The Power of Women, La Grande Madre

Interview with Massimiliano Gioni, curator of the exhibition La Grande Madre (The Great Mother) for the Trussardi Foundation in Milan.

by Valentina Raggi

It is the most anticipated exhibition in the city of Expo - powerful and important for the amount of works and artists involved, but especially for the shocking topic.

“La Grande Madre” will be inaugurated on August 26th in Milan at Palazzo Reale. The exhibition is organized by the Trus​sardi Foundation, a non-profit institution and nomadic museum for the diffusion of contemporary culture, created by the Italian fashion house in 1996. The theme of Expo 2015 ”Feeding the Planet. Energy for Life" is interpreted by the curator and artistic director of the Trussardi Foundation Massimiliano Gioni and its president Beatrice Trussardi as a spectacular journey through the female fertility represented in the twentieth century art. The motherhood is not seen just as a physiological process, but also a generating and regenerating force and a symbol of the future of humanity. The works of over 130 artists will be on display until November 15th. Artemest met Massimiliano Gioni for an exclusive preview and a virtual tour of the exhibition.

Dumas - La Grande Madre, Gioni, Trussardi
Illustration Iannone - La Grande Madre, Gioni, Trussardi

Artemest: Hod did the idea for this exhibition come about?

Massimiliano Gioni: The theme of Expo is nutrition, Beatrice Trussardi and I wanted to offer a different a point of view on this subject. And so we came up an idea of the exhibition on the mother as an archetype of nutrition. It’s a different representation of motherhood compared to what we were used to seeing in advertising and nationalist and populist manifestos. The motherhood in the twentieth century is seen through the gender relations, sex and other topics that still today are relevant.

Photo by Rist - La Grande Madre, Gioni, Trussardi

A: Your previous exhibitions were displayed in various locations such as palaces, theaters, Piazza Duomo. Why did you choose to host this exhibition at Palazzo Reale?
MG: There are many different reasons. You can not get paintings of Dali or Frida Kahlo or 50 collages of Max Ernst unless they are put on display in a museum. And one of the main features of the Trussardi Foundation is that it is mobile and exhibitions change location every time. After more than ten years, we wanted to try and work with a more institutional venue, to prove that we can work on different levels. And then, to be a bit ironic, you might say that in the Palazzo Reale rooms with their antique furnishings create a “Dollhouse” effect. The artworks are arranged and displayed in those beautiful settings that resemble dollhouses that children play with imitating the roles of their parents. Also “A Doll's House” play written by Henrik Ibsen had a strong influence on the representation of women in the nineteenth and the twentieth century.

Photo by Kasabier - La Grande Madre, Gioni, Trussardi
Photo by Wearing - La Grande Madre, Gioni, Trussardi

A: The woman is discriminated against in the art world?
MG: More than two thirds of the artists in the exhibition are women, and this is not because we wanted to be ”politically correct", but because their work best represents the contradictions of the society. There are many female artists today and women occupy high and important positions in the society, but we need to continue the work to help the future generations of female leaders. For example, I immediately think of the fact that still today the works of female artists are sold at a lower price compared to the works of their male colleagues.

A: Do you have a favorite artist or artwork from the exhibition?
MG: It’s not an easy choice. There are beautiful works such as "Newborn" by Brancusi. And the more disturbing ones like Meret Oppenheim’s work showing a massacre of children. Then there are works of Hannah Hoch, Elsa von Freytan Loringhoven, Mina Loy and Valentine De Saint Point. There is a section dedicated to the sculptures of Louise Bourgeois, but also photographs of Roland Barthes in his mother's arms and one of Virginia Woolf literally wearing the clothes of her dead mother. And there is Jeff Koons’ “Venus” which will be displayed in Italy for the first time.

Edmier - La Grande Madre, Gioni, Trussardi
Djurberg - La Grande Madre, Gioni, Trussardi

A: Is there a moment in the twentieth century that marked the emancipation of women in art?
MG: The female artists of the ‘60s and ‘70s have given a strong contribution to the emancipation of women in art and society. There is thisfamous quote by Adrienne Rich: “I am a woman who gives birth to herself”. As stated in the Manifesto of Female Revolt published in 1970: "The woman has undergone the experience of seeing every day what she was doing destroyed. The exhibition acknowledges that the process of women’s emancipation has not been completed yet.

Photo by Maiolino - La Grande Madre, Gioni, Trussardi

​About the author Valentina Raggi is a design journalist and communication consultant. She works for Grazia Casa, Casa Vogue Brasile and How To Spend It Russia.

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