From 27th March to 15th September 2023 Vistamare proud presents Passeggiate Intergalattiche, an exhibition of work by Anna Franceschini and Nanda Vigo.
Based on an idea by Anna Franceschini – who with this project acknowledges the affinities of spirit, inspiration and thought processes that she shares with Nanda Vigo – the exhibition represents a dialogue between two artists who have, at different points in time and in different contexts, given expression to a shared focus on the themes of movement and observation, reflection and light, in works as varied in their materials as they are eclectic in their inspiration.
Beginning with its title, Passeggiate Intergalattiche (Intergalactic Outings) presents itself as an exploration of space-time, an intimate and spiritual voyage into different dimensions and simultaneously an adventure in science fiction, all in the name of light. Direct light, reflected light, dark light, light emitted or light withheld: it might not necessarily render things visible but this light certainly demands to be seen.
At the basis of both artists’ intuitions there lies a disarmingly simple grammar and some radical concepts. For Nanda Vigo (Milan, 1936 – 2020) space is a result of the multiplication of luminous surfaces. For Anna Franceschini (Pavia, 1979) time manifests itself in infinite rotations and eternal oscillations. Clarity of intentions and brightly limpid thoughts make way for mystery and the shaping of an esoteric “elsewhere” where anything can happen, as long as it obeys the universal laws of physics.
If throughout Franceschini’s work the trigger is cinema, Vigo, by the same token, triggers a spatial ferment, a disturbance in the architectural context that results in a continual movement of the image. Her mirrors, the Cosmos (1981) and the Andromedas (1974), are doorways into the infinity of space; they puncture their architectural surroundings and penetrate the matter beyond. Franceschini’s machines, meanwhile, invite us to step beyond the threshold of the familiar and lose ourselves amid infinite reflections and parallel universes engorged with possibilities.
The exhibition occupies all six rooms of the gallery, which Franceschini has redesigned to resemble living spaces: interiors that open onto other interiors, stretching out into the infinite. As in the closing scene of Stanley Kubrik’s 2001 A Space Odyssey, human intelligence transforms the universe into the places that haunt our personal and collective memories.
In the main room of the gallery, gently lit by the luminous disks that bloom on Nanda Vigo’s Light Tree (1983/84), a majestic kinetic sculpture by Franceschini rotates, exposed to view with all the modesty and grace of a straightforward explanation. From every possible angle, La meccanica degli elementi (The Mechanics of the Elements, 2022) continuously reveals its three elements, which sit on a steel pedestal and are in the colours of the sky just before sunrise or sunset. The elements’ placement might change (the artist has not imposed a single, predetermined form of display) but they would in any case exhibit the grace that comes of movement – that movement which is a defining feature of life. There is further rotation in the video Do you know why they respect me? Because they think I’m Dead (2019), where, arranged in ritual patterns, apparently unfamiliar or now-meaningless objects vibrate with a cosmic magnetism. Viewers are invited to stand behind the frosted glass of two of Nanda Vigo’s legendary Cronotopi, and observe the moving images through these distorting sculpture-lenses. So each Cronotopo becomes a cinematographic device – metaphorically but also physically a medium: a translucent medium offering access to another visual dimension.
The calm, all-involving rotation in the gallery’s main room is the prelude to a moment of even greater contemplativeness: a room wrapped in velvety darkness from which blue interstellar lights and feminine gestures emerge, scattered across an abstract cosmos.
Other rooms are occupied by soft presences: subjects/objects made of fur and synthetic wigs which challenge the commonplace hierarchies of animate and inanimate objects, gently and discreetly taking possession of spaces that embody the quintessence of a sitting room, a study or a dining room. And then even the dining table (and therefore meals: the convivial moment par excellence) is transfigured into a repertoire of forms by means of a set of sculpted plates, Pompei (1992), created by Nanda Vigo with her friend Annibale Oste, its far edge occupied by miniature statues (figurines with a particular fondness for stretching their hands out in hunger) which reach out longingly towards a short film by Franceschini where a tiny torchbearer – a decorative detail from a music box – finds amusement in the multiplication and blurring of his own mirrored image, seen again and again, as it rotates.
Anna Franceschini’s research explores objects, artefacts and goods, and the ways in which they are exhibited or displayed, with the aim of re-evaluating their role and relative place in the context of the aesthetics of capital. Her probing of reality is rooted in cinema-as-movement: kinetic sculptures, performance and bachelor machines are, in Franceschini’s eyes, a form of cinema “by other means”; and animation – whether accidental or mechanically generated – offers a way of inspiring wonder, unease, or simply a moment of empathy with the world around us.
Her videos and films have been presented at numerous festivals, including the Rotterdam Film Festival, the Locarno Film Festival, the Turin Film Festival, Courtisane in Ghent, and the Vilnius Film Festival. Her recent exhibitions have included solo exhibitions at: Triennale di Milano (2023); Kunstverein, Düsseldorf; Spike Island, Bristol; Museion, Bolzano; Fiorucci Art Trust, London; Almanac, London; KIOSK, Ghent; Vistamare Milan/Pescara; and Vera Cortes Galeria, Lisbon. She was one of the artists invited to participate in the 2020 Quadriennale d’Arte, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome. Recent group shows featuring her work have been held at: Mudam Luxembourg (2023), Neuer Kunstverein, Vienna; GAMeC, Bergamo; Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg; HFKD, Holstebro; Campoli-Presti, Paris; Witte de With, Rotterdam; Istituto Svizzero, Milan-Venice; Fondazione ICA, Milan; CAC, Vilnius; Kunstraum, London; Matadero, Madrid; MAXXI, Rome; and Villa Medici, Rome. In 2017 her project CARTABURRO won the Italian Council Prize, promoted and funded by Italy’s Ministry for Culture. In 2019 she made the short film BUSTROFEDICO, a special project for the Italian Pavillion at the 58th Venice Biennale. In 2022 she was awarded a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant. Her work is present in numerous public and private collections, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Les Abattoirs in Toulouse, the Nouveau Musée National de Monaco, the MACRO in Rome, the GAMeC in Bergamo, the Fondazione Fiera Milano, the MACTE in Termoli, the Nicoletta Fiorucci Collection and the Silvia Fiorucci Collection. She has a PhD in Visual e Media Studies and she teaches at the Università Iulm, Milan. Since 2022 she has held the position of Art-based Researcher for AN-ICON – a research group financed by the European Research Council – at the Department of Philosophy, Università degli Studi di Milano.
Nanda Vigo was born in Milan in 1936. She showed an interest in art from a very young age and as a child she had the opportunity to spend time in the company of Filippo de Pisis (a family friend) and saw the architecture of Giuseppe Terragni, from whom – it is safe to guess – she learnt to pay attention to light.
After having graduated from the Institut Polytechnique, Lausanne, followed by very formative work experience in San Francisco, in 1959 she set up her own studio in Milan. From then on, the fundamental theme of her art would be the conflict/harmony between light and space – a theme explored not just her work as an artist but also in her architecture and design work. From 1959 onwards she frequented the studio of Lucio Fontana, and then became close to the artists who founded the Azimut gallery in Milan, Piero Manzoni and Enrico Castellani. In that period, the journeys she made in connection with exhibitions she was involved in all over Europe (over 400 solo and group shows) brought her into contact with the artists and locations associated with the ZERO movement, in Germany, the Netherlands, and France.
In 1959 she began designing the ZERO house in Milan (it wouldn’t be completed until 1962). From 1964 to 1966 she took part in at least thirteen ZERO exhibitions, including NUL 65 at the Stedelijk, Amsterdam, and ZERO: An Exhibition of European Experimental Art at the Gallery of Modern Art, Washington D.C. In 1965 she curated the legendary ZERO avant-garde show in Lucio Fontana’s studio in Milan, featuring the work of 28 artists.
From 1965 to 1968 she collaborated with Giò Ponti, creating the Casa sotto la foglia house in Malò, Vicenza. In 1971 Vigo won the New York Award for Industrial Design for her lamp designs (Lampada Golden Gate), and that year she also designed and built one of her most spectacular projects: the Casa-Museo Remo Brindisi, Lido di Spina (Ferrara).
In 1976 she won the St. Gobain first prize for glass design. In 1982 she took part in the 40th Venice Biennale.
In 1997 she curated the show Piero Manzoni – Milano et Mitologia at Palazzo Reale, Milan.
Since 2006 her work has been part of the permanent collection at the Milan Triennial’s Museo del Design.
Vigo’s remarkable career was characterised by an interdisciplinary approach to art, design, architecture and the environment; she was involved in numerous projects as an architect, designer and artist. Art was a lifelong passion and quest, leading to collaborations with some of the key figures of our time, and – throughout her career – to projects focused on communicating art’s importance, as in the show ITALIAN ZERO & Avantgarde 60’s at the MAMM Museum, Moscow.
Since April 2013 Vigo’s works have formed part of the collection of the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs. From 2014 to 2015 her works featured in retrospectives at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, and the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, as part of a programme of events celebrating ZERO. In 2016 Vigo took part in the 21st edition of the Milan Triennale (21st Century. Design After Design) and presented her first ever monument, Exoteric Gate, in the Ca’ Granda cloister at the Università Statale di Milano. In 2017 she participated in Fantasy Access Code at Palazzo Reale in Milan, an exhibition in collaboration with Alcantara which subsequently moved to the K11 Museum in Shanghai; and her work also featured in Socle du Monde, Biennale 2017 at the Heart Museum, Herning, Denmark, and in Lucio Fontana. Ambienti/Environment at the Pirelli Hangar Bicocca, Milan.
In 2018 she created the exhibition Arch/arcology at the Maxxi in Rome, in collaboration with Alcantara, and solo exhibitions of her work opened at the Galleria San Fedele in Milan (Sky Tracks) and at the Spazio San Celso in Milan (Global Chronotopic Experience); she also participated in the group shows Welt ohne Außen – Immersive Spaces Since the 1960s at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, Zero at the MONA Museum in Hobart, Tasmania, Multiforms at Palazzo Rocca Contarini Corfù in Venice, Opere aperte – 1955-1975 at the Fundació Catalunya La Pedrera in Barcelona, and 100% Italia at the Museo Ettore Fico in Turin. In 2019 Nanda Vigo – Light Project opened at Palazzo Reale in Milan and she participated in the group exhibitions Object of desire: Surrealism and Design at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein and Mondo Mendini — The World of Alessandro Mendini at the Groninger Museum, Groninger. In 2020 Nanda Vigo – Light Project 2020 opened at the Museo Macte in Termoli, and Vigo also participated in Enzo Mari at the Milan Triennale, and in the Quadriennale d’Arte 2020 – Fuori at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome.
On 9th September 2020 she was awarded the Compasso d’Oro Career Award. In september 2021, three mirrors designed by Nanda Vigo in collaboration with Glas Italia were installed at the Quirinal Palace in Rome for the 2020-2021 edition of the project Quirinale Contemporaneo.
Nanda Vigo died in Milan on 16th May 2020.