IT and US: An International First for Sicily Due South
- WTI Magazine #86 Dec 17, 2016
Lampedusa’s famed quote, “If things are to remain the same they will have to change,” is still relevant today. To the keen eye, this is evident in an artistic renaissance happening in Sicily today. Once prized for its strategic position connecting disparate worlds and culture, that advantage changed long ago. In recent history, Sicily and its art scene have occupied a seat largely under the radar, but is now showing signs of transformation.
A major initiative calling attention to Sicily in the art world is Due South, a visionary project, several years in the making. An international first, it offers an opportunity to start a cultural and artistic dialogue between America and Sicily. It is the second project in a quartet of island-based explorations curated by Marianne Bernstein, a seasoned curator whose projects and exhibitions leave a lasting impression, offer up new ideas, and provoke thought. Due South highlights an international exchange and exhibition between American and international (but mainly Sicilian) artists . Due North focused on another volcanic island, Iceland.
For several years, Bernstein has crossed the Atlantic to immerse herself in Sicily, taking with her artists who work in many mediums. They have participated in art residencies, visited natural and historic sites, spent a week meeting and writing about traditional cheesemakers, painted inside private palazzi, spoken to refugees, made short films, given talks, met with local curators and gallerists, and discussed the uniqueness of Sicily. Questions reverberate about the island, so rich in a complex history that is still unfolding today, so fragile in its attachment to tradition and desire to become a stronger economy, while acknowledging that farming is at its core. Sicily very much wants to leave behind stereotypes but is hampered by lingering realities. Offering a profound emotional and intellectual experience, these trips have informed and moved the American artists, who like many others had never considered traveling to Sicily. Many of them have returned several times, forming bonds with artists and curators in Sicily, and are now assimilating their thoughts and experiences into works of art.
Beginning in January, 2017, the Delaware Contemporary will exhibit the works of Due South’s 33 participating artists in their three main galleries. This 35 year-old museum with its emphasis on contemporary art, is a perfect fit. In addition to 7 galleries, it boasts 26 artist studios and will host two Due South artists in residence. Due South will enable visitors to see Sicily from many artistic perspectives – through the eyes of Sicilian, International, and American artists.
Opening night is February 3rd. It will include exhibit tours, Sicilian music, Sicilian wine, Sicilian olive oil and chocolate from Gelsomino Imports, and even a Sicilian food truck from New York City via Palermo. They are expecting 500+ attendees, including press, dignitaries, art collectors and gallery owners, people from the local Italian community, artists from here and Sicily. In addition to the exhibit, there will be many other events including workshops, a wine tasting, a film screening of The Leopard with film set photographer Ralph Toporoff, and more, bringing in many people.
On April 23rd a symposium is planned. Entitled “Tumbling the Jewel”, it will focus on the contributions made by the major civilizations in all aspects of Sicilian life. Special attention will be paid to Late Medieval Sicily under Norman rule when many of these cultures flourished and worked together in relative harmony. Among the speakers will be renown medieval scholar Avinoam Shalem, Sicily scholar and author Prof. Gaetano Cipolla, both coming from New York City and Francesco Pantaleone, who will come over from Palermo with together with artists.
The participating artists
Federico Baronello, Letizia Battaglia, Glauco Canalis, cement (artist duo Gabriele Abbruzzese and Lisa Wade), Gabriella Ciancimino, Massimo Cristaldi, Flavio Favelli, Carlo and Fabio Ingrassi, Filippo Leonardi, Cristina LaRocca, Loredana Longo, Nicolo Morales, Ignazio Mortellaro, Francesco Nonino, Luca Nostri, Marinella Senatore, and Massimo Vitali. Sicilian projects by Paris-based Benoit Felici and Alice Guareschi, Amsterdam-based Petra Noordkamp and British artist Isaac Julien will be featured.
American artists include:
Marianne Bernstein, Cindi Ettinger, John Broderick Heron, Andrea Hornick, Jane Irish, Kelsey Halliday Johnson, David Scott Kessler, Zya Levy, Matthew Mazzotta & Sujin Lim, Andrea Modica, Serena Perrone, Alex Tyson, and Steven Earl Weber.
The Region of Sicily is supporting Due South by collaborating on the symposium and additional events during the course of the show that further illuminate Sicily’s allure. Cons Philadelphia, the Italian Consulate, is supporting the initiative by hosting a press event the first week of January, to share news of the Due South project at the Delaware Contemporary, since it will appeal to the tri-state area and those within its juradiction.
Recently, the international art community bestowed upon Palermo, a city undergoing a renaissance, the honor of hosting Manifesta, one of Europe’s largest and most important biennale’s. For its 12th edition, it will consider ideas such as "who owns the city of Palermo?" and "how to claim back the city" with a focus on works addressing migration and climate change.
Here is what Palermo’s Mayor Leoluca Orlando had to say: "Manifesta 12 in Palermo in 2018 will be a fantastic opportunity for the city to reinvigorate its local and international identity. It is a moment for Europe to appreciate the significance of its Mediterranean dimension and identity; Palermo brings Manifesta to the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean to Europe. Manifesta is an opportunity to celebrate Palermo for what it really is: a laboratory for the humanities, arts and culture. The city will be able to renew itself and pave a way for its future.”
Due South is in the early stages of planning to collaborate with partners in Sicily during Manifesta, bringing America to Sicily in 2018. Due South is collaborating with La RosaWorks, Sicily Tours and Travel on many aspects of this project, including tours in 2017 and 2018 for art minded travelers. Information is available upon request.
Photos courtesy of Marianne Bernstein/Due South.