Eterna primavera
Catherine Viviano, Irene Brin, and Italian art’s conquest of Hollywood
in Republics and empires
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This chapter addresses the emerging interest in and market for contemporary Italian art in the United States, a trend that helped change the perception of Italy in the 1950s. During the first decade after World War II, known as the Reconstruction period, Italy appeared to the world as an impoverished and devastated country. But starting in the mid-1950s, as the national economy expanded with the help of Marshall Plan money, and a large portion of the country transformed into a consumer society, a new image emerged – the so-called ‘new Italy’, aided by the miracolo economico (the Italian economic miracle) – which signalled a modern glamour and international sophistication. This chapter argues that contemporary art played a crucial role in shaping and changing Italy’s international image. By the mid-1950s, the prestige and visibility of Italian modernist art was on the increase due to a constellation of exhibitions held in the United States. Some had been organised by important Roman gallerists like Irene Brin and Catherine Viviano, who took shows like Eterna primavera: Young Italian Painters (1954) to New York and other American cities. Other exhibitions, like Twentieth-Century Italian Art, the first of its kind to survey modern Italian art, was curated by Alfred H. Barr, Jr and James Thrall Soby for the Museum of Modern Art in 1949. Simultaneously, Hollywood’s growing interest in everything Italian engendered collaborations with Cinecittà, often featuring modern Italian art in its contemporary films, and fabricating a glamourous and international ‘made in Italy’ cultural product.

Republics and empires

Italian and American art in transnational perspective, 1840–1970

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