The wide, varied range of interests that Giovanni Carandente cultivated during his lifetime is such that it is difficult to encapsulate his personality in a narrow, schematic catalogue. He showed uncommon qualities in the field of cultural management, as well as in his role as a historical researcher and as a militant critic while dealing with artists of international calibre, combining all this with his work as a lecturer and art communicator through the use of mass media such as television and radio programmes.
Giovanni Carandente’s achievements are too many and too important not to be remembered a hundred years after his birth. His action contributed to the knowledge of Italian art abroad and foreign art in Italy; he taught, especially in the field of sculpture, how to read works that were immersed in an unprecedented way in the urban context, rethinking the idea of a monument for the city, but even more evidently, with his actions he contributed to rejuvenating a vision still consolidated on 19th-century categories, offering new visions with respect to contemporary visual arts.
With uncommon timeliness, he has in fact grasped the innovative power of his time, trying to show the novelties that have been emerging since the post-war period in Italy, ranging without prejudice in the various fields of the arts from sculpture to theatre and dance, to name but a few. He succeeded in presenting his intuitions in large venues such as the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome, which in the 1950s saw him involved, together with the director Palma Bucarelli, in setting up a series of initiatives to open up to European and American art, contributing to the reinvigoration and legitimisation of contemporary initiatives that were also taking shape in Italy. He was the first Italian artist to use the city as a suitable container for exhibiting and showing the latest in Italian and international sculpture. The example of Messina first and then the great Spoleto exhibition of 1962 are still unparalleled examples of sculptural incursion into the urban fabric. Large containers from which Carandente was able to unravel the complicated linguistic tangle of contemporary art, perhaps finding in the two editions of the Venice Biennale, curated respectively in 1988 and 1992, the most prestigious showcase to present the results of his research.
In the same way, he has been equally critical in his approach to Renaissance art, which occupied him mainly during the years in which he held positions in the superintendence, from Sicily to Veneto and Abruzzo, following Carlo Scarpa’s installation at Palazzo Abatellis or memorable exhibitions by the strong scientific value that focused on leading figures of Renaissance painting such as Antonello da Messina. All this was accompanied by an inexhaustible editorial activity, editing catalogues of monographic and collective exhibitions, on artists rapidly rising in the international scene such as Calder or Moore, but also focusing on local collecting experiences, presenting together with Palma Bucarelli the Achille Cavellini Collection at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome in 1957. In the same way, mindful of Lionello Venturi’s teachings, which he recalled in one of his last interviews when he admonished him that “Art History is first and foremost the history of facts”, he devoted himself to reflective essays about artists who have marked the history of international contemporary art, as in the case of the monograph on Marcel Duchamp. An articulated and complex profile therefore, here only briefly outlined to introduce a figure whose actions contributed to punctuate some of the most important moments in the critical, editorial and artistic history of this country since the post-war period.
The main objective of the centenary initiatives is in fact to restore Carandente’s centrality in the historical, artistic and cultural sphere, tracing as far as possible his heterogeneous figure in the multiplicity of his interests, restoring that open vision towards his own time so that his approach, often declined in an empirical and operationally factual way with respect to the artistic proposals that he condensed over the years, can be grasped and valued even today as the legacy of a critical and historical modus operandi with respect to contemporary art.
The breadth of interests is such that it necessarily requires a reflection that can be declined through several initiatives aimed at tracing and perpetuating the profile and contributions of the scholar, critic and cultural administrator. In fact, the committee proposes to develop a series of initiatives aimed at restoring the complexity of Carandente’s figure, investigating the heterogeneous range of skills and tracing the lines and relationships with artists, critics and intellectuals that characterised the scholar’s life and professional action.
- Documentary exhibition
- Scientific Convention
- Critical Anthology
- Annotated bibliography of Carandente’s writings
- Video documentary
- Prize for the release of an unpublished study
- Digital cataloguing of the ‘Giovanni Carandente’ Library at Palazzo Collicola