Palazzo Merulana, Rome

Nasi per l’arte

25.03.2023 - 21.05.2023

a cocurated project
by Joanna De Vos and Melania Rossi

An encounter between works by Italian and Belgian artists, in two different paths but united by a single, intriguing, interpretation:  "nose for art"

“ Everything is first perceived by the nose, everything is within the nose, the world is the nose.”

— Excerpted from Italo Calvino’s The Name, The Nose

From Saturday March 25th, Palazzo Merulana, in synergy with Fondazione Elena and Claudio Cerasi and CoopCulture, invites its visitors to the exhibition “Nasi per l’arte", conceived and curated by Joanna De Vos and Melania Rossi. Until May 21 st, a selection of more than 50 works will connect Italian and Belgian art in an original, playful, unexpected way, according to an unusual fil rouge: the nose!

“Nasi per l’arte” is not just about "noses as shapes or sense of smell". Instead, it wants to stimulate a reflection on the metaphorical meaning that this organ, the first to develop in the womb, a hereditary and identity trait that represents the primal instinct. A metaphor for “having a nose”, for an immediate approach to things, “sensing” them even before seeing them.

The nose is synonymous with one of our five senses, the most animal and instinctive,  one which can determine attraction or repulsion.  There is a deep relation between nose and remembrance. The sense of smell triggers thoughts and evokes memories - even involuntarily. This is the so-called Proust Effect.

In years of collaborations, curators De Vos and Rossi, Belgian and Italian respectively, have been engaged in analyzing how Italians and Belgians share a "nose for art" on an aesthetic and conceptual level, and how artists follow their "nose," like also passionate collectors or experts curators of exhibitions  in other respects.

Nasi per l’arte was born from the encounter between two curatorial noses - explain the two curators - Curators are creators but they create by mixing sources and voices, often including their own. We look for connections that others might not see immediately, embrace the unusual, and explore the unexpected. We found unexpected similarities and specific differences, which we want to reveal in this exhibition. Although diverse, Italy and Belgium are culturally similar in their instinctive approach and ability to be ironical (“lead by the nose”), to improvise (“follow one’s nose”), and always ready to be in the game.

the two exhibition PATHS

First of all, the exhibition proposes juxtapositions between Italian and Belgian art of early 20th century through the connection between the Cerasi Collection, permanently at Palazzo Merulana, in particular with pictorial and sculptural works from the 1920s to the 1940s, and a selection of Belgian works from the same period, lent by Belgian private collectors and some institutions.

Artists such as René Magritte, Léon Spilliaert, Paul Joostens, Constant Permeke will dialogue with Giorgio De Chirico, Francesco Trombadori, Antonio Donghi, Antonietta Raphael…

The exhibition project is in harmony with Elena and Claudio Cerasi collection. Put together over the years with a real passion for art, the collection is not abided to strict rules; indeed, it sometimes revalues lesser-known artists of the past or displays rare works by famous masters in dialogue with contemporary authors.

A nonlinear approach, where instinct and nose have always been the driving force, perfectly in tune with “Nasi per l’arte” project.

The second path choice in the exhibition involves nine contemporary Belgian and as many Italian artists, whose works celebrate, challenge, and invite reflection on the nose, senses and art. From Peter De Cupere's "Olfactory self-portrait" (one of his famous scratch & sniff painting), to Maurizio Cattelan's untitled self-portrait, who in his "Unauthorized Autobiography," writes: "When I was a newborn, they were very disappointed. I already had an adult nose”.
And also drawings, paintings, sculptures, sculptural, reanimated cinema, video works, photographs, artworks that revive tradition and mythology or inquire into the human condition… spreading their fragrances into the halls of the precious Palazzo Merulana.


 Contemporary artists:

Francis Alÿs, Francesco Arena, Michaël Borremans, Maurizio Cattelan, Michael Dans, Laura de Coninck, Peter de Cupere, Jan Fabre, Mariana Ferratto, Thomas Lerooy, Emiliano Maggi, Sofie Muller, Luigi Ontani, Daniele Puppi,  Anna Raimondo, Marta Roberti, Yves Velter, Serena Vestrucci.

Lent works by Belgian artists of early 20th century:

Jos Albert, Pierre-Louis Flouquet, Robert Giron, Oscar Jespers, Paul Joostens, René Magritte, George Minne, Constant Permeke, Léon Spilliaert, Marcel Stobbaerts, Henri Van Straten, Fernand Wery.

In dialogue with artists already in the collection:

Giacomo Balla, Duilio Cambellotti, Felice Casorati, Giorgio de Chirico, Antonio Donghi, Ercole Drei, Riccardo Francalancia, Guglielmo Janni, Leoncillo Leonardi, Arturo Martini, Fausto Pirandello, Antonietta Raphael, Francesco Trombadori, Alberto Ziveri

The exhibition is documented by a catalog, published by Bruno Devos at Stockmans Art Books with texts by Joanna De Vos and Melania Rossi, Giacinto Di Pietrantonio, and Caro Verbeek.