For those well-acquainted with The Wolfsonian, this description will sound quite familiar: “One of the most interesting things to me about the institution is its approach to the art of this period. We investigate the historic, political, economic, and social context of the times through the art, viewing art as an expression of society, of human being and human doing. Everything in the collection is a bit like pieces of a puzzle, from furniture to paintings to posters to small postcards to architectural drawings.”
However, these are not the words of a Wolfsonian employee, nor are they about The Wolsonian—instead, they were spoken by Matteo Fochessati of the Wolfsoniana in Genoa, Italy, where he is a curator. The Wolfsonian’s partner institution, the Wolfsoniana generously lent several works to the Rebirth of Rome series of exhibitions. The occasion of the Year of Italian Culture in America, which the current exhibitions celebrate, seemed the perfect time to check in with our partner institution.
“I describe the Wolfsoniana to people in this way: you can come here to find art of the period of 1880 to 1945 and in a sense to understand this period, which completely transformed our lives and was the beginning of modernity. People can gain an appreciation of how these years transformed the world and can better understand our close past,” says Wolfsoniana curator Gianni Franzone. “In addition, from an aesthetic point of view, many of the works are gorgeous.” Franzone and Fochessati share curatorial duties and both are longtime employees—Fochessati began working at the Wolfsoniana in 1987 and Franzone joined in 1990. Until two years ago when she crossed the Atlantic, Wolfsonian curator Silvia Barisione worked as a registrar and then curator at the Wolfsoniana.
Like The Wolfsonian, the Wolfsoniana, a museum and study center , was founded by Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. When Wolfson began working in earnest on establishing a museum and research center in Miami, in the mid-1980s, he decided that part of his collection should remain in Genoa, a city in which he had spent significant time since the 1970s. In so doing, his intention was to create a cultural bridge between the institutions and, by extension, the countries.
The Wolfsoniana’s collection of more than twenty thousand objects has been exhibited in a variety of ways and housed in a series of locations. In 1993, the Wolfsoniana opened in Genoa as a study center. The museum officially opened in its current location, within Genoa’s Nervi museum complex, in 2005. Wolfson then, in 2007, gifted the collection to the Fondazione Regionale per la Cultura e lo Spetacolo (formerly the Fondazione Regionale Cristoforo Colombo, which had managed the collection since 1999). The Wolfsoniana’s Study Centre is located in downtown Genoa, in the Ducal Palace, and houses the library and archives.
The permanent exhibition is organized chronologically according to theme and cultural movement, with an emphasis on the evolution of the decorative arts, the art of propaganda, and the topics of work, travel, and international exhibits and expositions. Among the items permanently on display are reconstructions of rooms intended to represent movements: a Neo-Egyptian room with furnishings by Fabio and Alberto Fabbi; an Art Nouveau living room by Luigi Fontana & C. of Milan; and a children’s bedroom by Antonio Rubino. The Wolfsoniana also mounts temporary exhibitions and collaborates with other cultural institutions. Exhibition topics have included the Futurists, interwar Italian art, ocean liners, interwar sculpture in Liguria, and architecture in Liguria from the 1920s to 1950s. Currently on view is an exhibition exploring aviation art and design from the First World War through the 1930s.
In addition to supporting The Wolfsonian through object loans, the Wolfsoniana’s Fochessati and Franzone are working with Barisione on a book complementing the exhibition Rendering War: The Murals of A. G. Santagata.
“While we are sister institutions, The Wolfsonian and the Wolfsoniana don’t always have the occasion to work together as closely as we have been leading up to the Rebirth of Rome series of exhibitions. Working in collaboration has been extremely productive—the two collections are complementary in so many ways,” says Barisione.
Vase, c. 1932
Nicolaj Diulgheroff (Bulgarian, 1901–1982), designer
Casa Giuseppe Mazzotti, Albisola, maker
Glazed terracotta with matte colors and enamels
16 1/8 x 16 1/8 in (41 x 41 cm)
Wolfsoniana–Fondazione Regionale per la Cultura e lo Spettacolo, Genoa, 87.941.7.1
Bottom (click to enlarge):
Wolfsoniana Study Centre at Palazzo Ducale, Genoa
Painting, Il grande nocchiere [The Great Helmsman], 1939
Ernesto (Michahelles) Thayaht (Italian, 1893–1959)
Oil on canvas
63 3/8 x 38 3/4 in (161 x 98.5 cm)
Wolfsoniana–Fondazione Regionale per la Cultura e lo Spettacolo, Genoa, GD1993.7.1