Empires collide at New York exhibit in Rome

Apr 29, 2013 1230

Rome, April 23 - Empires are colliding at Rome's biggest art venue, the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, with an original show that brings the titans of 21st-century art to one of the cradles of Classicism. 'Empire State', which opens this week and runs through July 21, features works by more than 25 New York artists that look to Roman and Classical themes for inspiration.

"We're not trying to say these are the 25 best artists," said co-curator Norman Rosenthal. "(The show) doesn't intend to be a dictionary. It's more like our poem about New York". Launched as the first in a series of shows devoted to cities at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Empire showcases works that vary in their depth of allegiance to the exhibition's theme. Jeff Koons, for instance, gives us 'Metallic Venus', a sculpture made from the artist's signature polished stainless steal, recalling his sarcastic blow-up statues based on balloon animals. His Venus, which is part of his own 'Antiquity Series,' is a spin on the works by ancient Greek sculptor Praxiteles, known for his marble nudes. Another work on view is Keith Edmier's 'Penn Station Ciborium', a steal structure that amounts to a cross between New York's demolished Penn Station and Gian Lorenzo Bernini's spiral-columned Baldachin canopy inside St Peter's Basilica. Such works, according to co-curator Alex Gartenfeld, should force viewers to question "what it is to be an art center today, and what sort of cultural cachet a city wields by having these art institutions. "I think a lot of cities, Rome included, are thinking about what it means to be a contemporary art center. That's where empire becomes this very relevant theme". Indeed, Rome is usually overlooked on the modern- and contemporary-art circuits due to its overwhelming inheritance from antiquity, leaving venues like the Palazzo delle Esposizioni to more often play host to shows that have already made the rounds in capitals like Paris, London and New York. 'Empire State', which has garnered international attention since before it was unveiled, paves new ground, attracting an audience distinct from the tourists bound for the Vatican Museums, the Trevi Fountain and the Colosseum. Those contemporary-art lovers are also more likely to head over to Rome's growing 21st-century art museums - MAXXI and MACRO - once they're done, helping the city prove it's capable of looking forward as well as back, and that "new" often means looking at something old from a different angle. It's a little-known fact, for instance, that both Grand Central Station and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manahattan were inspired by Rome's Baths of Caracalla. Countless other New York art pieces and structures owe an equal debt of gratitude to Roman forebears. The works currently on show at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni are only the latest.

By Christopher Livesay / ANSA

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