The Great Mother, an exhibition about the creative power of women in the arts

Until November 15

photo credits: @HannahHoch; @DorotheaLange; @OscarBony)
"The Great Mother",(La Grande Madre in Italian), an exhibition conceived and produced by the Nicola Trussardi Foundation and the Royal Palace for Expo in the City 2015, has opened on August 26 in Milan promoted by the City of Milan. With works of art by 127 internationally famous artists, "The Great Mother" analyzes the iconography and representations of the female condition and maternity in art from the futuristic avant-garde, the Dadaists and the Surrealists, to the feminist artists of the 1970s, to the present time.


The generative power of women in art and society

The exhibition, curated by Massimiliano Gioni and at the heart of the Expo in the city program, will be an occasion to delve into the subject of the woman as an incarnation of the idea of nutrition, the central theme of Expo Milano 2015, but also to reflect on the presence of the female figure in society, thanks to an exhibit that will cover about 2,000 square yards in the Palazzo Reale.

"There are many works on the theme of Expo Milano 2015, images where it is the planet that feeds us, and this ecological perspective could be deeply linked to the subject of maternity: mothers are more sensitive to the generosity of the earth," explains Gioni. "In the photography of Ana Mendieta we see, for example, the artist immerse herself and hide herself in the earth, return to the earth: they are strong images, rich with mythological and ecological associations." The show will be further enriched by video installations and a series of valuable photographs. Among the artists represented will be Giannina Censi, Marisa Mori, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Frida Kahlo, Dora Maar, Maria Maiolino, Yoko Ono, Barbara Kruger and Cindy Sherman.


From the myth of the mechanical woman to the emancipated woman

There will be depictions of maternity that characterized the 1900s, the strained family relationships and cultural transformations that ran through the previous century, the myth of the mechanical woman of Dadaist impressions, the symbolism and the groundbreaking works by feminist artists of the 1960s and 1970s. "Perhaps the most widespread and dangerous cliche' of women in art history is her passive representation. During the 1900s, many stereotypes and myths were pursued: the femme fatale or the muse," says the curator. "These are especially important examples at the beginning of the century, including in the avant-garde art world that was imagining new societies and new sexual roles. I hope that our exhibit will tell the story of the emergence of more complex and rich visions of the woman."

"I especially asked myself whether and how much talking about mothers and women is legitimate, as if being a woman were always necessarily tied to maternity," Gioni states. "A large part of the show, especially in the parts concentrating on the beginning of the 1900s, tell of women who are trying to flee the oppressive expectations projected on them by the family, tradition and the state."


Contemporary art by women gives and transforms life

"In many ancient civilizations, the Mother Goddess was often a deity who protected harvests and the earth, thus fertility and nutrition are intimately tied to the mother figure, not only on an individual level, but also on the plane of religion and culture," the curator explains. "Many of these aspects are more or less translated in the show. In various historic moments, the image of the Great Mother has been used by many artists to take hold of a new sense of power and strength, a female strength in which power is exercised not simply as violence but more as the ability to give and transform life." The show is part of a rich program from the Nicola Trussardi Foundation, which has been involved for more than ten years in the production and promotion of contemporary art, as shown by the recent promotion of the work, the Wheat field, a land art by the American artist Agnes Denes, a field growing grain in Milan's Porta Nuova area made in collaboration with the Riccardo Catella Foundation and Confagricoltura, inaugurated on April 11 by Giuseppe Sala, Commissioner of the Italian Government for Expo Milano 2015.