Giuseppe Penone. Ideas of Stone – 1372 kg of Light
When: 04.04.2018 - 07.10.2018
Where: Great Courtyard of the Winter Palace, Hermitage, Saint-Petersburg, Russia
Giuseppe Penone was born in 1947 in the northern Italian municipality of Garessio. He is a prominent member of the Italian Arte Povera movement. From the very outset of his career in the late 1960s, the main theme of his works has been nature. Penone’s creations are traditionally displayed not only in museums, but also in parks and public gardens, in a reflection of the global tendency in the second half of the 20th century for art to move outside the walls of museums. In 1989, Giuseppe Penone was shortlisted for the prestigious Turner Prize and in 2007 he represented Italy at the 52nd Venice Biennale. His works were featured at dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel in 2012 and the following year he had a large individual exhibition at Versailles. In 2014 the artist was awarded the Praemium Imperiale Award for Contemporary Sculpture by the Japan Art Association.
The sculpture Ideas of Stone – 1372 kg of Light (Idee di pietra — 1372 Kg di luce) was created in 2010 and employs the main artistic image in Giuseppe Penone’s oeuvre – the tree. Set up in the Great Courtyard, the bronze sculpture combines harmoniously with the Baroque façades of the Winter Palace, while merging with the living nature in the central garden. The placement of the work emphasizes the idea of Penone’s search for correlations between the human being and nature. The sculpture is at the same time placed in the area of the garden and interacts with people not only as museum visitors, but also as contemplators of the natural world. The artist turns his attention not only on the object itself, but also on the external setting with which it interacts. This sort of consideration for context was introduced into art by the Arte Povera movement. The growing tree here resists the force exerted by the mass of the river stones as a reflection of the idea of a balance in nature, forcing the stones to float in weightlessness.
At the opening of his exhibition, Giuseppe Penone stated: “This is the resistance of the force of gravity to the force of light. It is a story about time, about the memory of time. The tree in this instance is some living being that possesses a tremendous memory.”
In his work Giuseppe Penone skilfully manipulates nature, breaking it down into component elements and completely recreating it afresh. He seems to offer two views of the world – the everyday and the creative. Penone seeks to bring out the kinship between a human being and the environment. Intervening in the growth process, the Italian artist modifies living organisms: he makes the trunks of trees intertwine and their crowns take on a predetermined shape, seeking to understand whether a person can change the organic world, leaving a mark upon it. The artist’s oeuvre cannot be reduced to simple studies of human influence on trees; he also imitates the very essence of nature, understood as the capacity to create, by translating his experiments with living entities into bronze.
The curators are Dmitry Ozerkov, Head of the State Hermitage’s Department of Contemporary Art, Yelisei Zakharenkov and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev.
On 3 April 2018, as part of an educational programme organized by the State Hermitage’s Youth Centre (headed by Sophia Kudriavtseva), an encounter with the artist Giuseppe Penone and the curators Dmitry Ozerkov and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev took place in the Atrium of the General Staff building. The participants discussed the installation, the idea, its implementation and the conceptual ties with the setting of the Winter Palace.