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"In difficult situations art can be really powerful" - The "Artist of the Year," Imran Qureshi, in an interview
Auratic Cabinet of Curiosities - Rosemarie Trockel's Art Cosmos at the New Museum
Viaggio in Italia - Photography in the Deutsche Bank Collection in Milan
"Disguising the Obvious" - Amy Cutler's Enigmatic Drawings
Imran Qureshi, Deutsche Bank´s “Artist of the Year” 2013
"If everyone likes it, then I´ve done something wrong." - Anselm Reyle at Deichtorhallen in Hamburg

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Viaggio in Italia
Photography in the Deutsche Bank Collection in Milan


Arcadia is elsewhere: The art photographers in the Deutsche Bank Collection in Milan portray an Italy far from the Colosseum and the cypress groves, exploring instead the elegance of factory facades and the poetry of the periphery while calling attention to social phenomena such as mass tourism. Deutsche Bank Curator Claudia Schicktanz conceived the presentations in the head office in Milan-Bicocca, which opened in 2007, and the new bank building on Via Turati. Achim Drucks introduces the highlights.


Old churches, hills topped by castles, beach promenades, sunsets — and, of course, the Blue Grotto. The framed postcards of Luca Vitone’s wall installation Mare Nostrum (2001/07) depict Italy as a vacation paradise. Installed on stylized waves that undulate along the length of a corridor wall, the cards form the shape of a boot, the silhouette of the “Bel Paese.” In this commissioned work for the Deutsche Bank head office in Milan-Bicocca, Vitone not only makes an ironic reference to bank staff’s vacation fantasies, but also the stereotypical images of Italy that are reaffirmed again and again on millions of postcards sent throughout the world.

In its two Milan branches — in the university district of Bicocca, opened in 2007, and the new bank building on the Via Turati in the city center, Deutsche Bank presents counter-proposals to these stereotypes. Under the motto Immagini dell’Italia, the two branches show, along with works on paper, mostly photographs depicting images and visions of Italy in a very different way. In the Via Turati, Vincenzo Castella’s # 02 Milano (2012) offers a counterpoint to Vitone’s postcard motifs. The large-scale panorama of the northern Italian metropolis is as sober as its title. The Duomo and its towers, the glass domes of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the city’s first high-rise, the Torre Velasca, which was finished in 1958 — while Castella depicts architectural icons, they quickly disappear in a sea of gray facades, roofs, and streets. As Castella says, “My point of departure is to eliminate everything metaphorical, and with it the cult of the personal point of view.”

Since 1998, the Milan-based photographer has focused on big cities that he always depicts from an elevated, distanced perspective. Along with Turin, Athens, Rotterdam, and Marseilles, Castella has also frequently photographed his native city. And so it was natural to ask him to create a commissioned work for the branch on the Via Turati. In the entrance area, # 02 Milano prepares clients, staff, and visitors for the building’s art presentation. Along with images of Italy taken by international art photographers such as Candida Höfer and Adrian Paci, selected Italian artists are on view in Milan. The development of Italian photography from the 1950s to the present day can be seen at a glance.

Luigi Ghirri takes on an important and even revolutionary role here. The artist, who died in 1992, not only left a mark on Italian photography through his work, but also through an exhibition he conceived: “In 1984, Viaggio in Italia represented also for Luigi Ghirri an official starting point for a new vision of Italian landscape, of which he has to be regarded as the undisputed founder,” explained the curator and Ghirri expert Elena Re. “In fact, mainly starting from that experience, a new generation of photographers was clearly inspired by his poetic, though pursuing their expressive research in a completely independent way and with outcomes that sometimes turned out to be very different.” Ghirri provided one of the decisive impulses to preserve the Italian landscape from the tourist’s perspective.

For a long time, Italy was considered an arcadia that really existed, where, as Goethe formulated it, “beautiful nature is paired with antique culture.” While during the time of the Grand Tour it was chiefly engravings that spread the canonized repertoire of Italian landscape motifs to northern Europe, these were increasingly replaced by photography in the second half of the 19th century. Yet despite the modern medium, the motifs remained the same: craggy coasts, idyllic folklore with fishermen on the shore. Especially popular was the landscape with ruins, which was both sublime and romantic.

A transition to social reality first began following World War II, when neo-realism began to make its mark on film and literature. A flood of picture series in “documentary” black and white emerged in the new illustrated journals that depicted the situation in poorer regions or life in the burgeoning cities like Milan and Turin. In the Deutsche Bank Collection, the photographs of Alfredo Camisa represent this era of Italian photography. Camisa’s work also, however, announces a departure from a purely documentary photography, oscillating instead between formal still life and street impression.

But a truly new chapter of Italian photography first began with Ghirri. As the title of his book Kodachrome (published in 1978) signalized, his world is no longer black, white, and gray. Parallel to Americans like Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld, who primarily turned to landscape, Ghirri also worked in color. In Atlante (1973), one of his earliest series, the exploration of conceptual art also becomes clear: Ghirri photographed details from atlases —as departure points for imaginary journeys. In a country that has been photographed to excess, he began at a kind of point zero, from where he developed his own images of Italy. While they are poetic, they are also a clear counter-proposal to the nostalgic and documentary stereotypes. An eye for the random and peripheral characterizes Ghirri’s unbelievably dense everyday scenes, interiors, and landscapes. He took these photographs for the most part in his native landscape, the province of Emilia-Romagna in the north of the country. Here, in the small city of Fidenza, he also photographed the nighttime street scenes in the Deutsche Bank Collection.

Ghirri’s randomness, which is often melancholic, could also be understood as a reaction to the “leaden” 1970s in Italy — a period of political crisis and conflict, of street battles, bombings, and kidnappings. A similar randomness also, however, marks Vincenzo Castella’s series Geografia Privata (1975-1983), with which the photographer, then at the very beginning of his career, was represented in Ghirri’s Viaggio in Italia. His cool commissioned work “# 02 Milano,” however, shows how far Castella had departed from Ghirri’s poetic visual vocabulary.

Gabriele Basilico and Massimo Vitali are two of the country’s internationally most successful art photographers today. They too were in Ghirri’s show. Vitali’s highly detailed, crisp large formats of the overpopulated beaches of Rimini and Riccione expose the realities of mass tourism — which have developed out of what was once the exclusive Grand Tour. At the same time, Vitali, along with Andreas Gursky and Walter Niedermayr, stands for a photography whose cool large formats present the settings of modern life and the collective leisure society — from supermarkets and discos to ski slopes in the Alps.

On the other hand, Gabriele Basilico focuses exclusively on urban space. The collection owns works from his early project Milano. ritratti di fabbriche, begun in1978. The trained architect explored the outerlying areas of his city, aiming his camera at the factories and isolated elements, such as chimneys and facades. His elegant black and white images lend the dignity of an antique monument to the industrial buildings while also bearing a resemblance to the typologies of Bernd and Hilla Becher.

The fact that these things on the outskirts also occupy the younger generations can be seen in works as diverse as Andreoni_Fortugno’s symbolically charged images of empty street tunnels or Domenico Mangano’s impressions of his native Sicily. Car wrecks and discarded armchairs on the beach, desolate ballparks — images of the “non-locations” of a globalized world. And in this world, Venice is no longer necessarily in Italy: in a blindingly bright work by the Milan photographer Armin Linke, gondolas bob up and down before a palazzo. At first glance, it resembles a typical Canal Grande view. Then, however, the high-rises in the background reveal that we are in the middle of Las Vegas, where the Venetian Hotel and Casino are presented as the thoroughly commercialized compact version of the city of lagoons. An apt transformation, in that Venice itself has turned into a kind of theme park. Like so many photo works in Milan, this image of Italy also suggests that we have to look for arcadia elsewhere today.




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