Germano Celant: the memory of Mariuccia Casadio
I chose to have him as a teacher while still attending university, after meeting some of his first fundamental publications, which – from “Arte Povera” of 1967 to “Conceptual Art, Arte Povera, Land Art” of 1970, and from “Book as Artwork 1960/1972” to “Record as Artwork 1959/1973” – already attested to a unique way of participating and documenting contemporary art.
Because Germano Celant, born in Genoa in September 1940 and killed yesterday, not yet eighty years old, by the coronavirus, he did not seem at all interested in the exegetical and interpretive components of criticism, but he knew how to transform his work, his exhibitions and his publications into precious pragmatics data collection and systematization. Ways to decode and testify the work in relation to society and culture, to the history and geopolitical identity of its time, as well as to the figure and origins of the artist and to all that still can give it form and content, which, for the first time, they have made the approach to contemporary art analytical, philological.
Making Germano Celant, ex-pupil of the critic and art historian Eugenio Battisti at the University of Genoa (an experience that has trained and inspired him in his subsequent professional choices and of which he has always been proud), as well as “father” recognized of Arte Povera at just twenty-six years of age, a figure sui generis. A “loose dog”, as he himself liked to call himself, of the Italian and international scene.
Nomad between Europe and America from the early seventies, and already well known to the world of art, who crossed it at the openings of museums and galleries or in the artist’s studios dressed punctually in black, mostly jackets and leather pants, with hair gathered in a pigtail, long thick sideburns and the inevitable silver and turquoise jewels, eccentric large rings and bracelets from an American from New Mexico, which mirrored his aesthetic and ideological alignments, travel to the USA, empathy with the concepts of Land Art and with the female side, then in full revolt, of American art.
Programmatically unmistakable, at least as difficult to cross, elusive and mysterious, you could see it filled with notes, addresses, telephone numbers, the small notepads that it brought with it on time and certainly favoured the photographic lens, thus creating the premises for a job based on data collection and storage. Materials for future exhibitions, but above all for the creation of books and catalogues (since the first half of the seventies he has produced over fifty, themed and monographic ones, on art and more, ranging in the languages of architecture, design and fashion ), who loved important, exhaustive, indispensable consultation and study tools. Materials accumulated and ordered otherwise on the shelves of a personal library, a collection that today includes many thousands of volumes and documents, which I hope will become public and give scholars and enthusiasts the emotions and enthusiasms that I had the privilege of enjoying at first person.
I unexpectedly met him and met him in Ferrara, at Palazzo Dei Diamanti, after a performance and after a few weeks, he offered me the opportunity to work with him on some projects. That of the exhibition “Identité Italienne. L ‘art en Italie Depuis 1959 “for the Center Pompidou in Paris in 1981, first of all. The first exhibition on post-World War II Italian art curated by Celant for a popular French museum such as the Beaubourg, which generated an extraordinary eponymous book-catalogue.
An anthology born with the contribution of different editors, which censuses, records and documents all of Italian history, culture and art with original texts and unpublished writings from 1959 to 1980.
And then, the first attempt to reopen the Gardella Pavilion in Milan, which ended after a few solo shows, however, dedicated to artists and architects never exhibited in Italian public spaces such as Daniel Buren, Luciano Fabro or Alvaro Siza, which involved me in the realization of fittings and catalogues.
Our paths then crossed over the years, on the pages of Interview in the early nineties and in the catalogue of the exhibition Arte e Moda, which he signed with Ingrid Sischy and Franca Sozzani for the first edition of the Florence Biennale in 1996. In the meantime I was observing him becoming bigger, Senior curator of the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1988, creator of exhibitions such as “Italian Metamorphosis 1943-1968” in 1994, director of the Venice Biennale in 1997 and, since 1993, artistic director of the Prada Foundation. unparalleled loyalty to art, ambition, determination and professional success.
A visible and recognizable icon, also, in the measure of an increasingly informed, media and social time, which has inevitably tarnished the fascinating, out of the way and mysterious character of the origins , which I had in my heart. Confronting myself once more with the dilemmas and alienating burdens of celebrity. The costs, albeit well deserved, of success. And with the spread, finally, of a cruel unexpected virus, which now confronts me with its disappearance. And it leaves us all, from art to fashion, a great sense of emptiness.