16.12.2020   |  Art And About Africa

Fondazione Imago Mundi | Art from the world

Imago Mundi, with its evocative name, is a project conceived by the businessman Luciano Benetton, through which he realized his passions: traveling as a source of knowledge of the world and art as a key to interpreting our times.


Mr. Benetton’s interest in less known cultures and young talents moved him to start the project around ten years ago with the purpose of creating a map of the contemporary art world. Purpose made it clear by the meaning of the chosen name.
In fact, Imago Mundi relates to the cataloging of Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist and naturalist who collected and classified plants from continents, giving them names in Latin so they could be identified wherever they grow.
In this way, the Imago Mundi project consists of a sort of encyclopedic showcase where different artists, from all over the world, can exhibit their works.

Its first exhibition was a collateral event at the 55th Biennale d’Arte in Venice, in 2013, where five collections were shown. Now Imago Mundi has reached over 26,000 artists and more than 160 collections, representing each one a nation or a native community internationally (from Asia to North, South and Central America, from Europe to Oceania).

The artists’ selection is committed to a curator – an art expert, museum director or artist -, who knows the local art scene and invites the artists to join the project: the artists are both established names as well as emerging talents and are also specialized in different artistic fields (painting, photography, architecture, sculpture, literature and music).
“Ojo Latino” is the name of the first collection after which Imago Mundi decided to enhance the collected works by publishing a catalogue about South America and artworks from the countries of this continent and organize an exhibition. These forms of promotion and visibility have been maintained for all collections, and others have been added, such as online communication through the site, social networks and Google Art & Culture. Now the catalogues are dedicated to a single country or native community, containing all the works and biographies of the artists, introduced by experts, published in three languages: Italian, English and the local language of reference.
As of now, there are 161 catalogues, as well as the collections.

According to the spirit of this project, all the artists involved are on the same line: nobody is considered more than others because the fundamental idea is that every single canvas is a piece of an immense mosaic. Everyone contributes to providing a democratic global vision of our world, working in total freedom without any specific guidelines to follow except to respect the given dimensions 10×12 cm. Artists can space through media and materials [… from photography to graphic design, from collage to sculpture and video, …] and often they are able to reflect the different realities of their countries or native communities, embodying their particular spirit.

Thanks to the activities of the Fondazione Imago Mundi, the historical building Gallerie delle Prigioni, in Treviso, open to the public in 2018, inaugurated as an exhibition space: the aim is to bring international contemporary art to a wider audience, as a platform and a laboratory which reunites artists from different countries for experimenting, dialoguing and exchanging ideas together.
The building itself has a long history behind it: it’s a former Habsburg prison, built in the first half of the 19th century and remained in use until after the Second World War when the prison facility was transferred to another building. From then on, the old Habsburg prison was used as an archive for the law court and it was only with this restoration, that the building was opened to the public.
The restoration by the architect Tobia Scarpa changed the building soul from a place of closure and suffering into an art space full of light and colours. While preserving at the same time the old inscriptions on the walls and the frescoes in the former prison’s infirmary have been preserved and restored.

Currently, at the Gallerie delle Prigioni, a new exhibition is on called “When the Globe is Home”, which presents also the two collections “Art Theorema”, curated by Claudio Scorretti and Irina Ungureanu: this project has involved almost 400 international artists (from Eastern to Western Europe, from African nations to Australia, Canada and the United States, from Latin America to the Caribbean, from Central Asia to the Middle and Far East), trying to research new global creativity by exploring new forms of local art traditions through contents and media: a new concept of “unity in diversity” expressed artistically, that can also represent the essence of the principles of Imago Mundi’s plural art.

We can notice that the lockdown experience has given new power to the meaning of this exhibition which title was conceived before the pandemic, connecting the World and Home through a design which transformed each of the individual “cells” of Gallerie delle Prigioni into a sort of “home”: an intimate and familiar space where artists can express their vision.
“When the Globe is Home” also gave visibility to the artworks by 13 international artists selected from the Imago Mundi Art Theorema collections, focused on the main idea of a mutual relationship between the concept of “Home” and “the World”, in terms of global and local, near and far, the collective and the individual.

Even if the pandemic represented a serious setback for all world, upsetting our lives, our rituals, and routines, in this case, Fondazione Imago Mundi has been able to adapt to the course of these events: its activities are now available as online initiatives open to all, such as a series of talks on Facebook and Instagram pages or workshops and guided virtual tours to the exhibition now at Prigioni, held on Zoom.

To reach a wider public, made not only of art experts, Imago Mundi has launched “Blah blah blah Conversations on Contemporary Art”: it’s a series of talks which involves artists from all over the world in 20-minute conversations between artists and experts (scholars, critics, professors, journalists) to talk about research, experimentation, dialogue, cultural connections, from contemporary art to topics of general interests.
Besides, there’s the possibility to attend some workshops, “The Online Art Atelier”, made of different lessons and addressed to a specific target. The first one, consisting of 4 lessons, was dedicated to African Art, with the speech of Beya Gille Gacha, an artist of Cameroonian descent living Paris, whose artworks mix influences of African classicism and Western art.

In conclusion, through the example offered by the Imago Mundi project, we can see how art is strong enough to face even the darkest times thanks to its creative and expressive force, which allows it to reinvent its forms and ways of being similar to humans with their adaptability.


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