The Apollo 11 moon landings were still over a year away when the Italian artist Fabio Mauri decided to recreate the moon’s surface at a seminal show in a Rome gallery. Here’s how our book Arte Povera book describes the event.
“In May 1968 the gallerist Plinio de Martiis presented the ‘Teatro delle Mostre’ (Theatre of Exhibitions), a month-long series of actions, performances and short exhibitions,” explains the book’s author Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. “Fabio Mauri created an environment, La Luna (The Moon), out of polystyrene balls. Pier Paolo Calzolari placed a large piece of red ice in a container; as it melted, drops of water fell into another vessel below, precipitating a billow of purple smoke. Alighiero Boetti invited the audience to make their own constellations by piercing a large piece of blue paper.
Emilio Prini’s action, Due oggetti di rimbalzo (Two rebounding objects) consisted of the artist walking around the room while reading two kinds of information: the conceptually complex sentences of an earlier work, Perimetro (Perimeter), in 1967, made up of letters punched into thin sheets of lead and placed on the floor in the corners of the room, and a simple list of names of people he had met on a train ride from Genoa to Rome.”
Heady stuff. Today, Teatro delle Mostre is seen as such an important contemporary art show, pioneering performance and installation art, that next month, the Frieze Art Fair has chosen to partially restage the show, as part of Frieze Projects.
The Teatro delle Mostre tribute at the New York fair on Randall's Island will feature a recreation of Mauri’s moon, as well as Giosetta Fioroni’s La Spia Ottica (Optical Spy), a kind of Peeping Tom set-up, where gallery-goers were invited to watch a woman in a mocked-up bedroom via a spy hole as she goes about her daily routine.
Contemporary US artists Ryan McNamara and Adam Pendleton have also been invited to create new Teatro delle Mostre works, though Mauri and Fioroni’s works still feel contemporary, in an age of art spectacles, space tourism and web-cams.