Cutting Through Time. Highlights from the Castello di Rivoli Collection

From 25 July 2017 to 31 December 2017

Curated by Marcella Beccaria, Chief Curator and Curator of Collections.


Giulio PaoliniMichelangelo PistolettoMaurizio Cattelan – Ai Weiwei – Giuseppe PenoneRebecca Horn


The Castello di Rivoli offers a fascinating journey of “re-discovering” contemporary art in a regal residence. Masterpieces dialogue with the stately rooms to present, through art, an itinerary, starting from the student protests in 1967–1968 up to today, from Italy to China and beyond.


ROOM 15, 1981. Free economy while intellectuals analyze the end of history. Key word: post-modern.

Giulio Paolini, Casa di Lucrezio, 1981

In Room 15, known as the “Hall of Continents,” you’ll find an important work, Casa di Lucrezio, 1981, by Giulio Paolini. The stately room has the original architectural layout by Filippo Juvarra with decorations from the late 1700s under the supervision of Carlo Randoni. The four lunettes, attributed to the school of Evangelista Torricelli and Giovanni Comandù, portray Africa, America, Europe, and Asia while the central vault is dominated by the Sun chariot. The monochrome figures depicting the Po and Dora Rivers are also present while those intended to represent the winds are simply sketched. The work Casa di Lucrezio, by Giulio Paolini (Genoa, 1944), strives to relate with a classical model. It is made up of whole and fragmented plaster casts—the possible appearance of the ancient poet—and pieces of a plaster board with the drawing of a labyrinth found in Lucretius’s home in Pompeii. For the artist, these fragments bear the ideal of classical beauty, with its formal and intellectual perfection.


Room 5, 1961. War in Vietnam, student protests, the events of 1968.

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Venere degli stracci, 1967

Room 5, which was never embellished with decorations because Filippo Juvarra and Carlo Randoni were forced to close their worksites, hosts the Venere degli stracci, 1967, a masterpiece by Michelangelo Pistoletto (Biella, 1933), one of the greatest exponents of Arte Povera. Offering the reproduction of a classical sculpture of Venus seen from behind and a heap of used rags, this work has become a symbol of the 1968 aesthetic cultural and political revolution. The copy of Venus in cement covered in mica, a shiny mineral, alludes to classical art while the multicolored mound of clothes represents disorderly everyday life.


ROOM 14, 1997. The tragedy-filled twentieth century ends. Without heroes, without equestrian monuments.

Maurizio Cattelan, Novecento, 1997

Room 14, or the “Hall of Stucco,” hosts the iconic work Novecento, 1997, by Maurizio Cattelan. This hall, designed and built by Filippo Juvarra, is one of the most elegant for its layout, defined by the elaborate vault with its four angular lunettes that in turn are supported by lavish volutes. The stucco decoration, by Pietro Filippo Somasso, leads the gaze along the cornices and friezes to the central monogram of Vittorio Amedeo II, while in the tondos above the doors we find six ancient marble busts. The flooring, dating to the 1980s thanks to the restoration work of Andrea Bruno, accurately recreates the designs of Juvarra. Novecento, made in 1997 by Maurizio Cattelan (Padua, 1960), consists of a horse hanging from the ceiling with a harness. The animal’s head is dangling and its hooves and elongated legs point to the ground. A surprising still life, this work conveys frustration and the unsettling suspension of the ability to move which seems to allude to the twentieth century, full of promises as well as catastrophes.


ROOM 18, 2005. Communist China creates State Capitalism while a dissident artist reassembles the fragments of a Buddhist temple from the past.

Ai Weiwei, Fragments, 2005

The spectacular Room 18, designed and built by Carlo Randoni, presents a large brick vault with exposed extrados, bearing witness to the building technique. The room hosts Fragments, 2005, an imposing work by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (Beijing, 1957). With its tables, chairs, and stools, it also includes pillars and beams in wood from temples in the Guangdong region during the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), destroyed by the regime. Resembling interlocking arms, these stunning wooden elements that define the structure were arranged by the artist according to a pattern that graphically corresponds to the map of China. A complex system in delicate balance, this monumental installation may be interpreted as a powerful metaphor of today’s reality and the fragility hidden behind manifestations of immense power.


ROOM 21, 1969. Environmental awareness is born. People head into the woods while from the wooden beam stems the tree.

Giuseppe Penone, Albero di 11 metri, 1969–89

Room 21, or the “Audience or Putti Hall,” was once the bedroom of Maria Beatrice, the first daughter of the Dukes of Aosta. The vault, painted by Giovenale Bongiovanni between 1793 and 1794, stands out for its delicate putti. The hall hosts Albero di 11 metri by Giuseppe Penone (Garessio, 1947), which belongs to the cycle Alberi, to which the artist devoted himself starting in 1969, crafted beginning with the industrial-type wooden beams carved and engraved until the original trunk and branches reappear. Through a procedure the artist calls “peeling off,” the original form of a younger tree is obtained. Penone’s works analyze the processes related to transformation and explore a sensual material dimension.


ROOM 23, 1992. The digital and virtual era is born while an artist expresses the vulnerability of our physical world, made up of things and places.

Rebecca Horn, Cutting Through the Past, 1992-93

Room 23, known as the “Hall of Amedeo VIII or of the Crowning”—which was brought to its original splendor thanks to restoration work (completed in 2005) funded by the Fondazione CRT—presents fresco decorations that are the oldest in the entire residence, dating to between 1623 and 1628 and executed by the team of painters from Lugano: Isidoro, Francesco, and Pompeo Bianchi. The cycle celebrates the events in the life of Amedeo VIII (1388–1451), the first duke of the dynasty. The room hosts Cutting through the Past, 1992–1993, by Rebecca Horn (Michelstadt, Germany, 1944), which lends its name to the title of this event. The work—five doors bearing the passage of time—is grazed by a sharp metal rod that, in a horizontal 360° rotation, scratches it with a soft yet cruel gesture. The motion evokes a conflicting situation between the parts, leading to their own gradual destruction. Essential components in many works by Horn, these machines are anthropomorph-like devices whose movements and interactions recreate a disturbing theatre within which obsession, desire, and power struggles are the unchallenged, complementary protagonists with respect to the space defined by human relations.

By renewing a direct dialogue with artists and the relationship between contemporary art and history, this exhibition underlines the strong points of the Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea’s identity.

From 25 July 2017 to 31 December 2017