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Tour the Alberto Savinio Exhibition at CIMA, SoHo's Best-Kept Secret

January 12, 2018 - by Merrill Lee Girardeau
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This airy loft in SoHo is not quite gallery, not quite museum. Regardless, it’s extraordinary. And at the Center for Italian Modern Art this year, you’ll find a fascinating exhibition of the artist Alberto Savinio.

Many of Savinio’s works have never before been shown in the United States. The brother of groundbreaking Surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico (whose paintings are on prominent display at institutions like MoMA and the Met), Savinio quickly evades his brother’s legacy as soon as you inspect his work.

Alberto Savinio

The Wise Men, 1929

Alberto Savinio lived from 1891 to 1952 and came from an Italian family living in Greece. His most productive painting years were spent in Paris, though Savinio also worked in musical composition and performance, as well as writing and set design. Like his brother, Savinio dabbled in dreamlike imagery, from the toylike heap of “The Enchanted Island” to the nude warrior gazing at the ocean in “Le songe d’Achille (The Dream of Achilles).” 

His pieces are alternately playful, mysterious, and melancholy. CIMA (pronounced “cheema” by those in the know) has paired with works by the artist Louise Bourgeois. Her own sculptures, such as the extraordinary Nature Study, display a similar penchant for playful excess and a wrestling with the artist’s personal history.

Alberto Savinio

Achilles' Dream, 1929

Another focal point of CIMA’s show is Savinio’s apparent views of his family. Several pieces recreate images of himself as a child, while others, like “Poltro-babbo, poltro-mamma (Armchair-Dad, Armchair-Mom)” depict his parents, his mother resembling a frightening bird.

The museum is open to the public on Fridays or Saturdays, with reservations required in order to view the exhibition. Be sure to schedule a tour, offered by a CIMA art-history fellow who will educate you on Savinio’s background and technique and answer all your questions. These tours are available from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and last one hour. Bonus: if you come for a tour, CIMA treats you to a free cup of Italian espresso! 

Alberto Savinio runs until June 23, 2018. The Center for Modern Italian Art is located at 421 Broome Street on the 4th floor. Call 646-370-3596 or visit italianmodernart.org for more information.

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