Cool Exhibition of the Month: Fornasetti’s “Citazioni Pratiche” at Rome’s Palazzo Altemps

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 06:11
exhibitions in Rome

A palace that is a symbol of the classical art of ancient Greece and Rome hosts an exhibition dedicated to the Milan-based Fornasetti brand of decorative arts, which is very much imbued with 20th-century surrealist culture.

“Citazioni Pratiche” (Practical Quotes) is the “ironic confrontation” between 800 objects and drawings from the Fornasetti archives and the collection of ancient sculpture on display at Palazzo Altemps in Rome.

You may not be familiar with either Fornasetti or Palazzo Altemps, so here’s a little background:

Piero Fornasetti (1913-1988) was a painter, sculptor, interior decorator and engraver who has produced approximately 13,000 objects and decorations. He used daily objects (plates, chairs, furniture, etc.) as ‘canvas’ on which to illustrate a tale, an artistic world. Today, his legacy is carried on by Atelier Fornasetti and his son Barnaba, who curated the “Citazioni Pratiche” exhibition.  

Palazzo Altemps is a late Renaissance palace in the heart of Rome, near Piazza Navona, which houses an impressive collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, among them: the original 5th-century BC Greek sculpture known as Ludovisi Throne, the Gaul Killing Himself and his Wife, Ares, the Roman Head of Juno, and the 3rd-century Grand Ludovisi Sarcophagus, which celebrates the victory of the Romans over the barbarians.

Thus, the “Practical Quotes” exhibition, which marks the 20-year anniversary since the opening of the museum at Palazzo Altemps, aims to be an exchange, a dialogue, between ancient and modern, where daily objects of modern and contemporary design are positioned among, and interact with, ancient masterpieces and Renaissance decorations.

There are 27 art installations, beginning in the courtyard of the building where male figures emerge among the columns, continuing through the frescoed rooms where ancient sculptures and Renaissance decorations blend with Fornasetti objects, with constant references, the ‘citazioni’ (quotes) of the exhibition’s title, to ancient art, that Greek and Roman style that inspired Fornasetti in his creations. (The ‘practical’ part stands for Fornasetti’s design philosophy according to which the design of an object must never fall outside its functionality: “a chair is made for sitting so it has to be, first and foremost, comfortable,” his son recalls him saying.)  

Don’t miss: the room of the “Galata Suicida,” transformed into a sort of theater set, where the sculptural group stands out against Fornasetti’s “Practical Madness,” reproduced on a five-meter-high scenery flat; the room of Aphrodite Cnidia, where Fornasetti female figures interact with the statue of Venus; the Polyphemus room, transformed into a scenic space with video projections of floating fish from Fornasetti’s “Fondo Marino” (Marine Bottom); the tower room, where a group of ceramic cats are lazily crouched on the remains of ancient walls.

“Citazioni Pratiche. Fornasetti at Palazzo Altemps” is open until May 6, 2018. For more information, visit