Many features of Turin life, such as a stroll through the centre of the city, a pleasant stop at Baratti & Milano, maybe waiting for the Royal Train created for the wedding of Umberto di Savoia and Maria José of Belgium, can be experienced by visiting the Pinacoteca Albertina in Turin, until the end of March.
The Pinacoteca Albertina offers a new look at Turin's Belle Époque through a widespread exhibition, discovering the Giulio Casanova Fund.
The Institute, where Casanova taught Decoration, pays tribute to the master by displaying a breathtaking legacy in a whirlwind of sketches, watercolours and projects that render the image and architecture of Turin at the turn of the century, highlighting the inexhaustible heritage of Turin's Art Nouveau treasures.
Paola Gribaudo, President of the Albertina, is an expert in the eclectic spirit of the period and has involved the Academy's photography and set design schools in order to bring the works of the Casanova Fund into the best possible dialogue with the immersive experiences and the permanent collection, in what turns out to be one of the most interesting and successful exhibitions of recent years: Disegnare la Città. L’Accademia Albertina tra Eclettismo e Liberty (Drawing the City. The Albertina Academy between Eclecticism and Liberty).
The visit involves several poles and continues at Palazzo Biandrate Aldobrandino di San Giorgio, home to the Museo Storico Reale Mutua, which - not by chance - displays the policy of one of its most illustrious clients: Gabriele d'Annunzio. The Italian poet laureate would undoubtedly have been full of praise for the treasures housed at Via Garibaldi, 22: eight rooms in which it is possible to discover the history of the insurance company, examining documents, rediscovering heraldry and admiring a 1930s workstation with original furnishings. In addition to the permanent collection, the Archivio della Reale now displays its Art Nouveau memorabilia as part of the exhibition curated by the Accademia.
Drawing the City is accompanied by a superb catalogue, published by Gli Ori and Albertina Press. With great attention to detail, it is a wide-ranging apparatus that touches on all the poles and aspects of Turin's Art Nouveau. The product of the well-known craftsmanship of Paola Gribaudo, a leading exponent of art publishing. She illustrates the very essence of the Academy and its Art Gallery in our interview.
Disegnare la Città [Drawing the city] is an unforgettable exhibition. I would like to ask you about its genesis and how you think it fits in with the spirit of the Albertina.
The Art Gallery was destined by Carlo Alberto for didactic purposes, to be used only by professors and students and opened to the public later on. When I became President of the Academy, also following the inauguration of the spaces of the Talucchi Rotunda, I set myself a goal, as I would like to divide their fruition.
The Pinacoteca should host exhibitions that would enhance the material in our possession, while the Rotunda can be the setting for contemporary and student exhibitions (such as the Summer Exhibition). Without forgetting that the Academy is, in fact, a school.
As far as the exhibition is concerned, after having found wonderful works by Casanova in our archives, I decided to make the most of the material in our possession (the Casanova Fund was donated to the Academy by the family in 1982), since they are real gems unknown to the public. The main investment was in the catalogue and the frames, which will remain as an asset for future exhibitions.
I made use of the scientific expertise of the architect Montanari, as well as the historian Merlotti, who took care of the part dedicated to the royal train, on which a book will soon be published. Auneddu, on the other hand, dealt in more detail with Casanova, as he is an expert on the Fund.
A traditional exhibition combined with the creativity of the Academy's young talent because I would like to emphasise that this is precisely what we study, and I intend to involve them again in the future.
How did you decide to involve them in combining different means for the same exhibition?
It was simply because they immediately responded with great enthusiasm. With the pandemic, we had absolutely no idea when we would be able to open this exhibition, although my idea was born almost immediately when I became President, in 2019. I noticed a great deal of interest from the students and they worked exclusively on their own ideas, creating a natural dialogue with the Art Gallery. The exhibition starts with the more architectural part and continues with the watercolours placed next to the landscapes, amongst our permanent collection.
The exhibition is linked to a series of events. Can you tell us more about them?
The architectural events are organised by SIAT (The Society of Engineers and Architects in Turin). In addition, we have started several workshops for children (we recently organised about the bicerin, the famous coffee from Turin), then we will have other conferences, including one at the Rotary Club for the presentation of the volume dedicated to the royal train, and we will host several groups for guided tours. I will certainly extend the exhibition until the end of March and, if possible, I would like to close it with a Belle Époque-themed ball, reviving a 1930s tradition of which we have found traces in the Academy.
The Associazione Tram Storici di Torino will be organising new-themed trips and our librarian, Barbara Stabielli, will host interesting biblio-tours among our treasures.
You also collaborate with Palazzo Carignano (home of the National Museum of the Italian Risorgimento) and Villa della Regina. What can you tell us about these two poles, which are often overlooked in visitor routes?
The Museo del Risorgimento is - precisely - National, but in the fifteen years running from 2004 to 2019, there has been no willingness to open it up to the outside world, except for scholars. Even though it is only a few steps away from the Egyptian Museum and it is a wonderful building by Guarini, overlooking one of the most beautiful squares in Turin. I am a member of the Steering Committee, while - for Villa della Regina - I am a member of the Association of Friends. Since we set up this association we have ensured that it returns to the centre of interest, given that for years it was completely abandoned. The aim is to get two centres with a very important heritage back on track, even if we often come up against a vision that is not exactly far-sighted on the part of the management.
Furthermore, the exhibition is accompanied by a series of bibliographic events, curated by art historian and librarian Barbara Stabielli.
Unique and exclusive events, dedicated to an audience which is curious to discover those treasures that are often precluded to the general public. For this reason, Stabielli has invented new and exciting thematic routes, enhancing current exhibitions by sharing what is not on display.
The next two appointments, on the splendour of the Belle Epoque and the work of Francesco Gonin, promise to amaze us once more. Moreover, the Turinese painter will be the protagonist of a guided tour organised by Stabielli herself in April, at the manor he frescoed in Giaveno (TO).