“In November 1970, as Christo removed the white cloths used to wrap the Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II in Piazza del Duomo in order to cover up the Monument to Leonardo da Vinci in Piazza della Scala on what is now recognised as a historic moment for Milanese contemporary art, Luigi and Peppino Agrati were among those who witnessed the event first-hand, soon contacting the artist to commission a number of installations for the garden of their villa. The Agrati brothers, prominent entrepreneurs, shared the same insight and subtle feeling for art, and were able to grasp the underlying depths of the images that were contributing to ‘build’ their time.
This exhibition features a representative selection of both Italian and American works from the collection generously and foresightedly donated to the Intesa Sanpaolo banking group by Luigi Agrati. It begins with a large nucleus of sculptures by Fausto Melotti, which forms the core of the show, continuing with masterpieces by Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, Yves Klein, and Piero Manzoni before delving deeper into the painting of Italy’s Nuova Figurazione, or ‘New Figuration’ movement, with works by Jannis Kounellis and Mario Schifano among others, then going right to the roots of the nascent Arte Povera movement revealed through the explorations of Piero Gilardi, Luciano Fabro, Mario Merz, and Giulio Paolini.
Thanks to their typically entrepreneurial curiosity and their uncommon ability to penetrate beneath the surface of things, Luigi and Peppino Agrati built up a collection representing the wide range of interests involved in their experience of contemporary art. Their discovery of American art, which expanded along with their growing relations in the United States, resulted in the acquisition of works by the leading artists of the Pop Art movement – including the monumental Triple Elvis by its figurehead Andy Warhol – as well as of minimalist pieces like the large fluorescent installation dedicated to Peppino Agrati by Dan Flavin. The collection forms a complex constellation where Italian art is joined by the extraordinary works of Robert Rauschenberg – extensively collected from the late 1960s until the 1980s – of Cy Twombly, the original mediator between American and Italian culture, and of conceptual artists like Bruce Nauman and Joseph Kosuth whose studies of language form a dialogue with the language-based works by Alighiero Boetti and Vincenzo Agnetti.
As it introduces the public to these works for the first time, the exhibition evokes the approach of the collection, which is conceived as a revelation, an enrichment, as a way of sharing a possible world of images encapsulating both contemporary existence and the intensity of Luigi and Peppino Agrati’s love of art.” — Introductory Text, Gallerie d’Italia
Fausto Melotti (Rovereto 1901 – Milano 1986). Gli specchi (The Mirrors) , 1975. Brass, 40 x 91 x 7,5 cm. Collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati © Fausto Melotti by SIAE 2018
Christo (Christo Javacheff), Gabrovo, 1935. Curtains for P. Agrati’s Garden, 1970. Matita nera, matite colorate, tela su carta, 70 x 55 cm. Collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati
Christo (Christo Javacheff), Gabrovo, 1935. Wrapped Monument to Vittorio Emanuele (Project for Piazza del Duomo, Milano), 1970. Pencil, coloured pencil, canvas, cord, road map, photo on fibreboard
Mario Merz (Milano 1925 – Torino 2003). Senza titolo (Untitled), 1968. Black felt-pen, metallic mesh, clay, oil, paper on board, 54 x 73 cm. Collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati
Michelangelo Pistoletto (Biella 1933). Uomo che aggiusta un camion (Man Repairing a Van), 1967. Painted tissue paper, polished mirror-finish stainless steel , 230 x 120 cm. Collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati
Mario Schifano (Homs 1934 – Roma 1998). Grande pittura (Great Painting), 1963. Enamel and graphite on paper applied onto canvas, 260 x 150 cm. Collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati
Jannis Kounellis (Pireo, Atene, 1936 – Roma, 2017). Senza titolo (Untitled), 1960. Oil on canvas, 150 x 250 cm. Collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati © Jannis Kounellis by SIAE 2018
Giulio Paolini (Genova 1940). Senza titolo (Untitled), 1961. Jute, polythene, cord, frame, 120 x 150 cm. Collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati
Alberto Burri (Città di Castello 1915 – Nizza 1995). Bianco Rosso (White Red), 1954. Burlap, fabric, oil, pumice, canvas, Vinavil glue on pressed cardboard, 75 x 59 cm. Collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini-Collezione Burri, Città di Castello © by SIAE 2018
Lucio Fontana (Rosario di Santa Fé 1899 – Comabbio 1968). Concetto spaziale (Spatial Concept), 1957. Aniline dye and collage on perforated canvas, 250 x 200 cm. Collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati © Fondazione Lucio Fontana, Milano by SIAE 2018
Piero Manzoni (Soncino 1933 – Milano 1963). Achrome, 1961. Artificial fibre (glass wool), 100 x 80 x 20 cm. Collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati
Enrico Castellani (Castelmassa 1930 – Celleno 2017). Superficie bianca. Dittico (White Surface. Diptych), 1967. Tempera on convex, concave, and shaped canvas, 120 x 150 cm. Collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati
Alighiero Boetti (Turin 1940–Rome 1994). Ononimo, 1973. Red ball pen on carboard 11 elements
Dan Flavin (Jamaica, New York 1933 – Riverhead, New York 1996). Untitled (to Giuseppe Agrati), 1968. Yellow fluorescent lights, 122 x 335 cm. Collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati
Andy Warhol (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1928 – New York 1987). Triple Elvis, 1963. Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, 208 x 152 cm. Collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc. by SIAE 2018
Robert Rauschenberg (Port Arthur, Texas 1925 – Captiva, Florida 2008). Trasmettitore Argento Glut (Neapolitan) [Silver Transmitter Glut (Neapolitan)], 1987. Metal and number plate assemblage, 249 x 320 x 32 cm. Collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation by SIAE 2018
Jean-Michel Basquiat (Brooklyn 1960 – New York 1988). Financial District, 1985. Acrylic, oil on canvas, 163 x 142 cm. Collezione Luigi e Peppino Agrati © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat by SIAE 2018
Art as a revelation is at Gallerie d’Italia – Piazza Scala, Intesa Sanpaolo museum complex in Milan. The exhibition project was headed by Luca Massimo Barbero, with Gianfranco Brunelli as the general coordinator.
Images courtesy Gallerie d’Italia.