The Wolfsonian recently launched a series of publications focused on core themes in the museum’s collection. The first installment, The Birth of Rome: Five Visions for the Eternal City, explores the persistence of Rome in Italian national consciousness during the years of Fascist dictatorship through a close look at five architectural and urban planning projects. Written by curator Silvia Barisione and edited by assistant curator Matthew Abess, the book includes an illustrated essay by Barisione followed by fifty-five full-color pages of plates.
Currently on view is an exhibition of the same title, and while there is a good deal of common ground, the publication allows space for an extended written investigation into the subject. “The collection is quite generous in that it is always revealing new stories and contexts. This series of publications will give us and our readership the opportunity to explore these areas of meaningful, often unexpected connection. As a microcosm of themes embedded in the overall collection—from the consolidation of national identities to the integration of tradition with revolutionary change—The Birth of Rome is a fitting inauguration,” explains Abess.
As Barisione points out in the early part of her essay, although it has been fifteen centuries since the fall of the Roman Empire, Rome remains “a durable image of authority, allegiance, and ancient splendor.” The Birth of Rome takes a close look at five interwar projects that, in their visions of and for Rome, tell us much about the nation’s self-conception under Mussolini. The projects are the redevelopment of the city sector surrounding the mausoleum of Emperor Augustus; the Foro Mussolini physical education complex; Virgilio Marchi’s unrealized Futurist architecture; the new zone of the city planned for the 1942 Esposizione Universale di Roma (EUR); and the Italian pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
The Birth of Rome was published by The Wolfsonian. In addition to Barisione and Abess, several Wolfsonian staff members were crucial to its realization, including: Mylinh Trieu Nguyen (designer); Lisa Li (coordinator); and David Almeida and Lynton Gardiner (photographers). The Birth of Rome was made possible through the support of the Italian Consulate General Miami, the Italian Cultural Institute New York, and the U.S. Consular Agency Genoa, to mark the Year of Italian Culture in the United States.
Future publications in the series are in the planning stages. In addition, a second book related to current exhibition subject matter is forthcoming in early 2014. Rendering War: The Murals of A. G. Santagata will include essays by Barisione and by curators Matteo Fochessati and Gianni Franzone from the Wolfsoniana, the museum’s partner institution in Genoa, Italy. Rendering War, with text in Italian and English, will be published by Genoa-based Sagep Editori.
Cover, The Birth of Rome: Five Visions for the Eternal City