Giuseppe Penone: works and light in dialogue in the personal exhibition “Gesti Universali – Universal Gestures”

Sculptures and nature, united by light, establish a dialogue in the magnificent setting of the Borghese Gallery. Until May 28, 2023



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Thirty-one Giuseppe Penone artworks, all created between the 1970s and the early 2000s, follow one another in the visit itinerary at Galleria Borghese. The Universal Gestures exhibition, scheduled until May 28, 2023, is the epilogue of a research path undertaken by the institution two years ago: a journey through art, nature and landscape that started from Guido Reni and Rome: Nature and Devotion, passing through Titian. Dialogues of Nature and Love and continues with A Timeless Wonder, an exhibition dedicated to stone painting in Rome between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Galleria Borghese opens up to contemporary art by exhibiting among its rooms and gardens the artworks created by one of the leading figures of the Arte Povera movement. As remarked by Galleria Borghese director, Francesca Cappelletti: «With Giuseppe Penone’s exhibition we conclude the series of exhibitions which for two years have been trying to communicate to the visitors of Galleria Borghese the research focused on art and nature, on the artist’s creativity combined with natural elements. The exhibition itinerary significantly unfolds from some of the museum’s room to the outdoor spaces, allowing visitors to focus on the connections between the material and the artist’s gesture, and rediscover the potential alliance between human beings and nature in the cycle of time».

1. Gesti Universali, Galleria Borghese. Immagini Courtesy of Arch. Egidio Ferrara

The intertwining of Man and Nature in Penone artworks

Giuseppe Penone artworks are the expression of his undeviating research around the relationship between man and nature, the symbiosis and fluidity connecting all plant, human and mineral elements. «Any gesture that is physically capable of changing a specific context can be considered a sculpture. A breath can be conceived as a sculpture for the way it changes the surrounding air» the artist declared. Within the installation, the organic dimension – which strongly characterizes Giuseppe Penone art – is grafted into the mineral one made up of marbles, sculptures, and decorations, widely present in the Galleria Borghese. The exhibition project was curated by Paolo Bertoncini Sabatini while architect Egidio Ferrara was commissioned the lighting design.The light clearly contributes to the reading of all works, both inside and outside the villa. These Universal Gestures also cover some of the “secret gardens” of the Gallery.

2. Gesti Universali, Galleria Borghese. Immagini Courtesy of Arch. Egidio Ferrara

Lights on Arte Povera: the lighting design by Egidio Ferrara

The Garden of the Meridiana (open to the public for the occasion) and the Garden of Uccelliera both turn into places where Giuseppe Penone art finds an unprecedented spatial connotation. Ferrara not only succeeded in making the paths and spaces, normally with no artificial lighting, accessible, but through the use of light he has been able to enhance the material aspects of the Master’s work. The bronze, which conveys the naturalism of a tree trunk in a unique way; the clay, showing the artist’s footprints, the plants which form the background of the exhibited works, vibrate, and live even during the evening hours, turning the visit tour into a continuous discovery.

3. Gesti Universali, Galleria Borghese. Immagini Courtesy of Arch. Egidio Ferrara

In the indoor rooms, the lighting design embraces contemporary artworks and the permanent collection of the Gallery into a close relationship. In the entrance hall, Penone’s Trees, carved in cedar and spruce wood, almost reach the frescoed ceiling. The knots in the wood, the act of stripping the bark, the use of mallet, gouge, and chisel, are made clearly readable by a balanced and delicate lighting. The laurel in Giuseppe Penone’s work Respirare l’ombra (Breathing the Shadow) is directly confronted with that of Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, while the sculpture Aeneas and Anchises, also by Bernini, is compared to the vitality of Pelle di marmo e spine di acacia (Marble Skin and Acacia Thorns) and to the vibrating work Pelle di cedro (Skin of Cedar), with its evocative contrasts and shadows.

4. Gesti Universali, Galleria Borghese. Immagini Courtesy of Arch. Egidio Ferrara

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