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An Abstract Vision

Works from the Maria Cernuschi Ghiringhelli Collection

01.12.2017  -  25.02.2018

 "An art collection can reflect consecrated values, or be an instrument for finding new ones." 

Maria Cernuschi Ghiringhelli was a unique figure in the panorama of Italian art between the two wars. Considered the "abstract muse" of Carlo Belli and Osvaldo Licini, at the beginning of 1930 she became an enthusiastic supporter of Italian and international abstract art. She succeeded in recognizing the most innovative proposals with a great autonomy of judgement. She was an Italian Peggy Guggenheim, capable of maintaining solid relations with artists, even the young, not yet affirmed ones, since what interested her most was "to follow, and if possible encourage, the developments of a kind of artistic research I believed in." 

Starting from some key works of Italian abstractism of the 1930s, continuing with the perceptivist and preconceptual research of the 1960s and up to the Optical Art and New Painting of the 1970s and 80s, the exhibition, curated by Ilaria Bonacossa and Francesca Serrati, follows the history of the collection in a dialogue with certain of the main artistic movements and artists of the 20th century in Italy. 

Maria Cernuschi's meeting with art came about thanks to her husband, Gino Ghiringhelli, an artist and owner of the Il Milione Gallery in Milan, a fundamental venue for the promotion of abstract art in Italy. In 1934 and 1935, the gallery presented works by artists such as Kandinsky, Vordemberge-Gildewart, Albers, Fontana, Licini and Melotti, and hosted the first exhibitions of the artists Soldati, Radice, Rho and Veronesi. In 1933, the gallery sponsored the publication of Kn, an essay on art criticism by Carlo Belli, dedicated to Maria Cernuschi Ghiringhelli, which Kandinsky defined “the gospel of abstract art”. 

In 1940, the year of her separation from her husband, Maria Cernuschi began buying a series of paintings that became a testimonial to a new period of her life. Rather than a rational documentary choice, this represented a sentimental exercise that led her to define her acquisitions not as a collection, but simply as "my paintings". In 1950, tired of the Milan atmosphere, she moved to Liguria, where she found a new climate, culturally alive thanks to the presence of a large group of artists active mostly in the ceramics factories in Albisola. 

Starting from 1965, her acquisitions became more and more frequent, with the choices being more rigorous. The criteria abandoned the private sphere and turned towards attempts at organically documenting the results of contemporary artistic research, especially Italian, in the field of abstractionism. In the 1970s, this choice found a specific element in the attention devoted to research carried on in the Ligurian context. 

Maria Cernuschi Ghiringhelli was able to grasp the novel elements in the artistic production of her times without awaiting consecration by the critics or the market, as can be seen in the dates - all early - of Piero Manzoni's works, of which one of the first Achromes is present in the exhibition, of those of Agostino Bonalumi, Lucio Fontana, Osvaldo Licini, Gino Ghiringhelli, Bruno Munari and many other artists. The far-sightedness of her choices was supported by the close and never interrupted relationship with the artistic generations active prior to the war, and especially with Melotti, Soldati, Munari and Fontana. 

If the interest in a private collection can be seen mostly in its originality, its "difference" from others, dictated by a vision, by encounters and personal experiences, that of Maria Cernuschi can undoubtedly be considered one of the most interesting Italian collections of the 20th century. 

“Una visione astratta. Works from the Maria Cernuschi Ghiringhelli Collection” presents to the public the heart of this private collection representative of a fundamental historic and artistic moment, which also reflects the stories, choices, drives, and personal sentiments of its creator. 


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