Nico Vascellari at Forte Belvedere
Sergio Risaliti, curator of the project, tells us about the exhibition on view in Florence from 24 June to 8 October
Melma is the title of the major Nico Vascellari exhibition that will invade Florence from June to October, with several stages in the Tuscan capital. First stop, Forte Belvedere. The project will continue into the autumn with works in Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio and the Museo Novecento. Are you ready to have your emotions short-circuited? The project’s curator, Sergio Risaliti, explains why.
Let’s begin with the choice of artist: what attracts you to Vascellari in particular?
He’s one of the most representative and complex of the new generation of artists. I liked the idea of involving him in a total confrontation with Forte Belvedere. As with other major exhibitions, the project occupies not only the outdoor spaces of the Fort, but also the basement and the first and second floors of the Palazzina: not many artists can handle such a massive challenge. It’s fascinating to see the methods and the level of skill Nico brought to this duel.
He’s an artist who uses a range of different mediums. What links all Nico’s works, and also the exhibition at the Fort?
I believe this expansion of his poetic expression to all fronts is his particular strength. Like the great avant-garde artists of the 20th century, Nico knows how to overcome all limits and use multiple expressive tools and materials. What’s more, he extends his desire to communicate beyond the realm of art, and goes beyond his intrinsic self-referentiality; he doesn’t balk at social media or merchandising, but uses them in his artistic practice. He seeks communication, contact with a wider audience, especially the younger generations. To achieve this sharing, he uses tools and methods of communication that are not traditional, but belong to the world of merchandise and advertising. Hence his exquisite and highly desirable t-shirts, his caps, posters and vinyl album covers, or the performances he immediately places on social media, on the internet, turning them into collective experiences and thus making perfect use of the public space that social media has become today.
How did Nico approach this venue, with all its rich history?
His approach was fascinating, a dialogue and, for me, one of the most exciting and satisfying curatorships. I found him to be an all-round artist - a very rare thing right now on the global art scene - precisely because of his extension, elasticity and speed, and his open-mindedness, without limitation or prejudice. I’d almost say that for Nico, poetry is the most important thing of all…
What is Vascellari’s philosophy?
It’s the philosophy of someone who knows we’re not alone on the planet; we can’t allow ourselves to think we’re the centre of the universe and we can take over the world with our technology, our progress, our thinking. With his art, Vascellari shows us a way forward - the path of art and creativity - to overcome the spectre of the apocalypse.
What’s the message of the nine sculptures on the ramparts of the Fort?
The sculptures represent a kind of metamorphosis, a hybridisation between technology and nature, between the force of the animal, its power, and the technological component. The future that awaits us will once again be dominated by nature, which will survive our downfall. The task of art is to project the best of human civilisation beyond the crisis. I believe this is the poetic vision of reality. And this is definitely present in Vascellari’s work.
Nico Vascellari’s exhibition starts at the Fort in June, but continues into the autumn…
In Piazza della Signoria, with the installation Fioretti. The title draws on literature, from the verses of Dante and Poliziano right through to Pasolini. And also the iconology of the flower-covered meadow in Fra Angelico’s Annunciation, Botticelli’s Primavera and more. So the flower is a poetic symbol of fragility, but also of rebirth.
In the Salone dei Cinquecento there will be a performance, entitled Alessio. It will happen once only, and then live on as a film. The performance is an exploration of the limits of verbal and body language. Alessio is the name of the protagonist, the person Vascellari was inspired by.
The corollary at the Museo Novecento presents several works from recent years, with the aim of understanding his evolution as an artist. Can you tell us a bit about Vascellari’s development?
The show at the Museo Novecento will almost be a video archive, where we’ll present a selection of films and videos made by the artist in the past ten or fifteen years.
Vascellari is a popular artist, in the broadest sense of the word. Popular because he knows how to access areas that are famously more distant from the more elitist and arid world of art. Popular in the political sense, then, and able to reach audiences with all his emotional weight.
What other projects are planned for the Museo Novecento?
We have a major exhibition by Rachel Feinstein, the first on this scale in a public institution in Italy. Then in September we embark on an extraordinary programme: an exhibition of photography by Robert Mapplethorpe and Willhelm von Gloeden; Fortunato Depero at Palazzo Medici Riccardi; an important project with Cecily Brown and, last but not least, Nathaniel Mary Quinn at Museo Bardini. All this is happening in late September, during Florence Art Week.