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Archipelago.  Architettura sperimentale 1959-1999, Fabroni Palace for Contemporary Visual Art, Pistoia, may/july 1999. Catalogue Gli Ori, Maschietto&Musolino
Archipelago. Architettura sperimentale 1959-1999, Fabroni Palace for Contemporary Visual Art, Pistoia, may/july 1999. Catalogue Gli Ori, Maschietto&Musolino

Premio Masaccio,  S. Giovanni Valdarno (Ar), 1968

 

The set up consisted in the external plugging of the colonnades of the Palazzo Comunale made with wood, black roofing felt and aluminum foil.

A camouflage, a "diagonal" interpretation of a Renaissance building attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio. The project functions as an invasion of the spaces of the galleries: the differentiation-contradistinction of the surfaces and materials, with their rules and proportions, produces almost a lesson of architecture that, for once, teaches us to read the building as a sequence of façades as well: closing up the empty spaces of the portico and the galleries, and installing the exhibition in these spaces, created an opportunity for people to perceive the volume as a whole and then, when the exhibition was dismantled several months later, to restore their original perception of the place.
The images of this setting, later called  Pettena/Arnolfo Dialogue, will become one of the landmarks in  Gianni Pettena’s work.

 

 

Notre Dame de Paris.  Il ritorno dei re (The return of the kings) ,  Refectory of Santa Maria Novella, 1980

Catalogue Vallecchi, Florence

 

The title of the exhibition (The Return of the Kings) alludes to the heads of the statues of Carolingian kings, originally located on the façade of Notre-Dame and replaced after the Revolution with sculptures by Viollet-le-Duc, that were rediscovered by chance during excavation work carried out in Paris for the vault of a bank. The heads, from the Romanesque period, were put on show in Florence as well, after being exhibited at such prestigious museums as the Metropolitan in New York. Pettena’s system of display proved particularly suggestive and was in fact highly appreciated by the critics and by artists and architects for its ability to evoke, through a cunning use of light, the “presence” of the kings, as the heads stood out as the only illuminated elements in a setting that, precisely because of its imposing character, was kept in semidarkness.

 

Architettura corretta londinese,  Palazzo Te, Mantova, 1981

Catalogo Ed. Casa del Mantegna, Mantova

 

The exhibition is part of Pettena’s continuous activity as a critic devoted to contemporary avant-garde in architecture.  Here, in the early ‘80s he was already presenting the work of such young architects from London as Nigel Coates, Zaha Hadid, Jenny Lowe and Peter Wilson who would later become very successful also, at least Coates, in the field of design.

 

 

Venturi, Rauch and Scott-Brown, Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, Firenze, 1981

Catalogue Electa, Milan

 

 

Richard Meier,  Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, Florence, 1981

Catalogue Marsilio, Venice

 

 

Nigel Coates, Zaha Hadid, Jenny Lowe, Peter Wilson: quattro aspetti dell'architettura contemporanea londinese,  Azienda Autonoma Turismo, Fiesole, 1982

Catalogue Ed. APT, Fiesole

 

 

Superstudio 1966-1982: storie, figure, architetture, Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, Florence, 1982

Catalogue Electa, Florence

 

 

Architectural Teaching USA,  Accademia delle Arti del Disegno,1985

Catalogue Ed. la Casa Usher, Florence

 

Maurizio Nannucci,  Sala d'Arme, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, 1983 

 

 

Once again the preparation was based on a working of space: three strong elements (a large and somewhat irregular “Z,” in the form of a lightning bolt, and two wedge-shaped divisions) that were sufficient to organize the different parts of the exhibition, while creating absolutely minimal spaces with respect to the imposing medieval setting. A handling of the space that, owing to its conceptual organization, realized in dialogue with the artist (Maurizio Nannucci), ended up rivaling the works on show with its presence. This was almost a repetition of what happened with the preparation of the Premio Masaccio at San Giovanni Valdarno in 1968, where the “radical” intervention in Arnolfo di Cambio’s palace had to some extent distracted the public’s attention from the works on display.

 

 

Il polo espositivo: un tema, due architetti.  Arata Isozaki, O.M. Ungers,  Piazza SS. Annunziata, Florence, 1988

Catalogue Electa, Florence

 

 

Hans Hollein. Opere 1960-1988,  Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, Florence, 1988

Catalogue Ideabooks, Milan

 

This anthological exhibition on the work of the Austrian master, which included his experimental activity, drawings, architecture and design projects, was accompanied by a monography on his work, the first ever realized to that date.

 

 

Visioni d'Ambiente,  Spedale degli Innocenti, Florence, 1988

 

The exhibition, whose subtitle was “Mirages of Architecture and Design,” was dedicated to architecture in its most fantastic expressions, to projects and cities in which all architectural space becomes a form of art, from painting through the cartoon strip to video. For this presentation of contemporary works compared with illustrious examples of the products of the historical avant-garde, the setting had in some way to bring out the ambiguous and visionary dimension of the conceptual inspiration of the exhibition, distinguishing itself by contrast from the stylistic harmony of the Renaissance building in which the exhibition was housed, while maintaining its rigor and sobriety. Of the three sections that made it up, the first was a large circle, an imaginary Stonehenge in which the menhirs were objects of design. The second was a correction of perspective that “resisted” the laws of perception by modifying them: a divergent space that, closed off by a portal, could not be seen from the entrance but which, as you passed through it, allowed you for once to transcend the perspective perception of space, since the lines of the exhibition “corridor” apparently did not converge on a vanishing point but remained parallel. Finally, the third section consisted of a metal structure on which were hung, at ceiling height, pictures with futuristic images of the cities of tomorrow.

 

 

Ettore Sottsass sr. Architetto,  Palazzo delle Albere, Trent, 1991

Catalogue Electa, Milan

 

The exhibition, strongly wished and promoted by the son, Ettore Sottsass jr, was also the occasion for going through the materials of the architect from Trent and cataloguing them.  A great part of these materials was published in the catalogue of the exhibition and then gathered in an archive that was later donated to the Trent MART by the son himself

 

Casa Malaparte,  Centro d'Arte Spazio Tempo, Florence, 1992

 

 

Olmsted: L'origine del parco urbano e del parco naturale contemporaneo, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, june/august 1996

Catalogue Cento Di, Florence

The attention Pettena pays to the context, to the methods used for its interpretation and to its symbolic implications, already amply expressed in the past and in the works of the seventies in particular, has increasingly been channeled into the forms of an intense critical activity with regard to those open spaces, that nature which turns into architecture not just because it is constructed out of a “plant” material but above all because it is the vehicle of different symbolic roles and bears witness to the emergence of innovative social ideas that often relate to the reinterpretation and utilization of the landscape, even for public purposes. A visit made to Central Park in New York with his friend the land artist Robert Smithson provided him with the opportunity to discover a new key to the interpretation of the conceptual richness and potentialities of landscape architecture, not just as an authentic form of environmental art but also as a means of upgrading an environment now damaged by human intervention (or failure to intervene). In this area, Pettena has examined at length the example set by more recent history, culminating after several years of research and critical analysis in the major exhibition at the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence devoted to Frederick Law Olmsted, founder of modern landscape architecture and great figure of a thinker and reformer who was at the center of American intellectual life in the second half of the 19th century.

 

 

 

 

 

Uno scrittore in rivolta.  La casa di Capri, Chiesino di Sant'Ambrogio, Prato, 1996

 

 

Radicals. Architettura e design 1960-1975, Italian Pavillon, Venice Biennale, 1996

Catalogue Il Ventilabro/La Biennale di Venezia

 

At the Venice Biennale of 1996, dedicated by the commissioner Hans Hollein to the theme of the “architect as seismograph,” Pettena organized a documentary exhibition on the period of the “Radical” movement in the Italian Pavilion, as a historical introduction to contemporary experimentation. From the end of the fifties until around the middle of the seventies, the Radicals had brought the canons of the discipline into question with varied and innovative propositions. However, these were viewed by the critics of the time and of the following years as an essentially conceptual contribution, as “fantastic” theories and utopian visions of the future. In Venice, in the prestigious setting of the Biennale, Pettena presented them for the first time with the role and dignity of precursors of the most innovative production of the contemporary, international architectural scene. The exhibition represented an important stage in the personal development of its curator, engaged in constant critical research into the contemporary avant-garde movements in architecture, and undoubtedly helped to revive interest in Radical Architecture and its exponents, to which increasingly numerous exhibitions and publications have been devoted since that time.

 

 

Niki de Saint Phalle.  Il Giardino dei Tarocchi, Polveriera Guzman, Orbetello, 1997

Catalogue Charta, Milan

 

 

Giardini Parchi Paesaggi.  L’avventura delle idee in Toscana dall’Ottocento a oggi”, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, april/july 1998

Catalogue Le Lettere, Florence

 

The theme of the exhibition, held at the Uffizi two years  after  the one on F.L. Olmsted, examined the subject of landscape architecture in reference to Tuscany from the 19th century to the present This set out to illustrate a historical course of development that also entailed the consideration and  reevaluation of the landscape that results from human activity (reclamations, quarries, etc.) and extended as far as an analysis and presentation of the most modern theme parks of sculpture and environmental art.

 

 

Archipelago.  Architettura sperimentale 1959-1999, Palazzo Fabroni Arti Visive Contemporanee, Pistoia, may/july1999

Catalogue Gli Ori, Maschietto & Musolino

 

In the exhibition the panels that detached themselves, like pages of a book to be browsed through, from the walls of the antique rooms of the Palazzo Fabroni in Pistoia, while merging with those same walls by virtue of the facing used,  presented drawings, images and writings of the “historic” Radical movement. Here, however, the timescale extended right up to the present, underlining the conceptual continuity that, while discernible in the Venetian exhibition (“Radicals”, Venice Biennale, 1996), was not openly declared. The presence of works by artists and architects which showed to just what extent disciplinary partitions were obsolete reaffirmed the modernity of the “Radical” movement: a way of interpreting architecture, above and beyond its functions, chiefly on the basis of its symbolic content, its capacity to enrich itself in its contents and languages through continual “encroachments” into the realm of the other arts.

 

 

Schegge dal cielo blu, SESV, Dept of Architecture, Florence, giu/lug. 2000

Catalogue Ed. Facoltà di Architettura, Florence

 

 

Una città sui muri: i manifesti di Fiesole 1903-2003, Palazzina Mangani, Fiesole, nov/dic. 2003

 

 

Radical Design . Ricerca e progetto dagli anni ’60 a oggi, Casa Masaccio, San Giovanni Valdarno, june/september, 2004

Catalogue m&m, Florence

 

 

Vienna e dintorni. Abraham/Hollein/Peintner/Pettena/Pichler/Sottsass, Galleria Giovanni Bonelli, Milan, 29.11.2012-2.2.2013

Catalogue Vanillaedizioni, 2014

 

The exhibition, curated by Gianni Pettena for the Galleria Bonelli in Milan, presented the work of Abraham, Hollein, Peintner, Pichler, Sottsass and Pettena himself. The fact of having been born in the first half of the 20th century within a radius of a few kilometers of each other (with Bolzano at the center), and for Hollein the fact of having worked with Pichler and thus having been infected by the same virus, allowed each of these architects-artists  to get “under the skin” of the others’ work. It united them in a “radical” process, the conceptual and linguistic reassessment of a sphere like design and architecture that in their hands was expanded and modified in such a significant way that it continues to influence art and architecture today.