A photo essay: ‘Time is Out of Joint’, La Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome

Culture Life

Image Description: Gallery space from the exhibition

Whilst living in Rome in 2019, I had the pleasure of being a 15-minute walk away from the gallery. With a student admission fee cheaper than a cup of coffee, it became a ritual of mine, after finishing work, to leave behind the chaotic pace of Roman city life and escape the unforgiving Mediterranean sun, and enter the cool, airy and minimalist oasis.

The exhibition necessitates enquiry into how galleries can be curated. With a title coined from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, ‘Time is out of Joint’, curated by Cristiana Collu and Saretto Cincinelli, reinforces the fact that art is not linear and chronological, rather, it is fluid, stratified, and malleable. 500 works by 170 artists are interlaced throughout the collection, and are displayed, not within the boundaries of their epoch and style but instead by visual consonance, such as similar poses and themes. In one room, we are confronted with Piet Mondrian’s Grande Composizione A (1920), adjacent to Pino Pascali’s floor installation 32 Mq. di Mare circa (1967). In another Gabriele Basilico’s photography collection Roma (2010) is displayed alongside Federico Cortese’s Ruderi di un mondo che fu (1890). One migrates from a room dominated by over 30 classical busts to the unnaturally distorted, suspended horse hinds in Berlinde De Bruyckere installation, We Are Flesh. Centuries continue to overlap and intertwine in each room, and the viewer navigates between artworks of varying media, coexisting synchronously in the same mutable space.

With a title coined from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, ‘Time is out of Joint’, curated by Cristiana Collu and Saretto Cincinelli, reinforces the fact that art is not linear and chronological, rather, it is fluid, stratified, and malleable.

The building itself misleads and plays with the notion of time. The Neoclassical style building, complete with its antiquated columned facade, is adorned by Davide Rivalta’s incomplete bronze lions, scattered amongst the remarkably modern white, painted steps. There is a grand, nationalistic expression in the architecture yet upon entering, the interior is a breath of fresh air. The ceilings are high, the walls whitewashed and the space is flooded with natural light, drawing our vision towards artworks. During my first visit, I felt weightlessness, as I was led slowly and seamlessly through the vast halls and sunlit corridors. The decor offers neither distraction nor predisposition over the pieces.

All four corners of the space are bridged through the collaboration of wall-hung paintings and free-standing sculptures. 360-degree movement around the pieces is permitted due to the generosity of space. The artworks are scattered sparsely and in some cases, only a couple occupy an entire hall. The lack of urgency and elasticity of the space invites you to engage with the art at every turn: whether this be catching your reflection in Michelangelo Pistoletto’s mirrors or standing between three bronze hunting dogs and their prey. Even the sofas feel like artworks, with their biomorphic forms that melt into the fabric of the museum.

The fluid relationship between the artworks, both pre-existing canonical pieces with new contemporary works, delineates the codified laws of art history and each artwork proudly and convincingly occupies its own space, whilst simultaneously subverting the traditional presentation of art

Collu and Cincinelli are successful in disrupting the all too common chronological narration of art history. Since the viewer is denied any temporal bearing, they are forced to formulate their own connections between the unexpected groupings of artworks, which heightens the curiosity and engagement with the pieces. The exhibition dismantles, only to then reconstruct the doctrinal staging of gallery space. The fluid relationship between the artworks, both pre-existing canonical pieces with new contemporary works, delineates the codified laws of art history and each artwork proudly and convincingly occupies its own space, whilst simultaneously subverting the traditional presentation of art.

Upon asking myself why I kept returning, it is clear that in the gallery, the interaction with the works is made easy and democratic. There is a seamless collaboration between the art, the space of the room, and the beholder. There is no sense of hierarchy, and you find yourself faced with masterpieces when you were least expecting it. The collection and the curation’s disregard for temporal as well as spatial labels and boundaries provide an immensely refreshing experience and renders each piece equally accessible. The disobedience and subversion of natural laws within the Galleria Nazionale, is so natural that it is only when exiting through the heavy columns and between the lions, one notices space-time reverting to normality and consistency.

Image Credits: Lucinda Kirk

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