Willem de Kooning and Italy
17th April - 15th September 2024

The exhibition will be the first to explore the time de Kooning spent in Italy in 1959 and 1969 and the profound impact those visits had on his work.

It brings together around 75 works, making it the largest presentation of the artist ever organised in Italy. The curators Gary Garrels and Mario Codognato will establish the influence of Italy on de Kooning’s subsequent paintings, drawings and sculpture in America, which has never before been thoroughly researched. The lasting effect of these two creative periods will be revealed in an outstanding selection of works, ranging from the late 1950s through to the 1980s.

“Willem de Kooning and Italy”

This exhibition will trace the impact of Willem de Kooning’s two extended visits to Italy, one in 1959 and one in 1969, on the works that followed each and on the trajectory of his œuvre. The lasting effect of these two creative periods will be revealed in an exemplary selection of works, ranging from the late 1950s through to the 1980s, from important private and museum collections both in Europe and the United States.

The exhibition will include a selection of the large and striking “Black and White Rome” drawings de Kooning made during his first extended visit to Rome in 1959. They will be shown with works from the late 1950s, made in the years leading up to de Kooning’s first visit to Italy. For the first time, three of de Kooning’s best-known pastoral landscapes Door to the River, A Tree in Naples and Villa Borghese will be exhibited together. Painted in New York in 1960, the lingering memory of his trip to Italy is clear. This section of the exhibition also includes large figurative paintings from the mid-1960s that paved the way for his interest in sculpture. A gallery focusing on sculpture will showcase thirteen small bronzes that de Kooning made in Rome. Created after a chance encounter while in Rome with a sculptor friend, these were the result of the artist’s first experiments with clay, leading him to produce a substantial body of sculpture back in New York from 1972 to 1974. The exhibition will also place painting and sculpture in dialogue with drawings from the 1960s and 1970s. Highlights include four ink drawings that de Kooning made while in Spoleto in 1969, presented alongside a complementary selection of intimate, gestural drawings that are conceptually related to the sculptures. In these drawings de Kooning fragmented the figure, often leaving empty spaces balanced against his vigorous lines.


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


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