Contemporary art Exhibitions News Italy

Entering the canon

As two popes are beatified in Rome, an exhibition in Milan explores art and religion

Lucio Fontana, The End of God, 1963 Photo: © Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milan

As the Vatican beatifies two popes, John XXIII and John Paul II, a three-venue exhibition opened in Milan, exploring the relationship between 20th-century art and religion. “Beyond: the Thresholds of the Invisible” (until 29 June) is backed by the Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo and organised by the curators Francesco Tedeschi and Andrea Dall'Asta.

The show brings together 42 works mainly drawn from the bank’s extensive Modern and contemporary holdings—which includes more than 3,000 paintings and sculptures and around 3,500 works on paper—to “reflect on the theme of the transcendent in art”, according to a press release. Intesa Sanpaolo has collaborated with the San Fedele Foundation to use its gallery and the parish church as venues in addition to the Gallerie d’Italia—Piazza Scala.

But the religious references in the exhibition are not limited to Christianity, nor do the works necessarily celebrate the sacred. Among the loans is a signature “Spatial Concept” work by Lucio Fontana, The End of God, 1963, from the artist’s foundation. The show includes two new commissions: a marble Axis Mundi by the Japanese sculptor Hidetoshi Nagasawa and a 45cm wire Crown of Thorns designed for the church altar by Claudio Parmiggiani. Contemporary works by Mimmo Paladino are juxtaposed with more than 20 traditional ex-votos (small votive offerings to saints normally cut out of thin sheets of metal) dating back to the 14th century, lent by the Per Grazie Ricevute (For Graces Received) foundation.

The show is the latest project in Intesa Sanpaolo’s impressive record of cultural patronage. While the bank recently posted steep losses, it maintains a long-term sponsorship agreement with Milan’s La Scala opera house and supports temporary exhibitions across Italy. This includes the Dutch masterpieces blockbuster—featuring Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring, 1665—on view at Bologna’s Palazzo Fava until 25 May.

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