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Alda Fendi

text Antonia Ruggiero

December 7, 2019

Art is a dream, art is a feeling

Alda Fendi’s declaration of love to Rome with the Esperimenti Foundation

Investing in beauty is a dream that Alda Fendi has fulfilled in her beloved Rome through the Esperimenti Foundation. The name is emblematic of the Foundation’s mission: experimentation with and contamination between painting, photography, cinema and theatre, because all forms of art are intertwined and connected.

“Experimentation is at the core of the Foundation’s activities - explains Alda Fendi -. The first experiment, in 2001, was the recovery of the apse and colonnade of the Basilica Ulpia in the Forum of Trajan. A very important archeological experiment, which required three years of works that brought back to light a wonderful colored-marble 400-square-meter flooring, from yellow to green. 

In 2005, we began experimenting with theatre: eleven years of multimedia theatre, avant-garde theatre, which I would describe as the theatre of the future, consisting only in music and images, without words, which led to the production of eleven shows held at the Imperial Fora.” 

The latest experiment, based on an idea by Raffaele Curi, the Foundation’s versatile artistic director, revolves around the literary and artistic surrealist movement. An exhibition showing until December 14 and devoted to photographer Man Ray and famous Spanish film director Luis Bunuel.

Raffaele Curi and I are very much attuned to each other, we draw inspiration from the past to look at the contemporary world. We appreciate surrealism’s freedom: as much as it may be troubled, an artist’s life must be lived  freely, self-consciously.” 

Like an art-house cinema, the Foundation has several movie theatres where one can watch  the uncut version of five films by Buñuel, including Un chien andalou, whose script, speaking of contamination, was written by  Salvador Dalì.

In the famous eye scene, considered to be surrealism’s manifesto, Buñuel invited viewers to open their eyes and change their way of looking at reality. A vision not too different from that of Alda Fendi, who was recently decorated with the Legion of Honour and is determined to make art more democratically available

The Foundation was established mostly to pay a tribute to Italy and Rome, by promoting art and culture, besides being a legacy I will provide my children and grandchildren with. Since 2001, all the events and exhibitions held at the Foundation have been admission-free. The Foundation’s philosophy is that art belongs to people, all people, and it is an instrument of cultural growth.” 

Art cannot be explained through reasoning, it is an instinctive feeling. “No didactic reasoning, no apathetic tricks”, Lacan said. And Breton, the founder of surrealism, was greatly influenced by psychoanalysis and by Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams.

To me, art is a dream that begins with the Basilica Ulpia and continues with the Arch of Janus which I asked photography director Vittorio Storaro to illuminate. And speaking of cinema, the Foundation’s symbol is a rhino, a work inspired by Federico Fellini’s film And the Ship Sails On, made by Buzzanca, the same artist who created it for the film, who was recently awarded the Compasso d’oro prize.”

The Foundation is housed in Palazzo Velabro, a building designed by the great French architect Jean Nouvel. 

In 2014, we decided we needed a head office and we entrusted the design of the building on Via dei Cerchi to Jean Nouvel, although it took us three years because of typical Italian bureaucratic delays. Jean Nouvel’s design of the building has set the Foundation in the international spotlight. He himself said that he considers this building to be one of his most important works so far, because any architect in the world dreams of creating, at least once in a lifetime, a work in Rome which, though so ill-treated, is still seen as the world’s most important city.”

As a matter of fact, by walking through the different rooms of Palazzo Rhinoceros, we reached the terrace that afforded the view of a beautiful glaringly bright Roman sky: the exhibition’s grand finale, the last work of art one’s eyes rest on. Even though it is not technically the last work of art. From December 14, 2019 to March 10, 2020, the Rhinoceros Gallery  will be housing the painting by El Greco Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

The exhibition is the second event resulting from the three-year collaboration between Fondazione Alda Fendi – Esperimenti and the State Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg. This collaboration is designed to strengthen the cultural relations between Italy and Russia through the showcasing of masterworks on loan from the famous Russian museum. The Foundation has chosen to make the admission free, in the symbolic and tangible effort to promote culture as heritage of the whole community.” 


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