Entitled Foglie di Pietra (Leaves of Stone), Giuseppe Penone’s monumental sculpture was unveiled on 22 May at 8 o’clock in the evening in Largo Goldoni where it will be permanently stationed, opposite Palazzo FENDI. The installation, which is one of Penone’s most complex featuring two bronze trees with interlacing branches that hold up a sculpted marble block, reinforces the fashion brand’s connection to Rome. A gift to the city, the donation marks the first permanent public installation in Rome of a major work of contemporary art. A key figure in the history of contemporary art, since his early relationship to Arte Povera, the Italian avant-garde movement of the 1960s, Penone has established himself as one of the greatest contemporary sculptors internationally.
The work was revealed following the solo exhibition of Giuseppe Penone: Matrice, hosted at the Maison’s headquarters at the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, one of Rome’s iconic buildings boasting New Classical and Fascist architecture. The exhibition and site-specific installation takes place after FENDI’s majestic restoration of the Trevi Fountain as well as an additional five fountains, and the opening to the public of the first floor of its headquarters at Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana. The current exhibition and installation of Foglie di Pietra were devised by a specially formed joint committee, comprising the Directorate General for Contemporary Art and architecture and urban suburbs of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, the City of Rome – Superintendence of Cultural Heritage for Rome, together with FENDI and Massimiliano Gioni, curator of the exhibition.
Executed in 2016, Foglie di Pietra features two bronze trees – 18 and 9 metre-tall respectively. The branches of these two trees are interlaced with a block of sculpted marble replicating classically styled reliefs and weighing 11 tonnes. Here, nature in its purest form is coupled with archaeology, ruins, history and even biology in a work of art that effectively offers a permanent bond between nature and culture. The piece recalls the illusionism and marvel of Baroque Rome, while the fragments of ruins inserted in the branches of the sculpture are reminiscent of the Classic and Medieval era. Not only does the sculpture pay tribute to the city of Rome but also celebrates the link between human time and that of nature. Here, in the contemporary age a romantic call to the past — a nostalgic cry for the beauty of the ancient world — is preserved through an exceptional work of art.
Giuseppe Penone: Matrice runs until 16 July 2017 at Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana in Rome, Italy.