small states on un-certain stereotypes

Interview to Leonardo Casadei - Director of Galleria d’Arte Moderna of San Marino (from 1980 to 1984)

San Marino, January 2010

LEONARDO CASADEI – My experience as director of the Modern Art Gallery came out of a need felt in that particular period. We were emerging from a culturally provincial politi-
cal environment, and the arrival of a new political coalition made it possible to enter a sphere that was more open to encouraging a new cultural context, dialogue, experimentation and the intellectual process, expressing a new energy and initia-
tive. The birth of the San Marino Artists’ Association, the foundation of the Department of Public Education and Culture, and a series of initiatives aimed at identifying artwork belonging to the state that had been acquired over the years for exhibitions, all created the need to found a specific institution for listing and archiving modern and contemporary art. Then there was also the need to develop a permanent exhibition space, and to highlight the value of a series of extremely significant
initiatives implemented in the ’60s, such as the San Marino Biennials. Events that continued to stir the dreams of San Marino artists and many art lovers who hoped to see
them repeated. This proved impossible, however, because the energy of those years was directed towards other interests; the project appeared too onerous, and did not justify compressing all the different initiatives that people wanted to realize into a
single event. So in 1980, the Modern Art Gallery of San Marino was founded, through the efforts of critic Mario Penelope—who had inventoried the works of contemporary art belonging to the state—and out of the political need to create a facility of this kind. (...)
RITA CANAREZZA – Could you tell us about the Mario Merz retrospective in 1983, an exhibition that you curated before the end of your term as director?
LC – Yes, it was the first large-scale exhibition: a retrospective of Mario Merz’s entire artistic output. Up to then, Merz had been featured in exhibitions around the world, but never exhaustive ones with his entire body of work. Still, the show was not con-
ceived as a classic anthology, but as an event that would interact with the space and be rounded out by a dedicated catalogue, investigating and analyzing all of the artist’s work. The combination of these two elements made it a success. The credit for this particularly goes to Germano Celant, who edited the catalogue and managed to balance the artist’s expectations with local resources. I remember that Merz was quite struck by the location of San Marino—the open, almost violent way it looks out towards the Adriatic, and the almost constant presence of the wind—to the point that he told me he felt like he was in a magical place. The installation of the work in Palazzo del Kursel was designed to create a one-of-a-kind exhibition layout, so that the space and the work would merge into a single entity. (interview extract)