Daniela Ferretti /
Director of Palazzo Fortuny, Co-curator of “Proportio”
L’OFFICIEL ART / ‘Proportio’ aims at exploring the omnipresence of universal proportions in the arts and sciences. What is the reason for the choice of this particular subject, which follows on from the trilogy ‘Artempo. Where Time becomes Art’ (2007), ‘Infinitum’ (2009), ‘Tra. Edge of Becoming’ (2011), exhibitions which were held in this very same Palazzo Fortuny?
DANIELA FERRETTI / The irrational number 1.6180 represented by the letter phi in the Greek alphabet is the symbol of the harmony of the universe. Nature, art and science are closely connected. The many ways phi appears highlights the tight link between the physical world, artistic and intellectual creation, as well as the beauty of numbers. This premise and an idea of Axel Vervoordt’s were the genesis of ‘Proportio’, which rounds off the cycle begun 8 years ago. This exhibition cuts across the centuries, involving different branches of learning to tell the story of that universal value since the beginning of time, ‘the divine proportion’, that’s to say the unit of measurement capable of giving to each and every thing its harmonious dimension.
Did you seek any expert opinions to help you limit such a vast field?
An international committee of scientists, philosophers, musicians, architects and historians helped us in our arduous task of fixing the main themes of our exhibition. During our numerous meetings we discussed the extraordinary range of our subject, we analysed it from different points of view. Despite the obvious differences of opinion, all those involved played an active part in the discussion, fully aware of the challenge before us. To a certain extent, this fruitful exchange of ideas followed on from the extraordinary conference on the ‘Divina Proporzione’ in Milan in 1951, where, for the first time, phi was rendered its central role in the arts. We identified and explored the elements necessary to define our direction more clearly. A very enriching human and cultural experience for me.
To highlight this universal harmony immediately leads one to question the link between order and chaos. How do you go about that in the exhibition?
The exhibition is an incentive to forget the chaos of daily life. The five groundfloor pavilions, designed and built with natural materials in accordance with the five sacred proportions, akin to Plato’s five elements (Air, Water, Earth, Fire and Quintessence) form an introduction to the discovery of spaces dedicated to harmonious order. Each visitor will then invent his or her own circuit through the complex mosaic of artworks produced by the dialogue between the diverse visions of universal harmony, that careful balance between order and chaos.
How do you manage to stage an Egyptian artefact alongside a canvas by Ellsworth Kelly?
The Palazzo Fortuny is in itself a magical place. Its vast spaces that can be left open or partitioned off, its rooms wide or narrow, well-lit or in more subdued light, are the ideal showcase for contrasting artworks, whether ancient or contemporary, as well as the different cultures that produced them. The spaces and the works give a rhythm, as it were, to the display. Indeed, as in an orchestra, all the elements are arranged in such a way that the techniques, materials, the colours as well as the very different styles compose a veritable symphony in which you can sense the harmonious balance. The circuit through the 4 floors of the Palazzo is a journey which incites you to rediscover the liberating value in art and to perceive beauty even in the simplest things.
Some works already existed but others have been specially commissioned (Marina Abramovic, Anish Kapoor, Massimo Bartolini, Rei Naito, Michael Borremans, Izhar Patkin, Maurizio Donzelli, Otto Boll, Francesco Candeloro, Riccardo De Marchi and Arthur Duff). How did you choose the artists and did you have any specific requirements?
An artist will always have to strike a balance between intuition and limitations, between freedom and constraints. In art, as in life, there is never one single way of getting that balance just right. What has or hasn’t changed in the way we view proportions? Obviously the interesting thing is the way human experience has evolved. The new concept of space is indissociably linked to time and movement, and that implies a totally different approach to proportion from that of the Middle Ages or the Renaissance. So we invited a group of artists many of whom had already taken part in our previous shows. Some were recommended, others selected for their work relevant to our theme. Via our meetings, discussions and correspondence, we spoke about the new challenge and asked them to present projects especially for the exhibition or to propose the works which they themselves judged most appropriate.