The palace is not just a repository of the past but is a place in continuous transformation. The ‘Conserving the Future’ programme asks contemporary artists to relate to and dialogue with the spaces, the collections and the archives, drawing inspiration for new works in the sign of a dynamic experimentation. Some works inhabit these spaces just for the duration of an exhibition whilst others remain, donated by the artists: ‘intruders’ that open new perspectives to the visitor. Similar lines of investigation have opened in the sectors of literature, poetry, theatre, dance, design, graphic design, and photography.
The American artist Joseph Kosuth’s neon lights illuminate the palace façade. An exponent of conceptual art, he has shaped the neon tubes to trace primordial words: Abstract lines, Forms of earth (crystals), Forms of water (waves), Forms of air (clouds), Organic forms (shells). The installation totals twelve illuminated signs placed at different heights: this is The Material of the Ornament, 1997. Kosuth was inspired by John Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice (1851 – 1853). The classification of decorative architectural elements into categories devised by the English art critic thus becomes an ornament itself, activating unexpected relationships.
'Nel momento [In the Moment]' is a gift from Remo Salvadori and was part of his exhibition 'L’osservatore non l’oggetto osservato [The observer not the object observed]' of 2005. The work dates from 1973 and is created from the cutting and folding of three lead sheets. The act of cutting, following numeric and harmonic relationships, is an act of discipline for the artist. The aim is to open up the substance to the force of light and free it from the obtusity of its own dark and deaf nature. The lead sheets spread on the ground trace a path, marked by the way they relate ‘in the moment’ with the architecture of different times and spaces.
The sculpture 'Io (seated)' in the museum home is a small, seated statue, donated by the American artist as a memento of her 2005 exhibition 'Homespun Tales: Stories of Domestic Occupation'. The sculpture revisits the Greek myth of Io, a priestess of the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus. Enchanted by the woman, Zeus falls back on one of his usual stratagems to seduce her whilst protecting himself from Hera’s jealousy: he transforms himself into a cloud. In Kiki Smith’s contemporary interpretation, it appears that the young priestess is playing with a bright and mysterious bundle: the cloud. Is it actually she who is leading this game of seduction?
Maria Morganti describes her work thus: ‘I don’t make colour, I find it.’ The artist conceived her 'Sedimentation' painting for the nineteenth-century room in the museum home for her personal exhibition in 2008. Taking her cue from objects and paintings displayed in the room, particularly the colours of the flower in the hair of Alessandro Milesi’s 'La modella [The Model]' (1910), Morganti’s work absorbs the various hues. The creative process is clear on the upper edge of the canvas, where a history of the stratifications accumulates in thin layers: it is a chromatic diary, an accumulation of the experience, a trace of the artist’s work.
Stefano Arienti’s work is entitled 'Porte tagliafuoco [Fire Doors']. It was part of his 2008 exhibition 'Disegni dimessi' [Discarded Drawings]. The artist transformed two fire doors situated in the Portego – the salon – of the museum home, blending them in with their eighteenth-century surroundings. Arienti applied adhesive plastic film, which imitates wood and can usually be found in DIY stores, to the doors. He cut the film into lozenge shapes, creating an inlaid effect of various types of wood that imitates the antique inlaid doors present in the space. The doors thus take on a new value and become a symbolic threshold between past and present.
Since 1997 Chiara Bertola, the project’s creator and curator, has been proposing connections for ‘Conserving the Future’ between the Fondazione’s heritage and contemporary art with site-specific projects. It is a challenge that implicates both a relating to a past to protect and a future to plan. It involves the institution, the public and the artists. The latter act as ferrymen, revealing fissures, inventing connections, turning everything a little upside down. They reveal something that risked being lost or never seen. The artists invited are Joseph Kosuth, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Giuseppe Caccavale, Lothar Baumgarten, Mauro Sambo, Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, Giulio Paolini, Margarita Andreu, Elisabetta Di Maggio, Remo Salvadori, Kiki Smith, Georges Adéagbo, Stefano Arienti, Maria Morganti, Mariateresa Sartori, Mona Hatoum, Anita Sieff, Marisa Merz, Qiu Zhijie, Haris Epaminonda, Jimmie Durham, Giovanni Anselmo, Roman Opałka, Danh Vō, Isamu Noguchi, and Park Seo-Bo.