A quasi-scientific presentation of seminal exhibitions from the past, through primary evidence such as original texts, images, clippings, scans, transcriptions


22 May – 30 June 1973

Executive committee:
Filiberto Menna (coordinator), Alberto Boatto, Costantino Dardi, Giuseppe Gatt, Fabio Mauri, Italo Mussa

1 Quadriennale press release
1 Ansa press release
13 documentary photographs
3 press review articles

Costantino Dardi installation, facade of Palazzo delle Esposizioni
The Rome Quadriennale was established in 1927 with the aim of promoting and supporting Italian contemporary art. The exhibition took place every four years, in Rome, and consistently centered on the national artistic production, characterizing itself as an institution complementary to the Venice Biennale, whose outlook had instead always been international.

Vettor Pisani room (photo Oscar Savio)
The X Quadriennale Nazionale d’Arte, which opened in 1972, introduced various changes with respect to previous editions. Open submissions were excluded, and only invited artists participated in the exhibition. The sales office was suspended, and more space given to educational activities. The post-1968 political climate also led to the elimination of prizes. Yet despite these attempts to modernize the Quadriennale, the attitude toward it circulating in the art world remained rather critical. Several rival initiatives emerged, such as the Prospettive 5 show and an announced “anti-quadriennale.”

Gino De Dominicis, Tentativo di far formare dei quadrati invece che dei cerchi intorno a un sasso che cade nell’acqua, 1969, action (photo Oscar Savio)
But the most evident variation with respect to earlier editions was the articulation of the exhibition itself. It was no longer a single event, but rather a program of five shows spread over the years 1972 to 1977. The third, titled La ricerca estetica dal 1960 al 1970 (“Aesthetic Research from 1960 to 1970”), effectively captured – according to the critics – the upheavals of the preceding decade: Neo-Dada, Pop Art, programmed art, environments, happenings, Arte Povera, behaviorism. The exhibition was designed by Costantino Dardi, in collaboration with Giancarlo Leoncilli and Ariella Zattera.

Mario Schifano, Particolare del segna d’energia bianco, 1962; Tano Festa, Odalisca, 1964 (photo Oscar Savio)
Quadriennale original press release:
ROME – TUESDAY 22, 9.30 PM, at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in via Nazionale. Opening of Section III of the 10th Quadriennale d’Arte, dedicated to the theme “Aesthetic Research from 1960 to 1970.” The exhibition will remain open for forty-five days.
This third section comprises works by: Valerio ADAMI, Giovanni ANCESCHI, Vincenzo AGNETTI, Carlo ALFANO, Getulio ALVIANI, Franco ANGELI, Giovanni ANSELMO, Rodolfo ARICO’, Enrico BAJ, Nanni BALESTRINI, Gianfranco BARUCHELLO, Vasco BENDINI, Alberto BIASI, Alighiero BOETTI, Davide BORIANI, Pier Paolo CALZOLARI, Enrico CASTELLANI, Mario CEROLI, Giuseppe CHIARI, Ennio CHIGGIO, Claudio CINTOLI, Gianni COLOMBO, Toni COSTA, Gino DE DOMINICIS, Lucio DEL PEZZO, Gabriele DE VECCHI, Bruno DI BELLO, Luciano FABRO, Tano FESTA, Giosetta FIORONI, Nato FRASCA’, Domenico GNOLI, Alberto GRIFI, Laura GRISI, Jannis KOUNELLIS, Edoardo LANDI, Ketty LA ROCCA, Francesco LO SAVIO, Renato MAMBOR, Piero MANZONI, Enzo MARI, Manfredo MASSIRONI, Eliseo MATTIACCI, Fabio MAURI, Mario MERZ, Marisa MERZ, Maurizio MOCHETTI, Aldo MONDINO, Giulio PAOLINI, Pino PASCALI, Luca PATELLA, Giuseppe PENONE, Gianni PIACENTINO, Vettor PISANI, Michelangelo PISTOLETTO, Concetto POZZATI, Emilio PRINI, Bepi ROMAGNONI, Mimmo ROTELLA, Salvatore SCARPITTA, Paolo SCHEGGI, Mario SCHIFANO, Cesare TACCHI, Giuseppe UNCINI, Grazia VARISCO, Nanda VIGO, Gilberto ZORIO.
The works exhibited are approximately 400, including ten “environments,” and thirty “actions.” On the evening of the 22nd, Chiari, Kounellis, De Dominicis, Mattiacci and Pisani will execute their performances.
In order to keep the visitors of the Quadriennale informed, and above all to offer the public an audiovisual synthesis of the exhibition, Guido Cosulich and F. C. Crispolti will produce an internal videogiornale (video news report), which will be broadcast daily.

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Muretto di stracci; Cinecittà, 1968; “L’Attico” environment, Rome 1968
ANSA original press release:
Rome, May 21 (ANSA)
In summary, the program is divided into six main sections, corresponding to an equal number of periods. The group of artists that came to critical attention in 1960 reaffirms the value of semiotic investigation. To this group belong, among others, Piero Manzoni, whose white canvas works lead painting back to its principal elements, and Mario Schifano. On the other hand, the presence of Gianni Colombo, Gabriele De Vecchi, Davide Boriani, all representatives of Gruppo T (the equivalent, in a certain sense, of Gruppo 63 in literature), pays tribute to their attention to the analysis of perception (optical art, kinetic art). In the section spanning the years 1962 to 1964, we witness the discovery of an urban scene equivalent to that of the American Pop Art; a discovery that finds a valid exponent in Gianni Kounellis, as well as in Mimmo Rotella, renown for his “decollages,” and Michelangelo Pistoletto. Working between 1964 and 1966 are those artists who reconstruct the object in a fantastical manner. One of them is Pino Pascali, who passed away prematurely in an automobile accident in September 1968. 
The attempt to involve the public in the work of art – parallel to a similar attempt in the realm of theater – is the prerogative of 1967, the year that witnessed the attempt to “erect environmental structures within other environments” (suffice it to mention Gianni Colombo’s “elastic space” and the “Cassa Sistina” by Mario Ceroli, neither of which will fail to command the public’s attention). The global – and not merely artistic – crisis that struck Europe in 1968 suggested alternative models of living to artists who until then had operated in the urban environment: Kounellis’s works in wool and carbon, created with primary natural elements like fire and water, testify to this shift.
The exhibition concludes with a final section dedicated to the translation of the efforts of the “artistic worker,” which spills over into ideology. Faithful to this tendency are Nanni Balestrini, Gianfranco Baruchello, Fabio Mauri.
The presence of the artists in the various parts of the show aims to render the dialogue with the public “more real,” to induce it, and above all to individuate certain substantial affinities that link the various moments of this decade at the level of artistic creation.
As for the installation criteria, this is in line with the desire to “translate structures that interpret critical principals into a kind of spatial typology.” The most important linguistic marker, according to Menna, is the giant blow-up installed outside the building, which reproduces the latter’s façade with the goal of emphasizing the recent evolutions of taste and sensibility. Inside the gallery, a “public space” has been created in which visitors will be able to sit and discuss the exhibition among each other. There is a videotheque service and a series of performances has been organized for the opening evening.

Luciano Fabro, Pavimento, 1967  

Pino Pascali room

Emilio Prini, Standard, 1967  

Salvatore Scarpitta, Ernie Triplett Special; in the background, Mimmo Rotella, La tigre, 1962;

Installation view (photo Oscar Savio) 

Piero Manzoni: in the foreground, Base per una scultura vivente, 1961; on the right, Linea, 1959; on the left, images from the actions: “Manzoni mentre segna le uova,” 1960; “Manzoni mentre firma la scultura vivente a Glucksburg,” 1961; “Manzoni mentre segna la linea di 7200 metri a Herning,” 1960 (photo Oscar Savio) 

Nanni Balestrini, La révolution de mai, 1968; Charlety, 1968; Potere operaio, 1969; Poliziaaa, 1969; Battipaglia, 1969 Sciopero generale, 1969 (photo Oscar Savio)

Tommaso Trini, “Dieci anni di trasgressioni,” ZOOM, Milan, June 1973. A review written by one of the most brilliant art critics of the time. Tommaso Trini defends the exhibition’s intention to diffuse an avant-garde art practice that had abandoned painting to embrace a complex variety of expressive means.
Claudia Giannini, “La non-arte alla Quadriennale di Roma,” La Provincia, Como, 13 June 1973 . A typical reaction from the conservative press, accusing the show and the works exhibited of being excessively complex and self-referential.
Teresa Fazzari Silenzio, “Un sassofono contestatore alla X Quadriennale d’arte,” Corriere rivista, vol. IV, n. 37, Buenos Aires, August 1973. An amusing review of an Emilio Prini action, executed during a public meeting organized on the occasion of the exhibition closing. For the entire duration of the meeting, Prini drowned out the voices of the critics by playing a saxophone with full force.
Toni Bonavita, “Il contamostre,” Il Tempo, Rome, 30 May 1973. A short article that tears the show to shreds, ridiculing the experimentation of the exhibited works.