Fondazione Antonio Ratti

Bizarre, novelties and extravagances in 18th-century European silks

18 December 2018–31 March 2019
FAR – Villa Sucota

Bizarre, novelties and extravagances in 18th-century European silks presented an unprecedented dialogue between a selection of "bizarre" textiles, coming from the FAR and TGL collections, and the work of the artist Stefano Arienti.

The exhibition showed a contemporary and multidisciplinary perspective of a phenomenon in the history of Western Textiles. At the turn of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, European weavers invented unusual decorative motifs by mixing them freely and drawing on all the cultural references that came from the East, without worrying about producing realistic representations. It is exactly this approach in redesigning the forms that these productions and the contemporary have in common.

For the first time, following their own sensibility and interpreting the forms, the textile artisans could make free use of the repertoire of designs and create abstract patterns for their poly-chrome silks that wind and curve, mixing it with geometric motifs, grand imaginary inflorescences merged between depictions of baroque architecture and oriental buildings. The realization of such demanding drawings was made possible by the very high technical competence of the time, which could render the novelties, the extravagance, and the refinement of the decorations, sometimes difficult to read.

This free approach, common to eighteenth-century and contemporary productions, was reiterated and emphasized by Stefano Arienti's site-specific intervention. It was not the first time that Arienti's work developed through an interaction with a historical collection - for example, we can recall the recent exhibition Finestre Meridiane. Intersections with the collection of Villa Croce, Genoa (2017) or Quadri da un'esposizione, Palazzo Te, Mantua (2016) - but the work at FAR was unique for the pressing dialogue that was established with the textiles.

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