The exhibition “The Great Mother” curated by Massimiliano Gioni for Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, is a great review of the XX Cent. history of arts about women, the female role and figure.

The encyclopedic research path displayed throughout the 29 halls in Palazzo Reale follows a chronological criterion that allows the viewer to understand easily the result of a two-year work of the curatorial team. 400 artworks by on view from August 26th cover a time range from 1900, i.e year of the publication of “The interpretation of Dreams” emblematic work by Sigmund Freud, up to the 90s exhibited together with many references like books and historic events, billboards following the same timeline.

Rather than this, curator Massimiliano Gioni prefers another point of view, which helps us to better understand his personal attitude toward theme - for sure influenced by his recent personal history of becoming father just three days ago.

Gioni analyzed the interpretation of art by female artists in recent history, not only in opposition with the ruling power usually managed by male artists. This approach usually gives more stress to the clashes between the two: the power to give life to human beings, biologically entitled to women on one side and the power to write the history generally owned by men on the other. He would rather pay attention to unity and fraternity in the arts. The photographs by Nicholas Nixon of the Brown sisters are a very good example in their kind. According to Gioni, these women come out from the XX Century: resolute and strong, bounded to one another by a biological fil rouge.

Clashes and oppositions are unavoidable when a specific social category revenges its rights in contemporary society. Starting from the first experiments in the moving pictures or photography, women have always been left aside of major revolutions in techniques, values or lifestyles. Here on show for example, a rare video by Alice Gui-Blanché, is a good example of this case, is almost unknown to many, unlike the Lumière brothers on the same period.

The show is built like a family photo album, going back and forth the historic events of the XX Cent. and the main characters of history of arts, from the Avant-gardes of the beginning of XX Cent to the totalitarian regimes, from the worldwide protests in the 70s to the third generation of feminism in the 90s, that Gioni calls the “New Femminism”, where women are accepting the “femme fatale” as a quality rather than a sticky label to deny.

The general stress of the show is intimate and personal. Priority is given to artworks that better interpret the theme rather than to commercial aces: A contemplative Boccioni, a multi-colored Kara Walker, together with a rare book by Enif Robert, Marinetti-female-alterego, “Un ventre di donna/A woman’s womb”, Warhol video clips portraying his mother, 50 precious works on paper by Max Ernst and, least but not last, Luise Bourgeois hall, where motherhood and solitude are the overwhelming tones. The show is an invitation to re-read XX Cent. art history from the perspective of a woman, with a fully documented research approach. A big shout-out is due to the curatorial team which is made by women, apart from Gioni.
Written by, Elena Girelli