Gillo Dorfles

A Life Of The Times

27 Nov 2015 - 17 Apr 2016

A Life Of The Times
27 November 2015 - 17 April 2016

Curator: Achille Bonito Oliva

From 27 November 2015 to 17 April 2016, MACRO, Rome Contemporary Art Museum, is hosting the exhibition Gillo Dorfles. A life of the times, curated by Achille Bonito Oliva, with technical coordination and exhibition design by Fulvio Caldarelli and Maurizio Rossi: the first anthological exhibition to pay tribute to the opera omnia of a historic father of Italian visual culture, covering artistic output, critical thinking and aesthetic theories.

Gillo Dorfles, artist and art critic, two separate mindsets, two different relationships with time.
On the one hand the times of the inner world with his highly personal and independent liveliness of expression, unshakable in the face of the various events of artistic and avant-garde movements. On the other hand the times of the outside world, the movable horizon of history and his observations exploring the variations in taste and the aesthetic and behavioural developments of the present which are a feature of every age.

Over 100 works, some of which displayed for the first time: paintings, drawings and graphic artwork and also a selection of ceramics and jewellery. A new journey through time, from the more recent creations (including three new paintings produced in the summer of 2015) to the founding of the Concrete Art Movement (the exhibition also displays original documents and historic catalogues of the first exhibitions) back to his debut at a young age in the Thirties. A vast display in which the time coordinates given tend to fade away in the synchronisation of a long and still evolving present.

For the first time the exhibition of the works of art by Dorfles also includes two conversant and complementary sections of the display which become an opportunity for covering over a century of history, in words and pictures.

Istantanee or “Snapshots” is the documentary section containing a vast photography selection and the unpublished correspondence that bears witness to the dialogue, friendship and elective affinities of Dorfles with some of the most significant artists and intellectuals of the twentieth century. A biography that moves from the personal to the collective. From photos taken from the family album to professional portraits by photographer friends such as Ada Ardessi, Graziano Arici, Giovanna Dal Magro, Fabrizio Garghetti, Ugo Mulas and Ferdinando Scianna. Autographic writing, letters, notes and comments. The poems written in the Forties, highly considered by friends such as Saba and Montale, yet left for many years in the drawer for them to pass the test of time.
Previsioni del tempo or “Weather Forecasts” is the section dedicated to the foresight of Dorfles who could always look into the future. A vision which takes note and takes in Transformations, changes and layers which are apparently imperceptible - the reality of things, under the influence of time. A critic of art, aesthetics, architecture and design, music and drama, the system of information and mass communication phenomena, fashion and customs are just some of the areas of knowledge involved in a reading and interpretation of the spirit of the times.

Quotes taken from the output of essays, extracts from documentary films, video interviews and archive film footage from the RAI Teche archives and audio points relaying radio contributions. A narration told in the first person, through the voice of the author and which documents the vastness of the territories explored by Dorfles, beyond the boundaries of categories. A spread-out narration which cannot and does not aim to be exhaustive, but instead evocative. The challenge is that, on leaving the exhibition, curiosity turns into interest and encounter into regular attendance.

During the period of the exhibition MACRO is to house two series of meetings with free admission: a calendar of events of great interest, designed for a wide audience, its informative nature enhanced through the online publication of lessons-events on the official website of the exhibition (
Parola critica or “Critical Word”, organised by the Interdisciplinary centre for research into the contemporary landscape, is the series of talks dedicated to essential themes of the critical thinking of Gillo Dorfles. The speakers are to include: Giovanni Anceschi, Giorgio Battistelli, Mario Botta, Massimo Carboni, Aldo Colonetti, Andrea Cortellessa, Stefano Catucci and Ugo Volli.

Lessons with Art is the cycle of academic lessons and the result of the educational and scientific project devised by lecturers from the major university bodies in Rome, as a partnership with the educational section of MACRO - universities, academies and special projects department. Speakers: Eugenia Battisti (Archivio Eugenio Battisti), Rossana Buono (Università degli Studi di Roma “Tor Vergata”), Laura Iamurri (Università degli Studi di Roma “RomaTre”) and Carla Subrizi (Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”).

The MACRO education service also offers colour experience workshops (for children aged 5 to 12 years) with support from Faber-Castell, and Colour of memory workshop, a guided exploration of the evocative power of colour and the creation of an artist’s book.

For the occasion of the exhibition the first of the six coffee cups from the new illy Art Collection, designed by Gillo Dorfles, is to be presented. The partnership with illy, official sponsor of “Gillo Dorfles, A Life of the Times”, comes from an affinity confirmed not only in the shared Trieste origins but above all in the same middle European cultural perspective and in the predilection for contemporary arts.

The exhibition catalogue (published by Skira Editore, Milan) includes, as well as the critical essay by the curator Achille Bonito Oliva, writings by Umberto Eco and Luigi Sansone.

The publication has the added value of a vast critical anthology dedicated to the artistic output of Dorfles and of one of his recent and previously unpublished conversations with Fulvio Caldarelli and Federica Pirani.
We would also like to point out that Skira Editore has just published the non-fiction work dedicated to Gillo Dorfles Gli artisti che ho incontrato (“Artists I’ve Met”) edited by Luigi Sansone.

Bonito Oliva Achille - Gillo Dorfles. Essere nel tempo
Achille Bonito Oliva, 2015, 375 p., ill., brossura
Editor: Skira
Language: italiano

Tags: Ugo Mulas, Ferdinando Scianna