Turin through its architecture and its role within Europe and the wider world, starting from the ground-breaking International Exhibition of 1902, brought to life with original works that had been on display back then and with a wealth of beautifully designed graphics, which not only embody the vibrant culture of the period, but above all, by investigating its material aspects, provide insights into the Turinese Liberty style revolution. Only Turin has the capacity to express this history in every field of construction, because the Liberty style here encompassed schools and factories, social housing and aristocratic villas, public baths and palazzos, amounting to more than 500 masterpieces scattered throughout the city. In the fourth section, New Languages for a New Society, we see how the interior design industry mushroomed, making its presence felt in everything from school books, through advertising, to magazines, in a particular take on the Liberty style that became a unifying artistic language for a country and a society, with its greatest exponent being Leonardo Bistolfi, who is the undisputed focus of the final room, From the Sphinx to Mexico City. Here, visitors take an exciting trip through the mechanism of artistic creation, following the development of an idea from the outline to the initial drawing, from the scale model to the preparatory cast, and from the marble to the bronze of the finished work, charting the genesis of a number of the sculptor’s great masterpieces.
The fascinating, engaging exhibition design takes in every aspect of the artistic manifestations of the Liberty style in an entirely original way, allowing visitors to arrive at a full understanding of the ins and outs of architectural and aesthetic creation, making it possible for the first time to get a handle on the production process of the works, be they examples of architecture, interior design, painting, sculpture, graphic design or decoration, utensils, literary texts, poetry or music – all shot through with the very particular structural line of nature, the eternal generator of forms.
Over the four decades of the so-called Belle Époque, in those 40 years of unconstrained faith in progress, a world now without borders found its expression in an artistic and philosophical movement that, thanks to its consummate decorative style, connected everything together with smooth, sinuous lines that became harmoniously intertwined. This marked the birth of a style that found its capital in Turinand its sounding board in the Valentino Park, the hub for the new values of the nation and of progress, the ideal backdrop for putting Italian output in the industrial, agricultural and artistic fields on display. Italy’s “Great Exhibition” of 1898 saw the creation of the Fontana dei Mesi ("Fountain of the Months"), a waterfall with a flow rate of 600 litres per second, with two jets rising to a height of 20 meters. In what is a very surprising set piece for the understated Savoyard city, Carlo Ceppidesigned this fountain in a neo-sixteenth-century style, combining Rococo nostalgia with Liberty style innovations using modern concrete. It was worked on by Luigi Contratti, Giacomo Cometti, Cesare Reduzziand Edoardo Rubino, the leading sculptors of the great Liberty style period, of which Turin came to be recognized immediately as a global capital thanks to the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art(April – November 1902), which served to cast the spotlight on the leading exponents of European Art Nouveau.
The designs conceived and executed in Turin contributed, in the last two decades of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth, not only to transform and renovate the appearance of the city, but also to define an approach to the urban context that would impact the whole of architecture in the West, initially, before going global.
Turin grafted myriad, extraordinary urban and social experiments onto its eighteenth-century backdrop, with the Liberty style redefining everyday life in the city. The architect and engineer Pietro Fenogliocreated masterpieces such as Villa Scott– which plays a key role in Dario Argento’s film Profondo rosso(“Deep Red” in English) – and Casa Fenoglio-La Fleur, where everything – from the window frames to the cast-iron radiators, wooden door jambs and door handles – was designed by the artist, so much so that Rossana Bossaglia would proclaim this building to be “[...] the finest example of Liberty style architecture in Italy, certainly in the purest Art Nouveau sense.” These buildings were the forerunners of a multifarious set of noble villas and palazzos intended for the upper middle classes, which in turn served as a prelude to highly original projects such as the Leumann Village – very much aligned with the spirit of Northern Europe – the apartment blocks in the blue-collar, artisanal and white-collar districts of Barriera di Milano and San Paolo,and the public bathsin all of the quarters of the city. The techniques, new materials – such as litocemento, a form of cement containing small polished stones – and sinuous shapes were adopted and applied to all manner of contexts, but always with simplicity and elegance. The decorative system of the home and the urban space underwent a wholesale redefinition, culminating in an exemplary monumentcapturing the taste of the time: the statue of Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, installed at the entrance to Valentino Park in 1902. With this statue, Calandraconstructed a masterpiece of the Liberty style as defined by the journal L’arte decorativa moderna, which he founded with Leonardo Bistolfi, Enrico Reycend, Enrico Thovez and Giorgio Ceragioli, and which helped to consolidate, alongside the contemporary expo event in Turin, the dominance of that style.
The exhibition at Palazzo Madama provides an overview of this fertile period that saw Europe move beyond naturalism towards a decorative symbolism, with large sections structured around a keyword: metamorphosis. The passage from the nineteenth to the twentieth century can, in fact, be viewed as a major process of aesthetic, social and geopolitical metamorphosis.
The staging, the exhibitionand the catalogue–published by Silvana Editoriale– are orchestrated by Beatrice Coda Negozio, Roberto Fraternali, Carlo Ostorero, Rosalba Stura and Maria Carla Visconti who, working also as SIAT – Società degli Ingegneri e degli Architetti in Torino (the Society of Engineers and Architects in Turin), have for decades now been committed to taking a protective approach that explores the Liberty style in Turin in great depth, placing themselves on the cutting edge of scientific, publishing and popularisation initiatives.
The exhibition is accompanied by the rich Libertyamo
programme of related events, geared towards the maximum involvement of the city
and its citizens in the rediscovery both of their own roots and of the
wonderful architecture that surrounds them in their day-to-day lives.
Full price (also over 65): €14.00
Reduced: €12.00 (visitors aged 6 to 18; students aged 18 to 25 upon presentation of their university card; people with disabilities; groups; military and law enforcement officers not on duty; teachers; recognized associations; partnerships)
Free: children under 6 years old; a companion for a disabled person; journalists with ODG card for service (subject to press office accreditation); tourist guides equipped with a qualification card; Museum subscription and Turin+Piemonte card; ICOM members
EXHIBITION AND MUSEUM
Full price (also over 65): €18.00
Reduced: €16.00 (from 19 to 25 years old if students upon presentation of their university transcript; people with disabilities; groups; military personnel and police forces not on duty; teachers; recognized associations; partnerships)
Free: children under 6 years old; a companion for a disabled person; journalists with ODG card for service (subject to press office accreditation); tourist guides equipped with a qualification card; Museum subscription and Turin+Piemonte card, ICOM members