Italians divided (as usual) by art exhibition

March 9th, 2014
Girl with a pearl Earring exhibition in Bologna, Italy

The arrival of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring in Bologna lends a hand to divide the already historically divided Italians. Alberto Mattioli, who writes for one of Italy’s chief daily papers, La Stampa, puts down in black and white what few Anglo-Saxon journalists would dare in an article about the first day of the exhibit, “‘The Girl’ in Bologna: Here is what the celebrated portrait saw on the debut of the Italian exhibition.”

First, Mattioli paints a bleak portrait of the those “famous 5 million Italians” who “attend art exhibitions and theaters, and read books and newspapers.” The journalist dismisses out of hand the remaining 55 million Italians who instead “ugly themselves watching the most horrible television in the world.” According to Mattioli, one of the main attendants of the exhibition is what he calls the “family from Crema” ( i.e. a typical dumb-money family from a rich provincial town), “super-booked” and overjoyed to attend the spectacle. Between the trip, tickets, tortellini (Bologna’s gastronomic specialty) and catalogue, the “paterfamilias” from Crema will wind up forking up about a thousand euro ($1,400) for the day in Bologna “la grassa” (the rich).

Mattioli’s other targets are the “democratic female school teacher” and the “acculturated retiree” who “just can’t” miss the “latest” exhibition.

Obviously, the people who dared put up such an event receive their share.

Marco Goldin, the organizer the spectacle, is guilty of publically claiming “we could actually sell 300,000 tickets!” Even the guards, who are charged with controlling crowd rage (a malady nowhere more acute than in Italy), are dubbed “buttadentro” (literally “throwins,” a play on the word “buttafuori, ” or guards who mercilessly throw “out” the misbehavers from Italy’s justly maligned discotheques).

Mattioli doesn’t have a hard time rounding up consensus in Italy, where blockbuster art exhibitions have long been the object of disdain Philippe Daverio, a prominent art critic, compares the show to Barbie. Alberto Ronchi, commissioner of cultural affairs of Bologna, is quoted as saying “paintings for an art exhibitions are lent, not rented. We are financing the restoration of a Dutch museum; that’s crazy.” The art critic Vittorio Sgarbi calls the exhibition “useless.”

To round things off neatly, an impromptu poll by Mattioli reveals that seven out of eight Italians in the line for the show had no idea that Raphael’s “iconic” Santa Cecilia is only a few minutes away.

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