The Center for Italian Modern Art (CIMA), a New York City-based public non-profit dedicated to presenting modern and contemporary art to international audiences, will present Staging Injustice. This group show covers Italian painting and sculpture from 1880 through 1917. Most of the artists’ work included in Staging Injustice has never been exhibited in the States before including Ambrogio Alciati, Adriana Bisi Fabbri, Antonio Carminati, Achille D’Orsi, Raffaello Gambogi, Giuseppe Mentessi and Luigi Nono. CIMA was founded in 2013 by Laura Mattioli, who has curated all of the exhibitions up until 2018. Mattioli currently serves as the President of the Center’s Board of Directors.
Staging Injustice contains four themes that are as timely for the current moment as they were for artists in a similar period of upheaval over a century ago. These topics include migration, labor, protest and social injustice. The show will be on view from January 25th through June 18th and features around 20 artworks from Italian museums and private collections. It is curated by Giovanna Ginex, an independent art curator and historian based in Milan. Ginex specializes in different aspects of nineteenth and twentieth-century art, including painting, sculpture, photography and design. She has collaborated with institutions around the world.
Forbes spoke with Ginex about her process of curating Staging Injustice. We also discussed what excites her most about the art from this period in history and how she feels it connects to the current moment.
Risa Sarachan: What was your process of selecting these particular artworks to be used in the exhibition?
Giovanna Ginex: Migration, labor, protest, and social injustice are the fields of intervention that marked the reality of the artists at the center of CIMA’s exhibition Project. The Italian artistic production of the period considered – between 1880 and 1917 – is characterized by a large number of artists sensitive to social issues. To present a reasoned selection of artists and works to the CIMA international public, I followed three main criteria: the absolute quality of the works; their representativeness in the context of social Italian painting and sculpture at the time of their execution; the fact that they are currently held by important Italian museums or foundations.
Sarachan: How did you get involved with this kind of work?
Ginex: As an art historian, I have been involved for many years in the study of artistic production and, more generally, in the visual arts between the end of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. As a curator, too, I focus my work particularly on social themes and the dissemination of reproduced images. When, more than two years ago, Laura Mattioli asked me for a project to present Italian social art to the CIMA public, I was grateful and enthusiastically accepted this new challenge.
Sarachan: What excites you about this period of art?
Ginex: Most of the technological, scientific, demographic and social innovations and revolutions that still mark our world today took place between the end of the nineteenth century and the First World War. All forms of creativity, and the arts, in particular, have participated in, represented, or sometimes shaped those innovations and revolutions. It is impossible to understand what contemporary art is today without acknowledging, or even disavowing, the legacy of those decades.
Sarachan: Why is this art relevant to the current moment?
Ginex: Economic difficulties, exacerbated inequality and social tensions, problems of marginality and insecurity experienced by large swaths of the population are not exclusive to contemporary American society: many other countries have experienced and continue to endure similar conditions of widespread hardship. Late nineteenth-century Italy was one such case. I believe that the involvement of the Italian artists of the time in the debate around the “social question” and the consequent, profound renewal of their production in form and content, could be a powerful inspiration and a stimulus, both for today’s artists and for the public.
Sarachan: How has the art world struggled and or persevered through this pandemic?
Ginex: Artists have always known how to respond to adverse conditions by renewing their creativity and by immersing themselves in the reality of their day. I believe, however, that it is still too early to evaluate and even to understand how and to what extent the art world has reacted to this pandemic.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Staging Injustice is open to the public on Fridays and Saturdays by appointment. More information can be found here.