Francesco Messina. Twentieth-century Contemporary is a wonderful exhibition we visited at the Museums of Villa Torlonia in Rome.

Francesco Messina Arte Italiana del ‘900
Francesco Messina
Ai Musei di Villa Torlonia

Francesco Messina was a master sculptor and one of the great Italian artists of the 20th century.

Francesco Messina Ai Musei di Villa Torlonia
Francesco Messina
Bronzo 1979

We are all familiar with his Dancers captured with absolute skill in their turns as well as his Horses, including his famous sculpture in front of the Rai.

We were delightfully surprised by his polychrome terracotta sculptures from the 1970s. Pure hyperrealism, they make a psychological impact of rare intensity.

The brightest stars of La Scala in Milan were his models, the likes of Carla Fracci, Liliana Cosi and Aida Accolla.

As they often do, this exhibition ended with a video, two in fact, which are fascinating, as they often are.

After admiring an artist’s work, it is always exciting to see the person and their eyes, listen to their voice, and understand their feelings.

The video shot in his studio/museum in Milan struck me as especially illuminating on one point: the relationship between an artist and art critics.

In an interview with a critic for Swiss TV, Francesco Messina’s discomfort is palpable in the face of the interviewer’s questions/assertions, to which he seems to relate little.

I recently had the good fortune to attend an in-person meeting with the artist Alberto Biasi.

Francesco Messina Novecento contemporaneo Video

After a number of exchanges with the (three) critics present, the venerable artist, a person of rare humility and dignity, said something that I will quote from memory, along the lines of:

“You critics have given a meaning to my work that I never thought of myself.” 

I often have the impression that critics, for various reasons, frequently go beyond their proper domain.

Federico Zeri called them failed artists.

Critics have often given the impression that they’ll explain to us what we think, or rather what we should think, such as looking at a work that seems to us silly, ugly, or even disgusting.

This problem seems to have been done away with recently as criticism in general, and art criticism in particular, has simply disappeared.

The contemporary art system is completely self-referential, breezily bypassing the “problem” of criticism.

Those who buy NFTs have something else in mind other than the meaning and message of a work. (I won’t use the word beauty, so as to avoid scandalizing anyone).

Francesco Messina. Novecento Contemporaneo 

Casino dei Principi, Musei di Villa Torlonia

Dal 14/04/2022  al 04/09/202

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