Guggenheim exibition in Vercelli. The Sixties, between Informal and Pop Art

Some days to Easter, I made a good use of the lots of spare time I had and I visited an exhibition held in Vercelli, my hometown. The exibition was “Guggenheim collections through the sixties. Pop Art  through Informal Art”. I liked a lot the overall experience so I’ll try to share it with you, even though I’m not an expert in the field. I hope you’ll condone my possible mistakes. 🙂

The exhibition (whose curator is Luca Massimo Barbero), aims to show us a snapshot of the art scene in the sixties through the pieces of American and Western European artists. I noticed that they showcased quite a number of Italian artists, and I like to think they did also because at that time we were well-known and ground-breaking in arts.

Emilio Scanavino, Geometria malata, 1967

Emilio Scanavino, “Geometria malata”, 1967

Even I didn’t notice it at first, the display of the works follows a timeline. In the first section you can find pieces of art related to  the Informal style, which rose in the early Fifties with Jackson Pollock, and stayed strong for the whole decade. In the second part some transition is perceived, and you can find also minimal elements along with Color field paintings. The third and last section is just concerning  Pop Art, the prominent current during the second half of the Sixties.

Everybody (or at least, a lot of people) has associations to Pop Art: flashy colors, massive usage of the codes of advertising and comic strips, high seriality, Andy Warhol… so, I was positively impressed by the discover of the Informal art movement, which I wasn’t aware of so far.

Mel Ramos, “Doll”, 1964

Informal artists put special attention in the process of creation rather than in their finished work. They are also rooted in Dada and Surrealism since they turn down academism and rules in favor of umpromptedness and everyday materials (and sometimes irony too).

The exibition shows the full range of currents that spawned from Informal Art: from the american-originated Color Field Painting and Abstract Expressionism to the italian “Nuclear Painting”, started by Enrico Baj.
You will see ripped bills (Fontana), scarred, burnt cellophane (Burri), and cuts in the canvas (Fontana). Some use sand, wood and other materials to achieve 3d effects (TĂ pies, Scanavino), while Frank Stella and Kenneth Nolan work with repeated field of solid, vibrant colors (I must admit I wasn’t impressed).  You will find a whole lot of Renault nameplates freezed in perspex by Arman along with an enigmatic white canvas by Castellani which looks more like a bas relief thanks to rows of nails beneath the surface.

Arman (Armand Pierre Fernandez), “Accumulation Renault no. 115” , 1967

The curator has pinpointed 1964 as the turning point; it’s the year when Pop Art started to burst. In that year Robert Rauschenberg was awarded with the Venice Biennale prize and the main focus shifted from Europe to the U.S.
I think that Andy Warhol is highly overrated so I didn’t inspect furter his Flowers series of printings.  I particularly enjoyed Mel Ramos small oil painting Doll (Mel Ramos is an american painter focused on naked pin-ups and the depiction of junk food), and the huge beach feet by Tom Wesselman, though I think this must be because of the flawlessly painted toes 😉

Kenneth Noland, Birth, 1961

Kenneth Noland, “Birth”, 1961 via

To be honest, I enjoyed the exhibition but only two items stroke me deeply. The first is Enrico Baj’s “General“, which is surprisingly scary despite the usual irony of the artist, the second is “Green Table” by Allen Jones. He’s an english sculptor who is well known for his S&M influences and a whole series of furniphiliac pieces (furniphilia is a fetish involving  sex partners disguised as furniture, think “Korova Milk Bar” for instance). If you decide to come and visit, take your time to fully observe them both. I’m convinced true art must be striking and perturbing as these two oeuvres are!

Spazio espositivo ARCA

The ticket is all-inclusive of an audio guide for nearly every artwork and a half-hour tour on car of Vercelli’s landmarks and best spots. I didn’t profit of it since I’ve been living there since I was a baby and I quite know them already, but I recommend it to you, especially if you’re coming from abroad. The exhibit is held in Spazio Arca, a former marketplace which was previously also a church. The market was shat down in the early 00’s and the city council had the clever idea of converting it in a museum, restoring the beautiful medieval frescoes and setting up the central aisle for temporary exhibitions featuring items  from the Guggenheim Museum in Venice.

Vercelli has been very weak and disadvantaged, even before the subprime bubble burst, so I’m really happy we managed to host such important exhibitions as the ones we held since 2007 with the help of the Guggenheim foundation. The tourist flowing here have also the chance to discover the neglected beauties of a small, unknown provincial town. The exibition will close on mid May, but if you are near the area or contemporary art is your thing, why don’t you come and visit it?

Gli anni sessanta nelle collezioni Guggenheim. Oltre l’informale verso la Pop Art

At:  Spazio Arca di Vercelli, Piazza S. Marco 1
Timespan: 9 febbraio al 12 maggio 2013
Opening times: Mon-Fri 8-19
Sat-sun, Holidays 10-20
Full-price admittance: 9 E

You will find more info at

Until next time!