curated by Vittorio Sgarbi


With the work of the Spanish painter Francisco Goya (1746–1828), the idea of madness became an art theme. Existential behaviour, the opposition to the world, to what was considered to be normal, almost explicitly became a call to be acknowledged. Until then, the solitary and meditative space of melancholia was considered to be the personality trait of so many artists. However, madness was a romantic reversal, it meantshouting out, rebelling; it entailed a journey into an unknown human dimension. The splendid and modern MuSa, the city museum of Salò, has recently inaugurated a new stop on the journey of the “Museo della Follia” curated by Vittorio Sgarbi. The event begins with Goya himself, and the remarkable works on display take visitors all the way to the art of the Irish painter Francis Bacon (1909–1992). The exhibition will open on 11 March and close on 19 November 2017. It should be pointed out right awaythat the exhibition is not merely a repeat of the much discussed and highly successful exhibitions in Mantua (Palazzo della Ragione, 18 May 2015-10 January 2016) and Catania (Castello Ursino, 22 April 2016-12 February 2017); rather, although it is connected to the previous exhibitions, it is a new and different stopover in a path that also entails further research, the gathering of new works, and debate that is enriched and closely analysed, linking all these elements to the sites and history of the host city. This is what is required of a museum such as the one in Salò, which is so closely related to the identity of the city, to its treasures, to its contribution to the history of Italy. And akin to the previous exhibitions, the installation for this one is spectacular, leading the visitor along a path that is also a walk through the deepest and darkest reaches of one’s consciousness and being. It is an encounter with paintings, sculptures, objects, and images that are imposed as visions, as apparitions that produce strong emotions, created by the presence of the masterpieces of artists who experienced their artistic research and their innermost emotions as though they were part of an adventure without limits or rules, like an inseparable union between life and creative communication. Well before the striking cases of Van Gogh and Ligabue, many other artists expressed themselves through visionary, hallucinatorylanguage. On display are some of the masterpieces of the “greatest” names in international art history, names like Francisco Goya, Antonio Mancini, Adolfo Wildt, Fausto Pirandello, Pietro Ghizzardi, Francis Bacon, and Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988). We are not limited to art here, however, as the theme of madness touches a nerve in each one of us. Indeed, Vittorio Sgarbi presents the exhibition as: “A repertoire, without proclamations, without manifestations, without denunciations. Men and women like us, unfortunate, humiliated, isolated. And still alive in the unbelievable desperation of their gazes. Condemned yet without sin, indicted without having committed a crime but just for beingdifferent, that is to say, individual”. The “Stanza della Griglia” (Grid Room) is the absolute icon of the exhibition, located opposite a consumed Bill Evans, absorbed by his playing the piano. This 50-metre-long grid-like structure features over ninety portraits of patients in what used to be psychiatric institutes, sheets illuminated by a neon light rediscovered in the clinical records of some of the former manicomi (asylums).
Augusto Agosta Tota, together with the Fondazione Archivio Antonio Ligabue Parma—an Archive since 1983 officially associated with the Fondazione Cavallini-Sgarbi—has loaned the works—paintings and sculptures—of Antonio Ligabue and sponsored the event. Antonio Ligabue is on a par with the great artists present, and the events of his life, notwithstanding the legends that are told, are redeemed here by visionary art of extraordinary and even more up-to-date vitality. A special space has thus been dedicated to him, for an exhibition that, within the scope of the overall event, is also a veritable “solo” show of his oil paintings and sculptures.