The Unexpected Subject. 1978 Art and Feminism in Italy
Curated by Marco Scotini and Raffaella Perna
FM Centre for Contemporary Art, Milan
16 April – 26 May 2018

The exhibition proposes for the first time a wide-ranging investigation and a precise reconstruction of the relationship between visual arts and feminist movement in Italy, identifying in 1978 the catalyst year of all energies in play (not only in Italy).

In 1978, with the exhibition Materialization of Language curated by Mirella Bentivoglio, almost eighty women artists – including Tomaso Binga, Irma Blank, Maria Lai, Lucia Marcucci, Giulia Niccolai, Anna Oberto, Mira Schendel, Patrizia Vicinelli – make their entrance to the Venice Biennale for the first time, loudly claiming space and visibility in a place traditionally very difficult for women to conquer.

In the same edition of the Biennale, an anthological exhibition was dedicated to Ketty La Rocca, one of the leading figures of the Italian neo-avant-garde, deceased in 1976 aged 38 years, now part of important collections such as MoMA and Centre Pompidou. At the Magazzini del Sale, the Biennale also gave space to the “Immagine” group of Varese and the “Women / Image / Creativity” group of Naples.

An important section of The Unexpected Subject, created in collaboration with the MART Museum of Trento and Rovereto, will therefore be dedicated to the figure of Mirella Bentivoglio and her Donation of Visual Poetry to MART, including many of the artists present at the 1978 Biennale.

This year also marks the closing of some important experiences related to art and women’s movement. In 1978 the group Cooperativa Beato Angelico in Rome, the first artistic space entirely run by women, interrupted its activities. This group was fueled by an important artist, Carla Accardi (after the end of her collaboration with Carla Lonzi). But 1978 is also the year of the international feminist seminar Comrade Woman: Women’s Question – A New Approach? in Belgrade and the first feminist exhibition in Wroclaw, Poland, First International Women’s Art Exhibition organized by Natalia LL. Many international women artists worked in Italy in those same years: Marina Abramović, Sanja Iveković, Gina Pane, Rebecca Horn, etc.

Still in 1978, Romana Loda, curator and gallerist of Brescia, organized The Left Face of Art, the last of some landmark exhibitions organized throughout the decade, including Coazione a Mostrare and Magma, in which Italian women artists were presented together with the most significant artists of the European scene: Marina Abramović, Hanne Darboven, Gina Pane, VALIE EXPORT, Rebecca Horn, Natalia LL and many others.

The Unexpected Subject. 1978 Art and Feminism in Italy will present for the first time one of the most interesting scenes of experimental research in the 1970s to the international public, highlighting the centrality of women in the Italian art scene of that period, and their exchanges with the artistic panorama of Europe and beyond.

The exhibition criticizes the mainstream historical-critical view that relegates women artists to a marginal position. The selection will privilege artworks that demystify gender stereotypes and reflect on the role of women in society and in late capitalist culture.

Excerpt from curatorial text


 Photos by Antonio Maniscalco