Thursday, May 26, 2011

"It's just a little hunting hideaway": the Venaria Reale outside of Turin and the current "Bella Italia" exhibit

"Oh, it's just a little hideaway for hunting." It might have started out like that for the dukes of Savoy, but, chosen to be kings in 1861, their ideas for the Venaria Reale ("Royal Hunting Lodge") became much more Versailles-like...More......


For those who love gardens, these last 10+ years have been time enough for the French-inspired layout (our guide explained: Italian-style geometry plus French-style panoramas stretching into the distance giving the impression--here's my interpretation--of literally being rulers of all as far as the eye can see) to fill in and for the plants--researched for authenticity--to regain sufficient vigor to make a visit very pleasurable. There is a little restaurant for a meal, or just refreshments. (HINT: there are umbrellas at the entryway, take one, rain or shine: we may be in northern Italy, but it got VERY hot, and I sorely wished I had taken the guide's advice.)

The roses already are lovely--all white for purity--and almost completely cover the arbor by now.

Interspersed in the garden are contemporary art installations (more are planned). This one by Giuseppe Penone was a surprisingly enchanting combination of tradition--it looks like just any ol' reflecting pool, itself reminiscent of pools stocked with fish for the household's tables--and innovation: every few minutes what first looked like breeze ruffles on the water's surface (what? on an airless day? how's that happening?) gel, become the thumbprint of the artist, and melt away as fast as it appeared.

The buildings, stripped of their furnishings legitimately and not by sundry, are being reopened little by little. Furniture that had gone "awandering" is being recovered. For now, the structures host temporary exhibits.

Currently, there is "Bella Italia" ("Beautiful Italy") running until the 11th of September, which presents a panorama of Italian history, from the ancient Roman empire up to the Unification under the Savoy. Some of the works are masterpieces (you'll be sorry to miss them, while visiting their usual locations), others are less important artistically, but do their bit to take the visitor, step-by-step, through the millennia of history. The overall plan of the exhibit was a stab at being interesting, though difficult to manoeuvre (unnecessary dead-ends in relatively small spaces made working against the rush of oncoming visitors like being a salmon going upstream) and to interpret. I thought the "stone walls" were crumbling, but the guide said they were intended to seem "in construction," better suited to the "Italy in the making" theme. Splashing the section titles on them in large 19th-century style writing as if revolution-inspired graffiti was a fresh (though discutable) choice, but a very VERY bad choice for the typically small and low-placed labels for the individual art works.

First note to museum staff: please wake up. A large percentage of your visitors are of reading glasses-wearing age ('s very annoying) let alone vision-impaired, and some of them are even taller than a meter/yard (that was sarcasm, in case you hadn't noticed), so please do labels in very large print and put them high enough so a visitor of average height doesn't have to do calisthenics, risking an attack of lumbago from which it would be difficult to straighten up, in order to read them.

Second note to museum staff: please wake up (again). We all produce trash. Have been doing so since mammals emerged and humanoids began loping across plains. What would archaeology be without it? Trash even can be recycled to save resources and used to generate much needed energy. But do we have to have those ugly bins pushed into our faces right at the entryway to the museum's courtyard? I think I see an enormous billboard behind which they could have been hidden (that's more sarcasm, could you tell?).

Thinking caps, folks, thinking caps. Sometimes it's just a question of a few yards, or minutes, that make all the difference in the world.

The Venaria Reale is located just outside of Turin, and is easily reachable by bus. Even without seeing the temporary exhibits, it's well worth the trip, but plan at least an ample half-day for it.

I shot these photos on the 11th of May just before and after a tasty lunch in their little restaurant.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...