The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

While Tornabuoni Art is well-known for presenting museum-quality Italian post-war art, Üstek has looked at a wide and international array of artists in the collection, who experimented with untraditional media and new and influential artistic positions. Üstek has sought to link works through a conceptual, rather than chronological thread, juxtaposing works by artists of different generations and nationalities and creating new dialogues between them. Although Üstek is a specialist in contemporary art, she is drawn to art of the post-war period, finding that it offers fertile ground for looking at a world of social and political unrest and for exploring human relationships and tensions through the lens of artistic experimentation.

Fatoş Üstek comments: It has been a pleasure to receive the Curatorial Fellowship at Tornabuoni Art. Over the past year, I have been thrilled to discover the extensive collection of over 6,000 artworks acquired over many decades and based in Tornabuoni’s Florence headquarters. With the exhibition, “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, borrowing its title from the famous novel by Czech-born, French writer Milan Kundera, I wanted to highlight the wide breadth of artists in the collection, not only post-war Italian but also from across the world, male and female.

I am especially excited about works by Alighiero Boetti, Alberto Burri, Nicola de Maria, Jiri Kolar, Willem de Kooning, Louise Nevelson and Cy Twombly in the show. I have selected lesser-known works by these artists, and I have also tried to introduce new relationships across generations. I also wanted to include female artists, such as Louise Nevelson, in the show. I am especially drawn to Gino de Dominicis’ painting – it is an incredible work to start the exhibition and a beautiful leitmotif for the exhibition score that I have been composing.

Ursula Casamonti, Director of Tornabuoni Art London comments: Fatoş Üstek has looked at our family’s collection with fresh eyes, teasing out new relationships and ideas, looking at works in different ways to make us look again and reconsider their importance. It has been enlightening to look again at our art with her, and to learn from her insights.

Curatorial statement by Fatoş Üstek: Milan Kundera explores the nature of love and monogamous relationships, through which he explores human nature, inherent drives for power and domination, setting his novel in a period of political turmoil. We can question if we have ever fully moved on from a trembling state of socio-political unrest, if world affairs have evolved for the better or worse. I was inspired by the writing and the narration of Kundera and his philosophical questions.

Researching the Tornabuoni Collection evoked a similar feeling and sense of alignment with the world as that of the novel’s characters. In this exhibition, I wanted to bring together artistic practices that have a primary unrest and challenge. The quest into the materiality of art production, the artistic inquiry into the world of things and especially the truths that art provides have been crucial pillars in the process of selection. “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” is twofold: it explores the idea of ‘something higher’, in Kundera’s words, in life and expresses the struggles and tensions that come with it – similar to the artistic processes of production. I was impressed to discover the Tornabuoni Collection, begun in Florence by the gallery founder Roberto Casamonti, and its wide range of interests. I am drawn to art of the 20th century and especially to the post-war era, which is important for understanding the art of today. In my career, I mainly work with living artists. With this exhibition I had the fortunate opportunity to explore a new terrain, and to work with art historical documents and narratives, discovering beautiful artworks by seminal artists along the way. Rather than applying traditional art historical categories in presenting work from the last century, I wanted to introduce a concept-driven approach to the collection. Moreover, I sought to bring together many diverse artists and artistic perspectives in the exhibition, to expand beyond the demarcations of Europe and also to include works from across the decades. This show juxtaposes various artistic stances and impulses to look at the relationships around us and the nature of being.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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