One year ago, Luca Ciancabilla and Genus Bononiae contacted us, because they would like to realize an international exhibition devoted to urban art in Bologna, Italy. After a few meetings, we told them that such a project should have answered to a very specific question: "How can a museum illustrate the urban state of art?". The exhibition would have been a major retrospective on the history of writing (also known as graffiti) and the pre-Google street art, but it would also have shown how urban art has been collected in the last five decades, both from an artistic and an anthropological/ethnographical points of view. If artworks coming from artists' studios and art galleries are normally considered the most representative way of collecting urban art, we would like also to show how writers, artists and fans have developed another way to preserve the history of urban art, taking some pieces from the streets and looking at graffiti writing and street art more as a culture than as an artistic movement. Of course, we knew the difference between a thief and a fan who would like to save some art, but we really wanted to investigate this boundary between an artwork and an object, because it is also part of these urban cultures.
With Luca Ciancabilla, we felt also that part of the exhibition must speak about the restoration of urban art. If it's true that most of the artistic interventions in public space are ephemeral, we have also noticed that, since a few years, urban art is newly perceived as heritage and not more as vandalism. This means that, if institutions were still buffing a wall some years ago, in recent years, they have started to feel that they have to preserve it. Sometimes, citizens and communities living around the walls support such solutions, but art restorers do not know how to preserve graffiti writing and street art and tests have still to be made. Luca Ciancabilla, who has worked with Camillo Tarozzi, Marco Pasqualicchio and Nicola Giordani on some Blu's walls in Bologna (coming from a soon-to-be-destroyed building), has published a book on this topic in 2015. We felt that the exhibition would be the right occasion to show and debate the results of their astonishing work.
Apart from restoration, which is only one of the topic developed in the exhibition can be probably considered like one of the biggest retrospective devoted to urban art in the last 20 years. Visitors can discover the history of writing and street art thanks to three different sections - The painted city, the written city and the transformed city -, which document in a non-chronological sequence, first, the pre-google street art, then, the importance of tagging and vandalism inside these urban cultures and, finally, the history of New York writing and street art scenes, thanks to the loan of the Wong Collection from the New York Museum of the City (and to the support of Sean Corcoran, who has curated this part of the exhibition). We have searched for paintings, drawings, photos, videos, documents and every kind of objects that has been used in the last decades to illustrate the history of urban art. Why? To check which are the best ones to translate these urban cultures inside a museum and to offer to the visitors the chance to look with their own eyes at artworks that are mostly owned by private collectors, because museums still have to build up their urban art’s collections.
The exhibition, supported by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio in Bologna, and produced by Genus Bononiae. Museums in the city and Arthemisia Group, is curated by Luca Ciancabilla, Christian Omodeo and Sean Corcoran. It is the first large retrospective dedicated to street art history. This project was created by Professor Fabio Roversi-Monaco, President of Genus Bononiae, together with a group of street art’s experts in order to start a reflection on how to safeguard, preserve and display these urban art-forms in museums.
The exhibition runs until June 26th. For tickets, opening hours and all other kind of informations, check here.