Mod­ern art at Pom­peii

At Her­cu­la­neum and Pom­peii, Italy Show­ing un­til: Jan­uary 2019 (Pom­peii ex­hi­bi­tion stars 13 July 2018)

Timeless Travels Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Afas­ci­nat­ing new project will see con­tem­po­rary art­works in­stalled among the an­cient ru­ins of Her­cu­la­neum and Pom­peii, cre­at­ing two art venues in stun­ning, his­tor­i­cally res­o­nant set­tings.

Over the next year, two Ro­man houses - the House of the Beau­ti­ful Court­yard at Her­cu­la­neum and the House of the Cryp­to­por­ti­cus in Pom­peii - will, quite lit­er­ally, form the back­drop to a ven­ture that aims to cre­ate a new di­a­logue be­tween con­tem­po­rary art, Ro­man wall paint­ing and ar­chae­o­log­i­cal re­mains.

The driv­ing force be­hind Ex­panded In­te­ri­ors is Ca­trin Hu­ber, a vis­ual artist and se­nior lec­turer in New­cas­tle Uni­ver­sity’s Fine Art Depart­ment. Hu­ber has as­sem­bled a team of ex­perts in ar­chae­ol­ogy and dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy (Pro­fes­sor Ian Haynes, Dr Thea Ravasi, Alex Turner), and con­tem­po­rary art (Rosie Mor­ris) from across the Uni­ver­sity, in or­der to ex­plore the rel­e­vance of Ro­man wall paint­ing and arte­facts for to­day’s fine art prac­tice, and to test how artists can re­spond to the his­to­ries and com­plex na­ture of these ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites within a con­tem­po­rary con­text.

The project com­bines ar­chae­o­log­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, 3D dig­i­tal scan­ning and print­ing to fur­ther ex­plore and un­der­stand the houses. This metic­u­lous process will also help in­form the new and re­lated artis­tic creations of Hu­ber.

The £270k ven­ture, lo­cated at the pre­vi­ously men­tioned UNESCO World Her­itage Sites, prom­ises to be an ar­rest­ing and unique ex­pe­ri­ence. “We are thrilled that we have been given the op­por­tu­nity to work in these his­toric, world-renowned towns”, says Hu­ber. “The project will en­able peo­ple to see con­tem­po­rary art in a unique and truly in­spir­ing set­ting, and we will use this once in a life­time op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate work that re­sponds to the two Ro­man houses, and to the sites of Her­cu­la­neum and Pom­peii. Both houses fea­ture beau­ti­ful wall paint­ings, and this will in­spire us to ex­plore the de­sign and pur­pose of these houses. The dig­i­tal tech­niques we use will also help to pro­mote fresh ways of ex­hibit­ing arte­facts at ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites.”

The first of Hu­ber’s site-spe­cific in­stal­la­tions is now on show in Her­cu­la­neum’s House of the Beau­ti­ful Court­yard. The sec­ond art­work will be un­veiled in the House of the Cryp­to­por­ti­cus, in Pom­peii, on 13th July. Both ex­hi­bi­tions will then re­main open to the pub­lic un­til Jan­uary 2019.

Al­though in­tended to be very dif­fer­ent,

“We hope that our project will be a stim­u­lat­ing and thought-pro­vok­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for visi­tors, help­ing them to look at these re­mark­able World Her­itage sites from a new per­spec­tive.”

these ex­hi­bi­tions com­ple­ment each other and are closely re­lated, since both will ex­plore the re­la­tion­ship be­tween wall dec­o­ra­tion and ob­jects.

The ex­hi­bi­tion at Her­cu­la­neum fo­cuses on Ro­man ob­jects and their (at times) ar­tis­ti­cally al­tered repli­cas. It con­cen­trates on fe­male fig­ures and faces, and brings re­pro­duc­tions of ex­quis­ite, rarely seen arte­facts held in store-rooms at Her­cu­la­neum back to the pub­lic area of the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site. This con­tem­po­rary in­stal­la­tion also works with en­coded mes­sages re­lat­ing to the his­tory and con­text of the site - The House of the Beau­ti­ful Court­yard was, for ex­am­ple, home to an An­ti­quar­ium (small mu­seum) that was opened there in 1956 by Amedeo Maiuri, the ar­chae­ol­o­gist and di­rec­tor of the site at the time.

The cor­re­spond­ing ex­hi­bi­tion at Pom­peii will re­spond to the mag­nif­i­cent, re­cently re­stored wall paint­ings at the House of the Cryp­to­por­ti­cus, where two in­stal­la­tions of Hu­ber’s wall paint­ings will in­cor­po­rate repli­cas of Ro­man ob­jects.

One in­stal­la­tion will be in the rare un­der­ground pas­sage­way or cryp­to­por­ti­cus. This is dec­o­rated with a grad­u­ally un­fold­ing frieze as part of a se­quence of painted pan­els and herms (sa­cred ob­jects made from stone). Hu­ber’s work will jux­ta­pose the Ro­man frieze with the painted colon­nade. It will also in­cor­po­rate repli­cas of ev­ery­day Ro­man ob­jects such as oil lamps and face pots, bridg­ing the Ro­man and con­tem­po­rary worlds, and sug­gest­ing de­signs for the fu­ture.

The sec­ond con­tem­po­rary in­stal­la­tion at the House of the Cryp­to­por­ti­cus will be a room of con­tem­po­rary wall paint­ings. These re­late to the rare Ro­man bath­room area of the house, with its richly painted, com­plex and il­lu­sion­is­tic ar­chi­tec­tural de­signs. The con­tem­po­rary paint­ings will re­spond to a com­plex play of 2D and 3D space, open and closed walls, in­side and out­side space, and per­spec­ti­val shifts.

Once thriv­ing and so­phis­ti­cated Ro­man cities, Pom­peii and Her­cu­la­neum were buried un­der tons of ash and pumice when Mount Ve­su­vius erupted in 79 AD. They have been metic­u­lously preserved and were given UNESCO World Her­itage Site sta­tus in 1997. To­day, Pom­peii alone at­tracts around 3 mil­lion visi­tors each year.

“Both Her­cu­la­neum and Pom­peii are in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar with tourists”, says Hu­ber. “We hope that our project will be a stim­u­lat­ing and thought-pro­vok­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for visi­tors, help­ing them to look at these re­mark­able World Her­itage sites from a new per­spec­tive.”

(Im­age: © Amedeo Ben­es­tante)

Left: The team at work scan­ning at Casa del Cryp­to­por­ti­cus Above, top: One of the new art in­stal­la­tions at Pom­peii (Im­age: © Amedeo Ben­es­tante) Above: Ca­trin Hu­ber with an ob­ject in the stu­dio (Im­age: © C. Dav­i­son) Right: Ca­trin Hu­ber with one of the pieces from In­stal­la­tion Ex­panded In­te­ri­ors

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