Rome (3)

The last great treat of my all-too-brief stay in Rome was crossing the Tiber to Trastevere to see the Villa Farnesina.   I had been once before and been disappointed by Peruzzi’s architecture and the fact that it is neither quite a palace, nor a properly suburban villa.   But this time, we arrived early, had it to ourselves, and the eyes of two painters helped me appreciate the incredible richness and variety of the wall paintings, not just Raphael’s, but his pupils and followers and workshop, decorating room after room:  the permeability with the garden, the free enjoyment of classical mythology, the enjoyment and observation of the natural world, birds, flowers and animals.   This was presumably all part of the make-belief ruralism of Agostino Chigi and his banking friends, contemporary with Giorgione and more than a century before Claude.   We started with Raphael’s Galatea:

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We liked the junctions with the fictive hangings below:

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Rome (2)

My second post from Rome has disappeared obstinately into the digital ether, so what follows is an attempt to reconstruct it.

We spent the latter part of the morning exploring S. Clemente, a wonderful church, built in the era of the Emperor Constantine on top of a Mithraic temple which survives in the deep basement.   We arrived first in the courtyard:

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Admired the Byzantine mosaic in the apse:

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Rome (1)

I arrived in Rome on a humid summer night to see the President’s exhibition of his classical sculpture and two much more loosely painted and allusive works which I had not seen before (it doesn’t really come out in the photograph):

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The exhibition was held jointly with Enzo Cucchi and afterwards we repaired to the roof terrace of a hotel on the Via Giulia, where the moon shone.   I had forgotten how beautiful Rome is.   The baroque churches:

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Barjac

In the early afternoon, we drove from Avignon up into the rough hills to Barjac, where Anselm Kiefer bought an old silk mill in the early 1990s.   We started in the undercroft of a large shed, feeling our way through the back passages:

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Le Train Bleu

I found myself breakfasting yesterday morning in Le Train Bleu en route to Barjac in the south of France to visit Anselm Kiefer, whose exhibition opens at the RA in September.  In the morning, I walked the neighbourhood:

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I unexpectedly came across a fire:

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Baden-Badener Unternehmer Gespräche

The third group I have talked to in the last 48 hours was a group of high-powered Germany industrialists who came to the Royal Academy as an optional part of their programe of study in London.    The group was set up in the early 1950s as part of the angst of post-war Germany about the extent to which industrialists had supported Hitler.   The idea was that young business leaders would meet their counterparts in other countries and discuss moral and ethical issues of common concern.   I was impressed by the way Germany business leaders are often more intellectually oriented than their British counterparts, more like academics, and they asked good questions about the system of training in the Royal Academy Schools, the extent to which we provide any business training (I suspect not much) and what motivates Friends.   They couldn’t quite grasp that the Royal Academy has no system of public funding and never has, apart from its debts being underwritten by George III.

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Castello Di Rivoli

On our last day in Piedmont, we finally made it to the Castello Di Rivoli, the Savoy palace just north of Turin which was converted into a museum of contemporary art in 1984.   I had been once before, but only for a cocktail party.   I didn’t see the point of it.   This time I did:  a grand, half derelict Royal palace, emptied of its contents and only half restored, used as a setting for installation art.   Richard Long, Joseph Kosuth, Rebecca Horn, Tony Cragg, Mona Hatoum, as well as artists of the Arte Povera.   Each was given a room to adapt.   Each room is an installation in its own right, establishing a satisfying tension between the art and its setting, vastly more successful as an experience than the nearby Castello Di Venaria, likewise stripped of all original contents, but now filled with fake touristic gizmos, trying to fill the void.

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