Giuseppe Penone, 2013 © Archivio Penone
In the spring and summer of 2022, The Frick Collection will present a one-room installation by Italian artist Giuseppe Penone (b. 1947) at the museum’s temporary home, Frick Madison. Displayed in the broader context of the museum’s decorative arts and Old Master paintings and sculpture, this unprecedented exhibition by the acclaimed Arte Povera artist is the first to feature his work in the medium of porcelain. Consisting of eleven disks created during a 2013 collaboration with the Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory in France, works never before shown publicly, this project invites a dialogue with the Frick’s rich holdings in the medium. Penone’s series of disks will be shown on the third floor in concert with a nearby gallery featuring eighteenth-century porcelains by several renowned manufactories. Propagazioni: Giuseppe Penone at Sèvres is organized by Giulio Dalvit, the Frick’s Assistant Curator of Sculpture, and will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue authored by Dalvit, with an introduction by Xavier F. Salomon, Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator.
The Frick’s porcelain holdings have increased dramatically in recent years through acquisitions of works from the Sèvres, Meissen, and Du Paquier manufactories. Correspondingly, the museum’s activities reflect this abiding focus through exhibitions, publications, and programming. Comments Ian Wardropper, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Director, “It has been a pleasure to deepen our perspective on ceramics through selected collaborations with contemporary artists, as we did in 2016–17 with Arlene Shechet and in 2019 with Edmund de Waal. We are thrilled that Giuseppe Penone’s series of Propagazioni offers us a third such opportunity, one that can be enjoyed in close proximity to the third-floor porcelain gallery at Frick Madison, which many cite as a highlight of our new installation. Our presentation of Penone’s group of beautiful objects—some of the largest ever successfully fired at Sèvres—will further illustrate the expressive potential this fine medium has for artists and museums.”
Adds Xavier F. Salomon, Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator, “The lyrical works Penone created at Sèvres respond to the longstanding tradition of the most important porcelain manufactory in France. Notable pieces from Sèvres are among the masterpieces of decorative arts at the Frick, and this exhibition, building on the strengths of previous projects, establishes a direct connection between our collection and the work of a significant artist active today.”
Sculptor Giuseppe Penone created this remarkable group of porcelain disks as a continuation of his Propagazioni (Propagations) series in various media, begun in 1995. Made by hand, the disks involve a production process stretching over long periods of time and reward close and prolonged viewing. Each of ten white porcelain disks features the imprint of one of Penone’s fingers in black ink; the eleventh disk is a variation, rendered in gold. Thin lines extend concentrically from the fingerprint at the center of each disk, resembling the ripple effect in water or the rings that mark a tree’s annual growth. Propagazioni brings together a number of themes that run through the artist’s work, most importantly his relationship to nature and the mutable definition of sculpture. Focusing on skin as the site of contact between humans and the natural environment, these objects call into question the boundaries between drawing and sculpture and between art and nature.
As Mr. Penone describes, “When Sèvres asked me to collaborate with them, I simply turned over one of the manufactory’s products, a dish, and asked them to produce convex disks. This required a complex operation given the fluidity of porcelain at high firing temperatures. The prints of my fingers and the drawings I executed for each of the disks were then completed with skillful mastery by the decorators accustomed to the precision and detail that Sèvres porcelain requires. With these works, I wanted to epitomize the complexity of the great tradition to which Sèvres belongs—a tradition whose point of departure, the dish or bowl, is the very first container produced by a human being impressing their hand into a mound of clay.”
Principal support for Propagazioni: Giuseppe Penone at Sèvres is provided by Gagosian. Additional funding is generously provided by Agnes Gund, Jane Richards, Kathleen Feldstein, and an anonymous gift.
About Giuseppe Penone
Giuseppe Penone is a key figure of Arte Povera, a seminal post-war art movement born in Italy in the 1960s that challenges the restraints of traditional art, especially in terms of materials. Over decades, he has used materials found in nature, such as tree trunks, thorns, water, rocks, and leaves, to investigate a number of involuntary human processes—such as respiration, growth, and aging—through sculpture, performance, works on paper, and photography. He is best known for large-scale sculptures of trees as metaphors for memory and the absorption of knowledge and experience.
Penone’s works have been featured in solo exhibitions and installations at the Galleria degli Uffizi (2021), the Louvre Abu Dhabi (2017), the Rijksmuseum (2016), the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas (2015), the Beirut Art Center (2014), the Château de Versailles (2013), Madison Square Park in New York City (2013), and the Whitechapel Gallery in London (2013), among many other sites. Penone is the recipient of the McKim Medal (2017) and the prestigious Praemium Imperiale of Japan (2014). He has been invited many times to show works at both documenta and the Venice Biennale. In 2020, Penone made major gifts of works on paper to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and to the Centre Pompidou, Paris. In the fall of 2022, both institutions will present comprehensive exhibitions of drawings and related sculptures by the artist.
About The Frick Collection and Frick Madison
Internationally recognized as a premier museum and research center, The Frick Collection is known for its distinguished Old Master paintings and outstanding examples of European sculpture and decorative arts. The collection originated with Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919), who bequeathed his home, paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts to the public for their enjoyment. The institution’s holdings—which encompass masterworks from the Renaissance through the nineteenth century—have grown over the decades, more than doubling in size since the opening of the museum in 1935. A critical component of the institution is the Frick Art Reference Library, founded in 1920 by Helen Clay Frick, daughter of the museum’s founder. Recognized as one of the world’s top art history research centers, it has served students, scholars, and members of the public free of charge for generations.
The Frick’s historic buildings are currently closed for renovation. Honoring the Frick’s architectural legacy, the plan designed by Selldorf Architects will provide unprecedented access to the 1914 residence, while preserving the intimate visitor experience and beloved galleries. The plan will create new spaces for the display of art, conservation, education, and programs, while improving amenities and overall accessibility.
During the renovation, the museum and library collections remain accessible five blocks north at Frick Madison, the Marcel Breuer–designed building that was once the home of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Audiences may enjoy a substantial gathering of highlights from the Frick, reframed in a setting that inspires fresh perspectives. In a departure from the Frick’s customary presentation style, works are organized at Frick Madison chronologically and by region, allowing for fresh juxtapositions and new insights about treasured paintings and sculptures by Bellini, Clodion, Gainsborough, Goya, Holbein, Houdon, Ingres, Piero della Francesca, Rembrandt, Titian, Turner, Velázquez, Vermeer, Whistler, and many others. The installation also spotlights the Frick’s impressive holdings of decorative arts and sculpture, as well as rarely seen works.
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Reading room: Access is offered by appointment Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. For further information, visit frick.org/tickets.