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Ionarts in Siena: Numerica

Numerica, Palazzo delle PapesseIonarts hit the ground running in Siena, but finding Internet access and getting settled in took a couple days. Even so, I have been out gathering things to tell you about, beginning with the opening of a new exhibit here in Siena, at the Centro Arte Contemporanea, an exciting contemporary art museum that opened about seven years ago in the Palazzo delle Papesse. This is one of the finest private houses in the city, the residence of a former pope's sister, whose powerful influence had the locals calling her the Papesse, or Popess. This opening, it turns out, was free, meaning that I forced myself to stay awake after the grueling journey here. The title of the show is Numerica (open through June 6, 2008), and all of the work on exhibit deals with numbers in all their forms.

The exhibit brings together some recent work with more classic pieces from the 20th century, like a wonderful numbers piece by Giacomo Balla. Some works explore the combination of numbers with chance, with pieces focused on the theme of dice. Others explore the numerals themselves, as well as our perception of their value. One of several videos shows a trained chimpanzee doing simple addition by selecting the correct numbered plaques. Several pieces explored the instability of numbers, with images of numbers that were in constant flux or in the state of passing from one number to the next. Among the many names in this interesting show are Ignasi Aballì, Mario Ceroli, Robert Indiana, Joseph Kosuth, Osvaldo Licini, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Wolfgang Tillmans. A free reception with a light dinner of pasta and various crostini things ensured a large attendance by the city's art students. This event, in the palazzo's cool and lovely courtyard, was refreshingly unpretentious.

Even more importantly, the Palazzo delle Papesse has one of the most extraordinary panoramic views of the city of Siena and the valleys around it. One of the benefits of getting in free was getting to go up to the rooftop terrace to take it in. There is no better way to get to know a city and appreciate its beauty. From that spectacular vantage point, one is almost equal to the height of the Duomo, with an excellent view of the facciatone, or big façade. This huge wall that can be seen at points around the Duomo is the remnant of an outlandish Sienese plan to expand the Duomo into the largest cathedral in Italy and finally outdo those damn Florentines. The existing Duomo was to be incorporated into a much larger cruciform building. The ground proved unstable, and all that remains are several sections of large walls, with columns that are bending awkwardly under the strain. So much for that plan.

More from Siena to come.

1 comment:

Anne and Kirk said...

Keep the Siena/Italy posts coming! We're headed your way tomorrow and already have the Numerico exhibit on our to-see list.