Traveling for Art
Food, wine, archaeology, art, adventure, there are so many great excuses to hop on a plane, train, car or bike and travel Italy. For me, I travel for contemporary art and love to explore any and every museum, gallery and foundation I can. My latest “I travel for Art” adventure brings me to Bologna and Fondazione MAST.
There is nothing like a great exhibition in an incredible space, whether avant-garde architecture or ancient palazzo. And it helps that I can eat amazing food along the way. And even better, a great story. MAST is a cultural and philanthropic foundation conceived by Isabella Sergnoli, president of COESIA (global innovation-based industrial solutions company) with a philosophy inspired by Adriano Olivetti’s utopia in Ivrea and Brunello Cucinelli’s humanist compound in Solomeo.
Fondazione MAST is an artsy utopia
In the suburbs of Bologna, where the buildings are charming early 20th century townhouses, MAST is a beacon of contemporary architecture looming on a tiny hill. Made up of long lines, glass panels and exalting cantilevers, this is more than just an art center. To paraphrase, MAST is bridge connecting the community and the company.
Designed by LABICS, a Rome-based architectural firm, MAST is a multipurpose compound – an open and inspiring place for Coesia workers (whose HQ is on the grounds) , complete with a company restaurant with a Scandinavian vibe, wellness center outfitted by the one and only Technogym, academy area for training employees and students and a bilingual and most likely super cool nursery school.
And MAST is an arts center with gallery spaces, guest cafe (again super Scandi style with lovely terrace) and auditorium. There is bombastic art including a large Mark di Suvero sculpture that dominates the gardens, Anish Kapoor’s monstrous and reflective Reach, Robert Indiana’s AMOR at the front door and a gorgeous hanging Olafur Eliasson in the Atrium. MAST had me at AMOR. . . .
Foto/Industria, Food and V Biennial of Photography
MAST’ is constantly regenerating with great exhibitions and the latest is Foto/Industria, V Biennale of Photography.From October 14 through 28 November, MAST and the city of Bologna command the photography world with the 10 venue, 11 exhibit Foto/Industria biennale.
With food as the theme, the shows open up conversations on philosophy and biology, history and science, politics and economics. Whatever you can image. And it’s rather fitting because food is precisely what comes to mind when you think of Italy, and food is what we’ve been thinking about for the past eighteen months as we’ve entertained ourselves in the various stages of lockdown and pandemic.
Consumption and comfort, production and politics, Food is a hot topic but sometimes we’re not really seeing the bigger picture or maybe we’re not looking at the smaller ideas, which is why the Biennale of Photography was so compelling to me. Through the lens of eleven photographers from around the globe, we’re taken on an adventure through tradition and production at the Favignana traps of Herbert List and commerce and promotion in the street market of Baolun, Nigeria by Lorenzo Vitturi. Takashi Homma presents the undeniably existentialism of McDonald’s, we’re taking into the growth and production lines with Henk Wildschut and we sit at the table with Vivien Sansour.
I particularly enjoyed seeing Ando Gilardi’s collection of veline (orange paper), and if you’re wonder what that has to with photography, the Ando gallery included a beautiful series of photos that take you to Italy in the 1950s and 60s, beautiful black and white snapshot-like photos of factory workers, women harvesters, food truck drivers and more.
Bologna’s beautiful locations
But it’s not all about the imagery, V Biennale is also a celebration of space. Italy is best kept secret is that it can’t keep its secrets , but it does forget about them. Overlooked architectural wonders, off-beat museums, fresco-decorated palazzi, extravagant churches, avant-garde heritage spaces can be found in almost every city and towns landscape. MAST takes advantage of Bologna’s leftover secrets in a phenomenal itinerary which starts at its gorgeous futuristic headquarters.
Ten different and equally incredible locations and I had only 7 1/2 hours to explore every show and every location in the biennale. I was in awe. The locations incredible. Two exhibitions line up the rooms of historic Palazzo Fava where the Caracci brothers painted the lives of Jason, Medea, Europa and Aeneas. The deconscreted church San Giorgio in Poggiale is now a library of sorts and displayed in its shelves were Hans Finsler’s very peculiar photos of foiled wrapped chocolates and other treats.
The MAMBO, Bologna’s Museum of Modern Art erected a skeleton fram home to hang the work of American Jan Groover, a photographer who experimented in palladium prints and everyday tableaus. (I must admit was obsessed with her repetitive and tiny photos about time and place). Homma’s eerie McDonald’s photos were hung at the Le Corbusier Esprit Nouveau, a rebuild of the 1925 Paris Exposition International des Arts Décoratifs pavilion. Does that have anything to do with food? No, but Homma loves Le Corbusier work.
Two of my favourite exhibits were Maurizio Montagna’ FishEye at Università di Bologna’s Collezione di Zoologia. Interspersed between taxidermy birds were Montagna’s lightbox photos of the Valsesia landscape, from the perspective of a fish or an insect, and Joseph Cornell- collage like photos of baits. The surrounding birds and other animals glass boxed in what seems like a Wes Anderson set, and if I had the time I would have explored the entire collection.
Lorenzo Vitturi’s Money Must Be Made made my heart sing. Another show in an incredible and historic palazzo- Palazzo Pepoli Campogrande – Vitturi recreated a fragment of the Balogun market to hang his photo collages, portraits and artefact-like images.
How to get to Bologna
Getting to Bologna is quite easy from Rome and Milan. All one has to do is hop on the train. From Rome, it’s a non-stop two-hour ride on Italo and TrenItalia. From Milano Centrale, it’s just one hour and 14 minutes- just a little more than one episode of Foundation.
Flying into Bologna is a great option if you’re just coming in from anywhere else in Europe and are looking for a long weekend of food and art. Everyone loves Bologna’s G. Marconi airport, BLQ as a small-to-midsized airport with no hassle. I still have not had the pleasure of walking its halls.