The best pieces of art can lose their luster in a disadvantageous setting or display design, and the right lighting or effective display can let a piece really shine and transforms it into a memorable experience where the piece of art seems to gain energy from the setting and sometimes the display/setting itself becomes nearly as important and memorable as the piece of art itself. I experienced this in the elegant dark rooms of the Gucci Museum in Florence (see previous post) and again in the photo exhibition entitled Memories in the Wind by Raffaele Celentano in Sorrento, Italy.
The exhibition shows mostly black-and-white photographs of Italian scenes and street photography taken between 1990 and 2013 around the country. The photos depict scenes that often made me smile and reminded me of the stereotypical Italy that we expect as tourists. So the photos themselves are worth a look, but what made the exhibition so memorable and exciting was the space they are displayed in as well as the display design itself. The gallery is on the second floor of the Chiostro di San Francesco.
The space includes large windows overlooking the sparkling blue waters of the Bay of Naples and the silhouette of Mount Vesuvius. It is hard to know what to focus on – the photos on display or the view from the picture windows. Many of the photos are printed on canvas and are also displayed on the the balcony, where a swing hangs from a large tree that reaches up to the second floor. This is the perfect way to view photos about Italian scenes: on a swing overlooking the azure waters of the sea and breathing in the air sweet with the smell of blooming wisteria and lemon trees. I am not sure why not more galleries or museums embrace the idea of fresh air and a view in their exhibit space (for the pieces that can withstand the light and elements).
To fit the theme of “memories in the wind,” many of the canvas prints are actually hung on a clotheslines interspersed with laundry: t-shirts, bras, pants, and stockings. The exhibit plays with the popular motive for tourist photos: laundry drying on the clotheslines in small and picturesque Italian alleys.
I enjoyed the photos but I loved the way they were displayed. I doubt that I would have been as excited about them if they would not have been fluttering in the wind with the Mediterranean Sea in the background and the smell of lemons in the air.
If you are in Sorrento, I highly recommend stopping by the gallery – no matter whether you come foremost for the photos or the view. Unfortunately, neither the website for the gallery nor the posters at the gallery list any opening hours, but the website includes a phone number. The artist, Raffaele Celentano, was in the gallery when I visited and explained his photos and inspirations for the exhibit in fluent German. The website also lets you visit the gallery virtually and “walk” around the space and see many of the pieces.