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A haven of Italian art along the Hudson

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On a windy Saturday last month, Vittorio Calabrese, the director of Magazzino Italian Art Cold Spring Museum, NY, stood on stage in the courtyard to present the last event of the summer, a concert by musician Sam Reider and his band The Human Hands.

The sun was starting to set and a few stragglers from the sold-out crowd found their place. Most of the spectators were casually dressed in denim jackets and oversized oxford shirts. But Mr Calabrese, from Irpinia, Italy, wore a blue suit, moccasins and, for a touch of sprezzatura, the Italian concept of nonchalant style, striped socks with several inches visible. Mr. Reider, he said, was going to play a song inspired by Ennio Morricone in the tradition of the American murderous ballad.

It wasn’t exactly “Volare”, but that was never the purpose of the foundation. “The biggest challenge is to avoid stereotypes about Italy,” Calabrese said. “People think they will find Renaissance art, Baroque art, or ancient art, but we are not – and Italy is not – what the average American would think. Most of this art was unknown in this country.

The foundation, located about an hour’s drive north of Manhattan, is dedicated to post-war Italian art, starting with the Arte Povera movement that began in Turin in the 1960s and continuing with contemporary artists.

“We don’t have paintings, and we don’t have figuration,” said Mr. Calabrese, who lives in Beacon, NY, and the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn.

Instead, visitors will find Bruna Esposito’s ‘Altri Venti-Ostro’, a play about air conditioning and city life in the form of an outdoor gazebo made of bamboo canes, hemp rope and boat propellers. “Il cielo e dintorni” by Giulio Paolini consists of 18 white flags printed with representations of the sky, imagined by artists from the Renaissance to the present day, including Yves Klein, JMW Turner and Raphael. There is a giant glass vignette of Giuseppe Penone.

Magazzino was designed and founded by Giorgio Spanu, an investor who grew up in Sardinia, and Nancy Olnick, from a family in real estate development in Manhattan.

“On our third date, he invited me over to his place for dinner,” Ms. Olnick said. “I bring this wine, and he says, ‘Where did you find this wine? book by a French museologist. “And he started to prepare this meal that was exquisite – the wine, the meal and the discussion,” Ms. Olnick said.

Together, they’ve collected enough Italian art to fill a private museum. Magazzino opened in June 2017 with an exhibition of Margherita Stein’s contributions to Arte Povera. During the pandemic, their home programming included a streaming discussion “BLAQ • IT: Representing Blackness in Italy” with researcher Fred Kuwornu.

Before the concert, there was an aperitif hour, as we do in Italy. “We are finding ways to engage with artists beyond the visual arts,” Spanu said, as he examined the spread of tomato jam, goat cheese and flatbread pies and tall glasses of various spritzes.

The first clue that Magazzino, which means warehouse in Italian, isn’t a place visitors will find Da Vincis may be the building itself: a 20,000-square-foot brutalist concrete space designed by the Spanish architect. Miguel Quismondo with eight galleries, a courtyard for concerts and film screenings, and a research center.

It is also home to 16 miniature Sardinian donkeys that serve as a sort of mascot, most with Italian names beginning with “D” for donkey: Dino, Donatella. Mr. Calabrese noted that donkeys are the best way to get children to behave in a museum. Donkeys live an exhilarated existence, snuggling up to each other, being cooed by visitors and eating hay from a sculpture by Namsal Siedlecki called “Trevis Maponos”, forged from coins thrown into the fountain of Trevi in ​​Rome.

Yet Mr. Calabrese wanted Magazzino to be more than striking architecture and friendly donkeys. “Our big challenge,” he said, “is to change the image of Italy.”

As the group played modern folk songs, accompanied by saxophones and accordions, the setting sun bounced off the concrete walls. Mrs. Olnick, Mr. Spanu and Mr. Calabrese were seated in the front row, delighted.

Even though the foundation has been open for four years (minus a pandemic lockdown), it seems its reputation for a chic day trip from the city (it offers a free shuttle from Cold Spring station) was just starting to take hold. to melt.

Soon they will inaugurate a new pavilion with room for another gallery and a café. Magazzino is surrounded by lemon and apple orchards and a mix of Mediterranean and local flora.

“People ask to get married here once a week,” Calabrese said.


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