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Biografie

Autobiografia di un impostore

narrata da Laura Leonelli

Paolo Ventura

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 152 pagine

There was once an impostor. There was once Paolo Ventura, photographer, painter, and set and costume designer. There was once because this autobiography is actually a fairy tale in which every reader will find something of their own story, their childhood and their city, if they were born in Milan, and Milan equals one hundred years of Italian life
The heirs to a textile dynasty whose social rise is the stuff of legend, the Morozov brothers certainly did not go unnoticed. Cultured, sophisticated and unconventional at the same time, they enchanted the Muscovite intelligentsia with their eccentricities. Fashionably dressed and surrounded by femmes fatales, gambling and living in mansions whose architectural styles were eclectic to say the least, they were art lovers and above all collectors. Mikhail was the first to take an interest in the new school of French painting. After his premature death, Ivan followed in his footsteps and developed what was soon to be an overriding passion. From 1904 on, he left his factories whenever possible to visit the most fashionable Parisian art dealers but seldom allowed them to dazzle him with their offers. He had a very clear idea of the works he was wanted and of how to display them in the rooms of his stately home. He displayed matchless patience in the obsessive hunt for the finest works of his favourite masters and – according to Vollard, who called him “the Russian who doesn’t bargain” – never counted the pennies. In the space of a few years, he built up a superb collection including works by the Impressionists, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso and the finest Russian painters of the period, every bit as good as that of his compatriot Sergei Shchukin, whose sad fate it was to share after the Russian Revolution. The masterpieces that adorned the walls of the mansion at 21 Prechistenka were confiscated by the state, divided like playing cards between Moscow and Saint Petersburg, and left to gather dust in the storerooms of museums for decades before coming to constitute the core of the modern art departments of the Hermitage and the Pushkin. The collection is now restored to its original splendour by Natalya Semyonova, who rescues the extraordinary figure of Ivan Morozov from the oblivion into which he was plunged by this twist of fate with all the verve of a novelist.
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Morozov e i suoi fratelli

Storia di una dinastia russa e di una collezione ritrovata

Natalia Semënova

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 240 pagine + 16 (inserto)

The heirs to a textile dynasty whose social rise is the stuff of legend, the Morozov brothers certainly did not go unnoticed. Cultured, sophisticated and unconventional at the same time, they enchanted the Muscovite intelligentsia with their eccentricities. Fashionably dressed and surrounded by femmes fatales, gambling and living in mansions whose
On coming face to face with Matisse’s scandalous Le Bonheur de vivre in 1906, Sergei Shchukin found himself shivering uncontrollably. The scion of an illustrious Muscovite family, Shchukin was a consummate collector of great experience at the age of just over fifty. After reviving the fortunes of his father’s textile business, he had spent a decade visiting Paris to gaze upon the avant-garde paintings exhibited there, the works by Monet, Degas, Cézanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh whose glowing colours were to adorn the walls of the Trubetskoy Palace. In 1906, Shchukin recognized the wave of emotion that overwhelmed him whenever he felt that a work had to be his from the very first moment. This was the start of a close and fruitful relationship with Matisse that led to the creation of masterpieces like La Danse and La Musique, and marked the peak of Shchukin’s farsighted vision, as epitomized by his remark to the artist: “The public may be against you but the future is on your side.” A few years later, his new guest was none other than Picasso, initially greeted with all due circumspection but ultimately coming to dominate Shchukin’s already splendid body of works. The peerless collection thus built up was opened to the public on a regular basis before its confiscation by the state after the Revolution of 1917. On beholding that explosion of colours, the young Russian artists underwent a cultural shock equalled only by the passion to emulate those glowing canvases that that was to inspire the works of future generations. In relating the life of the man and the patron of the arts, the authors necessarily also retrace the destinies of his four brothers, Nikolai, Piotr, Dmitri and Ivan, and the crucial part they played. Epitomizing the different aspect of patronage, they all helped with their collections to enrich the holdings of Russia’s museums. Together with them, Sergei Shchukin was the leading figure in a family saga interwoven with the stormy history of Russia in the late 19th and early 20th century and with the artistic revolution that turned Europe upside-down in the same period.
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Sergej Ščukin

Un collezionista visionario nella Russia degli zar

André Delocque, Natalia Semënova

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 335 pagine + 8 (inserto)

On coming face to face with Matisse’s scandalous Le Bonheur de vivre in 1906, Sergei Shchukin found himself shivering uncontrollably. The scion of an illustrious Muscovite family, Shchukin was a consummate collector of great experience at the age of just over fifty. After reviving the fortunes of his father’s textile business, he had spent a de
While a great deal has already been said about Giorgio Morandi the artist, it is still possible to address Morandi the man from another angle without necessarily avoiding the stages in his critical fortunes. This is precisely the approach taken by the collector Luigi Magnani, creator of the foundation that bears his name. Drawing on his long and close friendship with the Bolognese artist, Magnani places his erudition and sensitivity at the service of an elective affinity to paint an affectionate portrait. Without ever lapsing into facile hagiography or stroke-by-stroke description of the works, these memories flesh out the figure of Morandi and allow revelation to come through his own  words, the very essence of the creative frenzy that manifests itself in everyday actions such as the extraordinary use of a telescope to establish the exact viewpoint of the landscape (“See the picture up there? I painted it in this room.”). The artist thus emerges “in his tastes, his moods and, no less, in his qualities”, one of which – as Stefano Roffi writes in the new foreword – is that of having always remained outside any artistic group and painted solely “for the few he felt capable of sharing in his world”. First published in 1982, Il mio Morandi bears witness to a sophisticated and self-effacing personality. It includes a series of letters by the artist that almost duplicate the narrative and make it more tangible. Rereading it today means not only retracing the course of a twenty-year relationship of mutual respect but also and above all rediscovering the most private and personal side of Morandi, the vision of an enigmatic, wizard-like and rigorous interpreter of nature, and recognizing “how much that is human found expression, through form, in his painting”.
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Il mio Morandi

Luigi Magnani

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 148 pagine + 16 (inserto)

While a great deal has already been said about Giorgio Morandi the artist, it is still possible to address Morandi the man from another angle without necessarily avoiding the stages in his critical fortunes. This is precisely the approach taken by the collector Luigi Magnani, creator of the foundation that bears his name. Drawing on his long and cl
After taking “all the trains and all the ships”, Fabian Avenarius Lloyd settled in Paris, eager to make his fortune through poetry. At the age of twenty-two, with a talent less-than-proportional to his titanic build, he was ready to do whatever it took to make a name for himself. Not his name though: the name Arthur Cravan, a pseudonym he took on in 1910, together with the questionable epithet of “Oscar Wilde’s nephew”. He caused quite a stir at effulgent avant-garde soirées with his rough, eccentric party pieces. By day, he did boxing training in the studio of painter Kees van Dongen, getting ready to introduce the fist into the artistic struggle. Duchamp and Picabia were enraptured by his irreverence: from the pages of Maintenant, Cravan inveighed against the salons, firing poisonous arrows that would cost him eight days in the cooler and the esteem of the most respected critic of all, Félix Fénéon. When war broke out Cravan, a Swiss national, did a disappearing act. He turned up in Barcelona, disguised as a professional boxer, where he challenged black champion Jack Johnson. Posters proclaimed him the European champion, a title he gave himself without a single fight. The bout – which when it came was so brief it was in practice a static exhibition by his mammoth rival – earned him enough money to board a transatlantic liner bound for New York, putting an ocean between him and war-torn Europe. After wandering the United States and Canada “disguised as a soldier so as not to be a soldier”, he wound up in New York, where the Arensberg salon became the golden ring where he hatched new scandals and fuelled his “deadly plurality”, before his encounter with unscrupulous poetess Mina Loy turned out to be fatal. His exhortations to revolt, dazzling poetic insights, the strategy of art in the service of life and his anti-militarism all put Cravan among the pioneers of Dadaist adventure. So crazy as to seem made-up, his life is reconstructed here in detail, from his birth in Lausanne in 1887 to his mysterious disappearance in the Pacific in 1918, all through his mother’s exuberant correspondence. The man who emerges is a split personality, unusual, disruptive and extremely contradictory, more or less summing up the vices and virtues of an entire era.
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Arthur Cravan

Una strategia dello scandalo

Maria Lluïsa Borràs

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 222 pagine

After taking “all the trains and all the ships”, Fabian Avenarius Lloyd settled in Paris, eager to make his fortune through poetry. At the age of twenty-two, with a talent less-than-proportional to his titanic build, he was ready to do whatever it took to make a name for himself. Not his name though: the name Arthur Cravan, a pseudonym he took
“He smiles and all the wrinkled skin of his face smiles, too. In a strange way. It’s not only his eyes that laugh, so does his forehead.  His whole person has the grey colouring of his studio. Perhaps in sympathy he has taken on the colour of the dust.” With these words, Jean Genet – one of his favourite models – described Alberto Giacometti, the sculptor whose indomitable character was sculpted onto his face by his troubled years and obsessive work. Besides, the activity in the studio on rue Hippolyte-Maindron was intense. Those who entered witnessed Giacometti working incessantly on his figures, relentlessly destroying and reconstructing them in a grueling pursuit of perfection, a tormented oscillation between an ideal to aspire to and aborted attempts, a back and forth of doubts and second thoughts. Just seconds ago he was laughing; now he turns to the sculpture-in-progress and, intoxicated by the contact of his hands with the mass of clay, completely ignores those around him. Born in 1901 in Borgonovo, Alberto spent his childhood in the rugged regions of Switzerland. His father initiated him into art at a very young age and followed his career step by step, providing encouragement and support. In 1922, Giacometti moved to Paris, where he began under the mentorship of Antoine Bourdelle and Zadkine but soon moved on – likewise briefly – to Breton’s Surrealism and Cubism. His rebellious spirit, which underlay all his explorations and rapid passage through the avant-garde movements, fated him to a solitary path on the fringes of the art world, despite his regular encounters with the most celebrated intellectuals of the time in the cafés of Montparnasse and the Latin Quarter. Under the spell of primitive art, he moved towards a more synthetic, disorienting representation, creating a host of figures forever advancing with an unsteady step, thanks to whom he achieved fame on the international art scene. “Never let myself be influenced by anything,” he wrote in a notebook. Indeed, Giacometti belongs to a timeless time, a quality of the most authentic essence of art.
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Alberto Giacometti

Biografia

Catherine Grenier

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 306 pagine

“He smiles and all the wrinkled skin of his face smiles, too. In a strange way. It’s not only his eyes that laugh, so does his forehead.  His whole person has the grey colouring of his studio. Perhaps in sympathy he has taken on the colour of the dust.” With these words, Jean Genet – one of his favourite models – described Alberto Giacom
Marcel and Suzanne Duchamp, Octavio Paz and Edoardo Sanguineti, Breton and Man Ray, de Chirico and the Duchess of Beaufort are just some of the names that make up the fauna of this perceptive, erudite and, at times, explosive account, far removed from any autobiographical conventions.  Working backwards from 1983, the year of publication, to 1924, the year the author was born, Automitobiografia is a kind of hyperbolic journey back along the flow of events. From the first pages it immerses us in the contemporary visual culture and seems to be a response to the trends in “high” art and citationality at that time. Baj was only too familiar with such experiences, in that, since the 1960s, he had been a skilled creator of playful versions of the works of the grand masters, as in the Chez Picasso series or compositions such as La cravatta di Jackson Pollock and the Vendetta della Gioconda. This also led him in his later work to collect – alongside a repertory of icons, themes and styles from the past – a gaudy arsenal of bric-a-brac, medals, braids and trimmings, sequins, fragments of damask, rosettes and all kinds of stuff that filled his studio. This constant reclamation and accumulation is translated at narrative level into a great assemblage of memories, reflections and citations borrowed from artists and intellectuals of every period and origin, first and foremost his brilliant mentor Alfred Jarry and pataphysics, the true “science” and mainstay of the irony that permeated Baj’s entire cultural universe. Alongside the myriad characters we also get glimpses of the everyday objects in the artist’s life such as agricultural machinery, a Kawasaki bike or a lift: splendid equipment, mechanical and erotic, that not only arouses the reader’s curiosity but also backs up the social, scientific and philosophical convictions sustained by Baj, who for years fought not only for a renewal in the art of painting but also for a prophetic return to nature against the growing threat of an all-encompassing technology.
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Automitobiografia

Enrico Baj

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 272 pagine + 12 (inserto)

Marcel and Suzanne Duchamp, Octavio Paz and Edoardo Sanguineti, Breton and Man Ray, de Chirico and the Duchess of Beaufort are just some of the names that make up the fauna of this perceptive, erudite and, at times, explosive account, far removed from any autobiographical conventions.  Working backwards from 1983, the year of publication, to 1924,
This book is much more than just an autobiography. It is a jazz improvisation featuring a fusion of personal memoirs and ideas for a better society. It encompasses projects, drawings and photographs, partnerships and disputes. The author expresses his passion for big cities and public spaces, his love for his family and friends, his trust in education and active citizenship. However we want to read it, it makes us realize how architecture is a fundamental tool for tackling the two great challenges of our age: social inequality and climate change.Born in Florence in 1933, amidst the modernist structures designed by his cousin Ernesto Nathan Rogers and a view of Brunelleschi’s dome, Richard Rogers soon grasped that good architecture has to reflect changing technology and the spirit of the age. Consequently, having completed his studies at Yale – where he met his future partner Norman Foster – he embarked on a road trip in search of innovative ideas and design solutions: the strong colours of California and Mexico, the open structures of industrial architecture, and the lightness and transparencies of the Case Study Houses proved great sources of inspiration, becoming a constant feature in that visual vocabulary that he brought with him when he returned to London. Parkside, the Wimbledon home built for his parents between 1968 and 1969, was the first result of his American experience and encapsulates his entire architectural ethos: the daring use of colour and eco-sustainable prefabricated elements, the importance of transparency and flexibility. It was a prototype for a building that lends itself to multiple changes of use, embodying our “long-lasting, widely adaptable, low-energy” diktat. It was also his last family building project before he was swallowed up, together with Renzo Piano, in the whirlwind of the competition for a major public building in the heart of Paris.Today, more than forty years after the deluge of criticism that surrounded its construction and opening, the Pompidou Centre continues to be an undisputed icon of modernity and one of the pulsating hearts of city life, demonstrating that architecture has the power to shape our lives: good architecture brings humanity and civilization, bad architecture brutalizes.
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Un posto per tutti

Vita, architettura e società giusta

Richard Rogers

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 372 pagine

This book is much more than just an autobiography. It is a jazz improvisation featuring a fusion of personal memoirs and ideas for a better society. It encompasses projects, drawings and photographs, partnerships and disputes. The author expresses his passion for big cities and public spaces, his love for his family and friends, his trust in educat
A prodigious sculptor skilled in creating images and narrating myths, Arturo Martini (1889-1947) gave himself over entirely to this “mysterious and egoistic” art that saps the energy of those who practise it, as the artist himself wrote.  A life without epic moments is completely given over to reinventing the iconography, to the extent that he could have said, with the poet Lucio Piccolo, “life comes to me in images”. A childhood afflicted by poverty and family arguments in a Treviso that was still mediaeval, the early talent at modelling clay, his employment while still a young boy in a goldsmith’s workshop, the unexpected bursary that allowed him to study in Venice with the sculptor Urbano Nono – these were the early milestones in the life of an individual born “in wretched circumstances” who was however destined to renew the plastic arts. The trajectory of his life then took him to Munich in 1909, a difficult time economically but with plenty of stimuli, and to Paris in 1912. At the same time, he was also one of the “rebels” of Ca’ Pesaro and was a signatory to Futurism. By the end of the war, Martini was already thirty years old and, although recognized as one of the best interpreters of the new classic ideals as represented in Novecento and Valori Plastici, he still struggled to maintain himself and his wife Brigida. Only as he approached 40 was he able to enjoy a period of happiness that coincided in 1930 with falling in love with Egle, and in 1931 with the legendary prize of 100,000 lire at the Quadriennale di Roma. In this period, he produced magnificent work in terracotta and executed new masterpieces in stone and in bronze. His period of serenity, however, came to an end with a volte-face. At the peak of his fame, and with unprecedented rage, Martini railed against sculpture and accused it of being a “dead language”. To this inexplicable rejection was added, mercilessly, illness and the humiliation of having to undergo a purge in 1945, which weakened him to the point that he died just short of 58 years old. Elena Pontiggia narrates the everyday and artistic events in Martini’s life with exemplary lucidity and clarity, embellishing the book with new information that sheds a new light on his artistic development.
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Arturo Martini

La vita in figure

Elena Pontiggia

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 304 pagine

A prodigious sculptor skilled in creating images and narrating myths, Arturo Martini (1889-1947) gave himself over entirely to this “mysterious and egoistic” art that saps the energy of those who practise it, as the artist himself wrote.  A life without epic moments is completely given over to reinventing the iconography, to the extent that he
Looking round the rooms of the retrospective show put on in his honour in 1980, just three weeks before his death, Philip Guston observed that it wasn’t just a simple exhibition, it was a whole life’s experience. Night Studio, published by his daughter eight years later, is an account of a life lived: it is the bitter-sweet account of a reconciliation and an attempt to enter the world of a father for whom art was an act of intense egoism. Bringing together personal memories, but also the letters and notes of Philip Guston, as well as interviews with those who knew him, the author puts together a private history that starts in New York of the 1930s, where his parents had moved following a promising start as muralists. Thanks to the benefits of the New Deal, a lively community of artists grew up obsessed with the idea of purity in painting which hit the headlines in the fifties as the School of New York. Guston, ever in search of a language that was completely his and sceptical of the illusions of art for art’s sake, came late to non-objective painting: his lyrical vocabulary and voluptuous brush-strokes gave him a degree of fame, confirmed by a retrospective at the Guggenheim as early as 1962. But in the end, objects prevailed. In 1968, following a paralysing creative block, the forms that had accumulated and been denied for so long took shape in a cascade of images – first simple objects from everyday life, then enigmatic and cartoon-like figures – judged intolerable by the same art world that had elevated him. The world he had felt ever more impatient with now disgusted him so much that he left New York and took refuge in Woodstock where he settled permanently with his wife, Musa McKim. In this moving autobiographical fresco, accompanied by a broad selection of colour works and personal photographs, Musa Mayer takes us through her father’s artistic and life’s journey also acknowledging the role of her reserved and elusive mother, a woman who chose to take a step back in respect of her own aspirations to follow the changeable moods and need for freedom that are typical of every great artist.
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Night Studio

Un ritratto intimo di Philip Guston

Musa Mayer

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 292 pagine

Looking round the rooms of the retrospective show put on in his honour in 1980, just three weeks before his death, Philip Guston observed that it wasn’t just a simple exhibition, it was a whole life’s experience. Night Studio, published by his daughter eight years later, is an account of a life lived: it is the bitter-sweet account of a reconci
A legendary figure of Mexican muralism, Diego Rivera was many things: a friend of Picasso, an unrepentant womanizer and insatiable lover, a fervent Communist, soon thrown out of the Party, and a self-styled revolutionary artist. In the retelling of some of the salient episodes of his life, collected and written down by the journalist Gladys March, he is also shown to be a narrator incapable of restraining his exuberant imagination. His prose, as with his painting, reveals an overwhelming passion for life and a multi-faceted humanity: he talks of prostitutes and revolutionaries, corrupt politicians and capitalist patrons of the arts, but above all the people of his own country, for whom he always felt a deep love. After his early attempts as a Cubist painter in Europe, Rivera’s return home was a revelation. Mexico with its blazing colours and intense light, joyful crowds at the market and at fiestas, appeared to him to be a source of irrepressible splendour, and one which he would tap when he portrayed on the enormous walls of Mexican public buildings the political conscience of a nation. He painted scenes of enslavement, social struggle and images of pre-Colombian culture, giving shape to the features of a muralism that would go on to become an international painting movement. The self-portrait that unfurls before our eyes gradually takes on the guise of an open-hearted confession, in which the author takes no prisoners, least of all himself. His version of events finds a countermelody in the voices of the women in his life -- Angelina Beloff, Lupe Marín, Frida Kahlo, who he married twice, and Emma Hurtado (in appendix). On reaching the last page readers can only ask themselves where the truth about this artist lies, an artist who was in the first place an extraordinary storyteller or, in the words of Élie Faure, a mythmaker, or maybe even a mythomaniac.
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La mia arte, la mia vita

Diego Rivera

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 204 pagine

A legendary figure of Mexican muralism, Diego Rivera was many things: a friend of Picasso, an unrepentant womanizer and insatiable lover, a fervent Communist, soon thrown out of the Party, and a self-styled revolutionary artist. In the retelling of some of the salient episodes of his life, collected and written down by the journalist Gladys March,
10 February 1985: Jean-Michel Basquiat appears on the cover of the New York Times magazine, sitting in his studio in Great Jones Street. His stares idly into the lens while his hand grasps his brush like a weapon. His bare feet, resting on an overturned chair that looks like an animal carcass, are in sharp contrast to the formality of the Armani suit where you can just see the hem of his trousers streaked with paint. He is light years away from his early days when, having removed himself from the bourgeois indifference of his father and his mother’s psychic instability, he chose his path, the underground world of graffiti and new wave music, of clubs, but above all the walls of New York where he gave vent to the “80 per cent of anger” that fed his hunger for success. From the anonymity of SAMO – the label he adopted to brand the skin of a city still hostage to racism and urban decay – Jean-Michel went on, in just a few years, to co-sign paintings with Andy Warhol. Today he is the most famous black artist, the first to become internationally famous, a goal he really wanted to achieve and single-mindedly worked towards. But it quickly became a label he couldn’t shake off, in the gilded cage that the art establishment seemed to have put him in, from which not even his excesses and perhaps his last desperate attempt to escape – a return to his origins, to the African destination on the air ticket found in his pocket at the time of his premature death at 27 – would manage to save him. A contradictory temperament in a time of contradictions, Basquiat personally experienced a whirlwind of stimuli, a maelstrom of emotions that he then poured out onto his canvas and any other support to hand: words, images and sounds were magically recomposed into a new form that makes him one of the greatest visual poets of the 20th century.  
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Basquiat

La regalità, l'eroismo e la strada

Michel Nuridsany

publisher: Johan & Levi

pages: 384 pagine

10 February 1985: Jean-Michel Basquiat appears on the cover of the New York Times magazine, sitting in his studio in Great Jones Street. His stares idly into the lens while his hand grasps his brush like a weapon. His bare feet, resting on an overturned chair that looks like an animal carcass, are in sharp contrast to the formality of the Armani su

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