The Last Days in Galliate is the first great one man show in Italy dedicated to Leonor Antunes, a Portuguese artist born in 1972 who has always explored figures and issues on the margins of twentieth-century history of art, design and architecture, with a particular interest in Modernism, reinterpreting some of its most radical aspects.
The exhibition is conceived like a complicated, site-specific installation, taking up all 1,400 square metres of Pirelli HangarBicocca’s Shed space: the works, many of which are new, dialogue with the structural elements of the space and with the natural light, making for viewer experiences as rhythmic and visual as they are sensorial, in a single, fascinating narrative.
Antunes researches her work as meticulously as she creates figures that are mostly female, selecting architectural details, furniture parts and objects, which are measured and then duplicated, enlarged, reduced and interpreted, making up fragments and fundamentals that inform the various sculptures. The artist explores the original historical context of these objects, the concept of making and producing as a form of study and thought, and the social role of art and design as ways of emancipating and improving the quality of contemporary life.
The sculptures are made out of natural, organic materials, such as rope, wood, leather, brass, rubber and cork, which still bear visible traces of the passing of time. Artisan and vernacular techniques alone are used, in marked contrast to mass production, in an ongoing attempt to preserve and hand down traditional skills and knowledge. The artist’s vocabulary informs flexible, elastic and modern shapes, reminiscent of knots, the weft of fabrics and bridles, as well as methods clearly inspired by traditional sculpture and its effects of light and shadow.
The familiarity of the sculptures shaping the space is not simply a fleeting trick of the imagination – The Last Days in Galliate is informed by a study of the work of Gio Ponti, Franco Albini and Franca Helg, as well as that of Lina Bo Bardi, Anni Albers, Clara Porset and Greta Magnusson Grossman, figures with whom Antunes conducts an ideal dialogue and has a close affinity. The title, The Last Days in Galliate, draws on the artist’s research into Franca Helg, who is alluded to via the name of the place overlooking Lake Varese, where Helg designed and built a family home for her parents – a rare example of her few construction projects independent of the Studio – and where she spent the last years of her life.
In this case, it is Milan that serves as the great source of inspiration for the artist, who weaves the stories of her architects into the cultural heritage of companies such as Pirelli and Olivetti and projects carried out in partnership with the manufacturing company Vittorio Bonacina – now known as Bonacina1889 – which is still producing furniture and furnishing elements in cane and rattan. Thus the Shed is completely transformed by an intervention covering the entire floor with linoleum marquetry, inspired by a print by the designer Anni Albers, its “fantastic yellow” tones referencing the iconic flooring devised by Gio Ponti for the Pirelli skyscraper in 1960.
"An exhibition to visit over and over again at different times of the day, in different lights, and observe how the works and the materials change and ‘wear’ over time,” said the curator Roberta Tenconi.
Leonor Antunes. The Last Days in Galliate
2 Via Chiese, 20126 Milan
14 September 2018 - 13 January 2019
Thursday to Sunday 10am-10pm
Closed Monday to Wednesday