Contemporary art at Palazzo Biscari: two exhibitions in Catania propose a journey between illusion and reality

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This jewel of the baroque of Catania opens its doors to the public with two exhibitions from the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo collection. Eight young people, trained for the occasion, will guide visitors through the surprises offered by Alicja Kwade’s installation and the group show hosted in the east wing of the palace

A fusion of humanity’s deeper questions and an exploration of the boundaries and the desire to go beyond time and space: this is what the two exhibitions hosted at Palazzo Biscari from 8 July and coming from the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Collection represent, in a constant dialogue with the majesty of the place. “The idea comes from one of the two curators Ludovico Pratesi – says President Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo. He invited me here in Catania last year to see the exhibition of Gian Maria Tosatti at Palazzo Biscari. I accepted with great pleasure because it would have strengthened my relationship with Sicily, which started 20 years ago with the exhibition From Guarene to Etna. In that occasion I first met Pietro Scammacca and his family, who always join projects like this one with great enthusiasm”. The exhibition of some of the works of the Rebaudengo Collection thus reactivates the past of Palazzo Biscari, which has always been a private residence, but also a large museum in the city. Eight young people, trained by one of the cultural mediators who works for the Rebaudengo Foundation, will guide the visitors through the palace. Patrizia Sandretto continues: “I strongly believe in cultural intermediation and in the human relationship within the exhibition spaces. The audio guide creates a barrier that a real person can break and make visitors feel free to ask curious questions”.

BETWEEN OLD AND NEW ILLUSIONS. Until August 24 the party hall will host Weltenlinie, the installation by Alicja Kwade produced by Patrizia Sandretto and hosted at the Arsenal during the Biennale di Venezia in 2017. “Alicja’s work enhances the genius loci of this palace and creates an immaterial bridge with the Metropolitan Museum in New York. On its roof, in fact, another of her works is currently on display. Alicja’s peculiarity lies in telling the story of new worlds and transmitting intense emotions with a few elements such as wood, stone and mirrors”. The installation investigates interdimensionality through a light structure within which the visitor can get lost, between illusory reflections and reality. “The work of Alicja Kwade – explains the curator Pietro Scammacca – starts from the quantum studies to tell the interdimensionality, or the possibility of objects to exist on different levels. Consequently, what previously appeared as a whole will only be half-visible or even disappear”. For Prince Ignatius the room that houses Weltenlinie was most likely an empirical laboratory, and this expands the magical effect of the installation. “This room was conceived as an optical chamber – adds the curator Ludovico Pratesi – because windows can be closed giving you the idea of a totally blank space. Nevertheless, as you go inside, it is still possible to distinguish the contours of the objects thanks to light coming from above”. Illusions and reality are mixed up once again.

THE SANDRETTO RE RABAUDENGO COLLECTION. The apartments in the eastern wing will be open to the public for the first time. They will host the group show La stanza analoga (The similar room), which can be visited until 7 September. “The exhibition hosted in the private apartments – explains Pietro Scammacca – uses an area of Palazzo Biscari as a conceptual starting point. More precisely, it is the one named after Don Quixote by Cervantes, a revolutionary text that anticipates several postmodern ideas such as the criticism of authority and authenticity, and the relationship between reality and fiction”. From Ludovica Carbotta to Roberto Cuoghi, from Katharina Fritsch to Dominique Gonzalez- Foerster, from Laure Prouvost to Katja Novitskova, 19 great names in contemporary art will trap and enchant visitors, forcing them to deal with their windmills. “The two exhibitions are so connected and in continuous exchange with the Palace that houses them – concludes Ludovico Pratesi. – While the installation by Alicja Kwade and the ballroom in which it is located represent the monumentality of art, the collective show The similar room and the apartments of the east wing indicate the most intimate and domestic dimension of all”.

Translated by Eva Luna Mascolino

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