Vittorio Sgarbi is one of Italy’s most distinctive personalities. Art critic and politician he is noted for his often controversial cultural and political views. Sgarbi is a maverick certainly, but a very well prepared one with always interesting arguments.
I first came across Vittorio during a conference on villas in the lucchese area in September 2009 where I acted as a translator for some items and where Sgarbi’s contribution to the tutelage of the Lucchesia’s unique landscape was as pointed and stimulating as ever.
Born in Ferrara in 1952, Sgarbi has been a member of parliament and also of local administrations like that of Milan. He has also been tried for various offences including defamation, calumny and fraud (the usual common Italian ones in other words). Between 2008 and 2012 he was mayor of the Sicilian comune of Salemi before it came under direct government control because of mafia infiltration.
Sgarbi is now part of the local government of the comune of Urbino where he is in charge of culture and the countrywide. We visited Urbino last year and were suitably impressed by the way this wonderful hill town of the Marche, which had such a flourishing renaissance culture, was run. (You can read about Urbino in my post at https://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/a-fairy-tale-palace-par-excellence/).
It was, therefore, with considerable interest that we explored Sgarbi’s selection of neglected Italian masterpieces in the Italian pavilion during our visit to Expo 2015 in Milan a couple of weeks ago.
Here is a selection of items on view. They are significant in presenting a virtually alternative view of Italian artistic creation through almost a thousand years and, certainly, they introduced me to many painters unknown to me until now. I’ll let you work out where and when they were created.
Sgarbi’s selection is as idiosyncratic as his personality. For me the paintings and sculptures he has selected also display certain foreign influence which I would not have suspected in Italian art, such as Viennese secession, expressionism and primitivism.
But then if you look at paintings, from Sgarbi’s home town, of the Ferrara school they are among the most unusual to be found in Italy, displaying considerable Nordic influences. Clearly this quirkiness has been inherited by Vittorio himself. Anyway, the exhibition is one of many unmissable feature to been seen at Expo 2015 if you love Italian art (and who doesn’t?)..
PS ‘Con Garbo’ doesn’t mean ‘with Garbo’ but ‘with taste or tact’.