press release

on the spiritual matter of art
October 17, 2019–March 8, 2020

What does it mean today to talk about spirituality? Where does spirituality fit into a world dominated by digital and technological culture and an ultra-deterministic mentality? Is there still a spiritual dimension underpinning the demands of art?

In order to reflect on these and other questions MAXXI, the National Museum of XXI Century Arts, is bringing together a number of leading figures from the contemporary art scene in the major group show on the spiritual matter of art, strongly supported by the President of the Fondazione MAXXI Giovanna Melandri and curated by BartolomeoPietromarchi (from October 17, 2019 to March 8, 2020). Main partner ENEL.

on the spiritual matter of art is a project that investigates the issue of the spiritual through the lens of contemporary art and, at the same time, that of the ancient history of Rome. In a layout offering diverse possible paths, the exhibition features the works of 19 artists, leading names on the international scene from very different backgrounds and cultures.

There will be a number of installations on display, including those by Matilde Cassani (fabric drapery, like a threshold introducing the space of the sacred), Enzo Cucchi (an artist to whom MAXXI is also devoting an Art Collection Focus show in the Gian Ferrari Hall, October 17–January 2020), Jimmie Durham, Haris Epaminonda, Remo Salvadori and NamsalSiedlecki, produced or revised specifically for this project. The layout opens and closes with sound installations by Hassan Khan (a composition for handclaps) and Kimsooja (transmitting the echoes of a Tibetan chant), after which one accesses the large central space that houses large two-dimensional works including those by John Armleder, Francesco Clemente, Abdoulaye Konaté, Victor Man and Sean Scully in close relations with the objects from antiquity (the pair of Peacocks from the Musei Vaticani, the Fegato dello Scasato from Villa Giulia, the Winged Scarab from the Musei Capitolini, the Chrismon Necklace and the Leontocefala statue, both from the Museo Nazionale Romano and the Gem of the Goddess Rome from the Musei Capitolini – Fondazione Santarelli). Photography (the hands of Iranian women in the gesture of offering verses by poets of the Farsi tradition by Shirin Neshat) and video (Michal Rovner and Jeremy Shaw) dialogue with the immersive installations by Elisabetta Di Maggio (who recreates with postage stamps the Cosmatesque floor of St. Mark’s Basilica) and by Tomás Saraceno (who transforms the fluctuations of spider’s webs into sonic vibrations), concluding with a major work of participatory work by Yoko Ono.

“The question of being, of man’s spiritual expansion, has always defined artistic research,” says Giovanna Melandri, “Art is at times capable of capturing our tension and going beyond the illusion of forms and matter (Maya). As Schopenhauer wrote, art can miraculously elevate itself above life, contemplating and transcending it. I was very eager for this project to go ahead. It was not easy to define its contents and confines, but I am certain that this exhibition will make a further contribution to amplifying the boundaries of the artistic and conceptual research of the MAXXI “laboratory.”

“The compresence and the relationship between contrasting elements are clearly evident,” says Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, Director of MAXXI Arte, “and its emphasis underlies the entire project. It is actually this impossible composition of body and spirit, between matter and spirit that is the most faithful representation of our existence. By the ‘spiritual stuff of art,’ I mean that which leverages this dichotomy, between a material dimension bound up with personal experience and a need to rediscover practices and meanings that elevate the spirit above it.”

Flanking the exhibition project, an extensive Public Program will see a series of talks with the artists, book presentations, performances, lectures and conferences.