Andrea Mattiello on Italian Art of the 20th Century

23 Apr 2020

Italian art has played a fundamental role in the visual culture of the twentieth century, influencing everything from architecture to fashion. Andrea Mattiello, a Byzantine and Contemporary Art Historian and Christie’s Education lecturer, shares a few insights on the Italian art market.
What specifics brought Italian artists to the complex artistic discourse of the twentieth century?
The late arrival of modernity linked to the industrial revolution had a delayed impact on the study and production of the arts in Italy of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Italian artists absorbed and interpreted Impressionism, Realism and Cubism and came up with a new visual discourse. The aesthetic of the machine and speed generated the prolific and problematic innovations of Futurism, Rationalism and Pittura Metafisica. These movements engaged with the traditions and models of Italian cultural and regional antiquity in a dialogue that reinterpreted established standards. The International Abstract and Conceptual art of the fifties and sixties was heavily indebted to the artistic research of Italian artists of the previous decades. Arte Povera and Transavanguardia, the centrality that Italy had in creating the global Biennale phenomenon, and the critical dialogue it fostered between art, fashion and design industries, all played a crucial role in defining contemporary artistic practices.
Christie's holds dedicated auctions of Italian art, can you elaborate on the art market for this sale category?
Christie’s occupies a prominent position within the global Italian Modern and Post-War Contemporary Art market. In the last five years, Christie’s sales have encouraged the appreciation for the achievements of 20th Century Italian art and design. In 2019 alone, Christie's accounted for 48% of the total sales value for the major auction’s market dealing with Italian artists, mostly with its London and Milan sales. Through dedicated sales such as Thinking Italian as well as selected curated lots for Post-War and Contemporary evening and day sales, the Christie’s team has defined research and expertise for the current market for Modern and Contemporary Italian Art. A general appreciation for Italian art has also been aided in recent years by the significant results of the sales dedicated to Modern Italian design.
Which Italian artists of 20th Century are still undervalued or yet to be discovered?
Besides major and now well-established figures such as Alberto Burri, Lucio Fontana, Alighiero Boetti, Enrico Castellani, Piero Manzoni, Mario Schifano, Jannis Kounellis, Emilio Vedova and Giulio Paolini, many Italian artists have still a lot to offer. Those from past decades, such as Maria Lai, Marisa Merz, Gilberto Zorio and Francesco Clemente, as well as more recent ones, such as Maurizio Cattelan, Lara Favaretto, Paola Pivi and Grazia Toderi, are a good choice for someone looking for deepening their understanding of the contemporary Italian artistic environment, now more than ever at the heart of global art dynamics and exchanges.

A new virtual course An Introduction to Modern Italian Art offers a unique opportunity to engage in a structured overview of the artistic production of Italy from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century.