The collection of Modern Mosaics, on display on the ground floor of the City’s Art Museum – Loggetta Lombardesca, is the result of a brilliant initiative by professor Giuseppe Bovini, lecturer in Christian Archaeology at the University of Bologna, who wanted to promote the refined technique of Ravenna’s mosaicists, by applying it to contemporary art.
As early as 1951, Bovini had already convinced the Mosaicist Group of the Academy of Ravenna, to make a new life-size presentation of the famous Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna’s basilicas. These were taken to the major European capital cities, in an itinerant exhibition, with the aim of popularizing the mosaic art of Ravenna.
Following this positive experience, Bovini decided to contact the best contemporary artists, asking them to create sketches of works to be created in mosaic: a combination of pictorial art and mosaic art in which the special features of the latter would be respected. The initiative was fulfilled, thanks to several civic institutions, among which the Rotary club of Ravenna, the Chamber of Commerce, the Provincial Administration of Ravenna, which are still owning institutions.
The choice of the candidates was made in collaboration with Giulio Carlo Argan and Palma Bucarelli and included representatives from various artistic currents: Afro, Santomaso, Corpora, Moreni, Vedova, Birolli, Cagli, Campigli, Capogrossi, Cassinari, Deluigi, Gentilini, Guttuso, Mirko, Paulucci, Saetti, Reggiani and foreign artists, including Chagall, Sandquist and Mathieu.
The master mosaicists who created the sketches were: Cicognani, Medici, Molducci, Morigi, Musiani, Papa, Rocchi, Signorini, all from the Mosaic Workshop directed by Giuseppe Salietti. Mathieu and Deluigi avoided the preparatory cardboard stage, by personally creating the mosaic with the help of some of the mosaicists in the group. The “Exhibition of Modern Mosaics” was inaugurated on 7 June 1959 and, due to the high quality of the works and the prestigious artists, is considered one of the most illustrious examples of artwork produced in the second half of the twentieth century. It was a fundamental experiment in the possibility of combining the language of contemporary art with the expressive approach of mosaic.
The collection also shows the modernity of the autonomous mosaic works, free from the traditional architectural use, allowing a more direct relationship with the chromatic and tactile attraction of the tesserae.