05 June 2020

FORNASETTI Theatrum mundi

A show devised by God and played out by man - the theatre of the world, a widespread metaphor from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, later disseminated by the Baroque theatre. In this case, Piero Fornasetti is God and his objects are the actors. The exhibition is staged in the evocative Pilotta Monumental Complex, the imposing palace both symbolic of the ducal power of the Farnese family, and the historic and civic centre of Parma. Parma is the 2020 Capital of Italian Culture and its chosen theme, Culture is the Beat of Time, dovetails with the exhibition itself, which is a journey through past and present, classic and modern.

The exhibition begins in the heart of the palace – the Teatro Farnese – a masterpiece of seventeenth-century architecture, modelled on the Vitruvian theatre built by Giovan Battista Aleotti, the Ferrara architect with previous experience of designing theatres. It was commissioned by Ranuccio I, fourth Duke of Parma and Piacenza, to celebrate with great pomp and circumstance the visit – which never actually took place – of the Grand-Duke of Tuscany Cosimo II de’ Medici on his journey to Milan to visit the tomb of St. Charles Borromeo. Completed in 1619, it was another nine years before the theatre opened, to host the celebrations for the marriage between Margherita de’ Medici and Odoardo Farnese, Duke of Parma; it was only pressed into service eight times between then and 1732, because of the complexity of the installations, the set machinery and sheer cost of the productions. After a series of vicissitudes, it was bombed during World War II and was not reclaimed as part of the city heritage again until 1965.

The FORNASETTI Theatrum Mundi exhibition unfolds in step with the main themes of the multifaceted artist’s work – from his reinterpretations of ruins and fondness for fragments of the past, through architecture, music, design, graphics, collecting , everyday objects and illusionist and dreamlike works. The many objects fuelled by Fornasetti’s imagination set up a powerful dialogue with the historic Pilotta spaces, echoing its cultural, philosophical, lyrical and imaginative dimension and making it a real theatre of the world. The idea for the Theatrum Mundi was formulated by the Neo-Platonic rhetorician Giulio Camillo (1480-1544) who arranged figures and symbols inside the Vitruvian theatre in a very precise order, intending it to function as a sort of artificial mind, allowing the imagination free rein to try and comprehend, reconstruct and interpret the word – a concept that resonates powerfully with Fornasetti’s fervid, imaginative creativity. Driven by these elective affinities, the exhibition has put hundreds of works by the Atelier - founded by the artist in Fifties Milan – on show amongst the Pilotta collections, along with short texts by Piero and his son Barnaba, and quotes chosen by other authors that contain ideas and keywords. The result is a Theatrum in the sixteenth-century meaning of the word, harnessing the world’s infinite variety through the encyclopaedic totality of knowledge to which both Renaissance, eighteenth-century and contemporary classicism aspired, the latter delivered in Fornasetti’s whimsical hallmark style.

Curated by Barnaba Fornasetti, Artistic Director of the Milanese Atelier, and Valeria Manzi, Co-Curator of Cultural Activities and President of the Fornasetti Cult Association, in scientific partnership with Simone Verde, Director of the Pilotta Monumental Complex, the exhibition is designed to breathe new life into the inbuilt classicity of the centuries-old history of the independent Parma-based institution, seen through the lens of contemporary design.

Theatrum Mundi

From 3rd June to 14th February 2021

Complesso Monumentale della Pilotta
3 Piazza della Pilotta, Parma


#exhibition, #Piero Fornasetti, #Parma, #Pilotta Monumental Complex