place Denfert-Rochereau, Paris
a photographic journey to discover the life of Amedeo Modigliani
The exhibit “The places of Modigliani. Tra Livorno e Parigi” is not a mere photographic exhibition. Its main aim is not that of showing the work of a photographer, rather that of telling, through daily life’s anecdotes and images of places today considered trivial and banal, the existence of one of the greatest artists of the european 20th Century.
The history and endeavor of Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), sometimes unlikely mythicized, is made of bistrot, streets, palaces, cafè, places, narrow ateliers, locations full of life and culture.
This is the reason why we wanted to retrace Modigliani’s itineraries in Livorno and Paris, inspecting how – and how much – such places changed in about a century of social, urban, economical and cultural transformations.
The exhibit, half way between a documentary and a reportage, illustrates how globalization sometimes wiped out culture in order to make place for banks, insurance agencies and restaurants. Some other times, instead leaving it to a condition of decay and neglect, or rather – on the opposite – to touristic policies whose only aim – or “fault” - is to undertone the once unique atmosphere of a location, making it a mere attraction for the quick getaway travelers.
For these reasons this exhibit is meant to be an homage to Amedeo Modigliani, to Paris and to Livorno, two completely different cities from many points of view, geographically far, but that still gave a lot to our “Dedo”. From fame to dishonor, from misery to wealth, from pain to love, from life to death.
In 2020 the project becomes multimedia and interactive. If you use a smartphone during your visit with an app that reads QR CODES, you can fully experience the atmospheres of Modigliani’s places and discover many curiosities.
Livorno, by the end of the 19th century counted around 100.000 inhabitants and was one of the biggest and most developped cities of Italy.
The trade business, especially the port's trades, were particularly florid and the city was experiencing centuries of uninterrupted economical and cultural development.
What Modigliani – briefly – lived was probably the last “gold” period of his city culture wise; the II World War led Livorno to an abrupt downfall from which it was never able to raise again.
The years between 19th and 20th century were those of Livorno as a seaside resort capital of the Belle Epoque, of Aldo Palazzeschi's summers at Bagni Pancaldi, of the first advertising bills (Leonetto Cappiello was from Livorno), Livorno prided itself for having more than 10 theaters, and in 1989 even the Lumière brothers choose as first stop-over of their european “tour” of their cinematograph. But Modigliani wanted more. In Livorno painting had a halt with the Macchiaioli, and he “couldn't stand” the landscape. Indeed it was also for this reason that Dedo left in 1906, heading to Paris, and ventured in a blind travel, but still full of hope and incredible dreams.
When Amedeo Modigliani arrived at Gare de Lyon in 1906, a fantastic new world, unknown till that day, appeared in front of his eyes. Paris, twenty-six hours of travel by train far from Livorno, had at the time almost three million inhabitants, and at Dedo's eyes the immense boulevards, the horse-omnibus, the trams, the noise of the first motor vehicles, the bistrot, the grey roofs, the crowds, had for sure remembered him of a Victor Hugo's novel. The ville lumière was lightened by 9622 lamppost and 500.000 light bulbs. Paris was the arts' european capital and Amedeo maybe didn't even know from where to start. The museums, the Salon des Independants, the Universal Exhibitions, the Louvre, the arts' galleries, the cafè's life... Everything for him was fresh and new.At that time the artistic life was still enclosed in the “suburban” district of Montmartre, where the Impressionists found their accommodations – and success – and where the avant-gardes' exponents, among which Pablo Picasso, Gino Severini, and Costantin Brancusi, used to frequent and start to experiment the first important steps of new pictorial styles. Only later, around the end of the first decade, Montparnasse became the new artists' district, at the exact opposite side of Paris' city center. And it is right there that Modigliani became a sort of myth, a legendary figure, appreciated by few and snubbed by too many.
In Paris Dedo loved beautiful and rich women, as well as models and prostitutes. He lived an unrestrained and poor life, embracing perfectly the bohémien style typical of the artists of such period.
Modigliani missed his city – and the toasts “to Livorno” made a proof of it – its light, the marine breeze, the 5&5 (bread and chickpea pie), the “cee” (eels' newborns), but Paris inevitably became his “reign”, the place that will change him forever and shape his artistic path.