"Italian photography in all of its glory" - United Artists of Italy at Estorick Collection in London

By Culture24 Staff | 20 June 2011
A black and white photo of a man's face in profile
Sandro Becchetti, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Le Ceneri di Gramsci, Rome (1971). Gelatin silver print© Sandro Becchetti
Exhibition: United Artists of Italy, Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London, June 22 – September 4 2011

If you were seeking a champion for this generous display of portraits of some of the 20th century’s best-known artists, it’s hard to look beyond the man behind them.

“Italian photography presents itself here in all of its glory”, explains Massimo Minini, a contemporary art lover and occasional prehistoric archaeologist who has spent decades working with his subjects to assemble his formidable collection of works by 22 photographers.

“No other nation has produced such a wide range of great photographers who have not only portrayed but also worked on the same level as the artists of their generation.”

A black and white photo of a man crouching under a giant furry sculpture of a spider
Claudio Abate, Pino Pascali, 6th Biennale Romana. Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome (1968). Gelatin silver print
More than mere snapshots of genius, these are portraits alive with individual stories told from different angles in both literal and figurative terms.

Aurelio Amendola’s portrait of Giorgio de Chirico, the founder of the visionary, subconscious metaphysical art movement in Italy, shows an elderly and bemused figure.

Pino Pascali, who so loved to confuse the world with his uncanny recreations of weapons using found materials in the mid-20th century, is in playful mood in Claudio Abate’s image.

A photo of a man in a coat and hat looking at a tree in a city garden as autumn leaves surround him
Aurelio Amendola, Fausto Melotti, Milan (1976).
Minini wants them to stand as cross-sections of photography from the country during the period, as well as highlighting the “extraordinary capacity of interpretation” each storyteller possesses.

As he delved through the archives, Minini gradually broadened the project to include writers, foreign artists and high-profile gallery owners, shot in often-unconventional style.

“In their gaze, we discover an attempt to depict the different routes of creativity and the process of artistic creation,” concludes Massimiliano Finazzer Flory, of Milan’s Department of Culture.

A black and white photo of a man walking in a gallery next to a huge black wall
Mimmo Jodice, Alberto Burri, Naples (1978). Baryte paper print
“It tells the story of the vision and the philosophy of Italian contemporary art which began in the 1960s.”

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