Fantastico! to present Italian art from the 1920s and 1930s

From 10 May to 19 August 2018, the Ateneum Art Museum will host the exhibition Fantastico! Italian Art from the 1920s and 1930s. The exhibition will explore an artistic movement known as magic realism, which emerged in Italy at the end of the First World War. The works exhibited are characterised by silence and a mysterious atmosphere, and the conflict between reality and the world of dreams. The depictions of everyday life seem to reveal a hidden side of existence. The exhibition will feature masterpieces by artists such as Giorgio de Chirico, Carlo Carrà, Felice Casorati, Antonio Donghi and Cagnaccio di San Pietro.

Exhibited works speak of a diverse movement

The key artists of magic realism were Felice Casorati, Antonio Donghi, Cagnaccio di San Pietro, Gino Severini, Ubaldo Oppi, Achille Funi and Carlo Levi. The works featured in the exhibition by Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà will display the basic tenets of magic realism. Works by artists who are lesser known outside Italy, such as Mario and Edita Broglio, Gian Emilio Malerba, Carlo Sbisà, Gregorio Sciltian, and Cesare Sofianopulo, will demonstrate the diversity of the movement.

The exhibition will also include works by artists featured in the Ateneum collection who represent the realist and classicist modernism of the 1920s and 1930s in Finland, such as Ragnar Ekelund, Greta Hällfors-Sipilä, Yrjö Ollila and Ilmari Vuori. The exhibition will coincide with the release of a publication, in Finnish, Swedish and English, produced by the Ateneum.

The exhibition is curated by Gabriella Belli and Valerio Terraroli, in collaboration with 24ORE Cultura. The works are drawn from public and private collections around Italy. Before coming to the Ateneum, the exhibition will be on display at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto (Mart) in Italy, until 2 April. After its display at the Ateneum, the exhibition will be shown at Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany.

“We want to present a wide array of phenomena in European art. Exploring Italian art from the 1920s and 1930s helps us to see Finnish art from the same period with fresh eyes. At the time, influences travelled fast across Europe”, says the museum director Susanna Pettersson.

Magic realism linked to other art movements of the period

Magic realism can be seen as a kind of continuation of metaphysical art, a style of painting developed by Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà in the 1910s. Paintings in metaphysical style were characterised by a dreamlike sense of unreality. On the other hand, magic realism can be perceived as part of a wider interwar wave of realist and classicist modernism both in Europe and beyond.

“The goal of realist and classicist modernism was to create art that is based on permanent and universal artistic principles. There was a shift from an expression that focused on emotion to one of clarity that highlighted intellectual control. After the horrifying experiences of the First World War, the talk was of a ‘return to order’”, says the chief curator Teijamari Jyrkkiö.

Magic realism was influenced by both metaphysical art, and realist and classicist modernism. You could not, however, talk about a unified school or a fixed artist collective. The movement was formed based on the ideas of the artists themselves, and it was not led from above by the state.