from MArte

Willem de Kooning’s revolutionary art takes centre stage in Venice

by the Editorial Team

The Gallerie dell’Accademia host the largest exhibition of works by Willem de Kooning ever presented in Italy, dedicated to the connection between the artist and Italy. The curator, Mario Codognato, shares the details with us

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About 75 works by Willem de Kooning have been gathered together for the exhibition at Venice’s Gallerie dell’Accademia, which coincides with the 2024 Biennale Arte. A unique opportunity to understand the influence exerted on the artist by his stays in Italy in 1959 and 1969. Drawings, paintings and sculptures summarise de Kooning’s language and the key chapters in his career. We interviewed Mario Codognato, who curated the exhibition along with Gary Garrels.

Abstract and figurative are the two poles between which Willem de Kooning’s artistic practice moves. How is this theme conveyed by the Venetian exhibition?
Being an exhibition that covers almost half a century of works, these polarities are present throughout the exhibition.

Which works and staging solutions did you choose to describe de Kooning’s connection with painting and sculpture?
Paintings and sculptures will be in constant dialogue in the two main rooms of the exhibition. It was very important to us as curators to highlight the often underestimated role of sculptures in de Kooning’s overall body of work.

Italy was a great source of inspiration for de Kooning, also on a technical level. What experimentations did the artist put into practice during his stay in our country?
The traditional foundry he had the opportunity to work with in Rome, in 1969, allowed de Kooning to approach sculpture technically as well.

If you had to give one suggestion to anyone preparing to visit the exhibition at the Gallerie dell’Accademia, what would it be?
To give yourself over to the extraordinary flow of visual stimuli that his work presents piece after piece, room after room.

Interview by Arianna Testino

Mario Codognato has served as the Chief Curator of MADRE since it opened in Naples in 2005. In this capacity, he has curated retrospectives of Jannis Kounellis (2006), Rachel Whiteread (2007), Thomas Struth (2008) and Franz West (2010) among others. He has previously worked at the contemporary art project at the Archeological Museum in Naples, where he has curated the exhibitions of Francesco Clemente (2002), Jeff Koons (2003), Anish Kapoor (2003), Richard Serra (2004), Anselm Kiefer (2004) and the first museum retrospective of Damien Hirst (2004). Since 1999 he has curated the site-specific public projects for Piazza Plebiscito in Naples, including Robert Rauschenberg (1999), Joseph Kosuth (2001), Sol Lewitt (2005), Jenny Holzer (2006), Jan Fabre (2008) and Carsten Nicolai (2009). He has curated exhibitions for other institutions and written their catalogue essays on the work of Alighiero Boetti (1992 and 1999), Richard Long (1994 and 1997), Gilbert & George (1998), Jan Fabre (1999), Brice Marden (2001), Wolfgang Laib (2005), Candida Hoeffer (2013), Douglas Gordon (2017) and Ed Ruscha (2019). He has curated several thematic exhibitions, Barock at MADRE in 2009 and Fragile? at the Cini Foundation in Venice in 2013. From 2014 to 2016 he was Chief Curator at the 21er Haus of the Belvedere in Vienna, where his shows include retrospective exhibitions of Olafur Eliasson, Tomas Saraceno and Sterling Ruby, and the exhibition Sleepless on the history and role of the bed in art. Latest projects include Anish Kapoor at Macro in Rome (2017) and Houghton Hall in Norfolk (2019), Damien Hirst at Houghton Hall in Norfolk (2018), Galleria Borghese in Rome (2021), and Georg Baselitz at the Museum Palazzo Grimani in Venice (2021). Since 2016, Codognato has been the Director of the Anish Kapoor Foundation and since 2022 the Director of Berggruen Arts and Culture.

Willem de Kooning and Italy
from 17 April to 15 September 2024
Campo della Carità 1050, Venice

Cover photo: Installation View of Willem de Kooning and Italy, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, 2024. Photograph by Matteo de Fina, 2024. © 2024 The Willem de Kooning Foundation, SIAE

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