THE DESIRE FOR FREEDOM in mostra a Palazzo Reale di Milano


mostra lissoni

Under the High Patronage of the President of the Italian Republic


XXX Council of Europe Exhibition


Art in Europe since 1945


Milan, Palazzo Reale

14th March – 2nd June 2013



Milan, February 2013 – From the 14th March to the 2nd June 2013 Palazzo Reale will present The Desire for Freedom. Art in Europe since 1945, a great collective exhibition confronting the idea of Freedom in Europe from the postwar period onwards, through the thoughts and works of 94 contemporary artists coming from 27 European countries.


The exhibition, curated by Monika Flacke, Henry Meyric Hughes and Ulrike Schmiegelt, is promoted in Italy by the Milan City Council – Culture, Fashion, Design and produced by Palazzo Reale, by the Deutsches Historisches Museum of Berlin and by 24 ORE Cultura – Gruppo 24 Ore. Realized through the initiative of the Council of Europe and with the financial support of the European Commission (2007-2013 “Culture” programme), the project is the result of the international collaboration of 36 member states of the council itself that have involved artists, experts, curators, museums, art galleries and important private collectors. A partner, along with the DHM of Berlin and Palazzo Reale of Milano, will be the Eesti Kunstimuuseum – Kumu Kunstimuuseum of Tallinn, where the exhibition will take place after the Italian stop.


The project was born with the intent to overcome the vision of a postwar Europe as the theatre of the hostility between two opposing blocks of power during the cold war, taking up instead as a starting point the idea that both sides have common origins in the Enlightenment. For this, East, West, North and South are represented according to criteria of equality which comes out in the thematic sequence planned for the exhibition.


The selected works come from 27 different member states of the Council of Europe: Albania, Azerbaijan, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Norway, The Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and Hungary.


An exhibition of paintings, photographs, drawings, videos and installations realized in seventy years of  European artistic production by world-famous and well-established artists – including Damien Hirst, Arman, Jannis Kounellis, Yves Klein, Richard Hamilton, Niki de Saint Phalle, Alberto Giacometti, Gerhard Richter, Christo, Mario Merz, Emilio Vedova, Yinka Shonibare, Lucio Fontana, Ilya Kabalov – and others who are little known in Italy, but of great interest like Boris Mikhailov and Erik Bulatov.


The exhibited works are perceived as pictorial expressions of ideas and concepts and the decision not to exhibit them by geographic provenance and not to follow any kind of chronology was taken advisedly. The exhibition project actually sets aside chronological linearity and aims instead at developing a “circular” debate regarding a series of themes, arranged in twelve consecutive sections, or “chapters”, each of which is devoted to fundamental matters of our social life, as well as to important expectations such as the ones on reason, history or utopia. At first, a certain number of abstract concepts, such as reason or human rights, will stimulate the visitor into asking himself questions on the nature of the responsibilities of politics or of the state: how do single individuals wish to live? And what are their reference points? What responsibilities do our political systems, our governments and societies have in the organization of human existence? Where are the limits of personal freedom placed? And where do those of other individuals start? Shouldn’t the catalogue of human rights possibly also include the pursuit of a safe future from the social and environmental point of view?

Through the exhibition tour however these great themes change into a sequence of personal doubts and more individual issues: how do I want to live? What kind of individual space do I need? What are my limits and how far am I willing to venture? Questions which are the subject-matter for The World in our Head, the head of each and every one of us, which can generate reason or utopian thought, and so the cycle starts all over again.


The 12 Sections

The exhibition is divided into 12 thematic chapters. We start from The Court of Reason in the name of which the worst violations of human rights were often perpetrated and on the role of which the artists have doubts; utopias play a leading role in We are the Revolution, inspired by the 1972 work by Joseph Beuys bearing the same title; Journey in Wonderland tells us about art’s capacity to rewrite the narration and to reverse paradigms, redefining also our collective historical conscience; in Darkness at Noon art confronts the visitor with the regime of terror and violence of the tortures which get to the point of paralyzing a society, depriving it of the fundamental principle of brotherhood and solidarity; In The Realities of Politics, art measures the role of the political action in balancing the interests of civil society and it’s ability (or inability) to solve conflicts peacefully; another section deals with The Precariousness of Freedom, fragile and always threatened, not only in the past by serious violations of human rights, but also in the near future in the name of safety; in 99 Cent the artists deal with the difficult relation between life centered on immaterial values and the urge towards the consumerism that pervades our society; Inside A Hundred Years the artists use eternity as a reference to redimension the present and to stress the importance of taking care of the environment and of the resources surrounding us; whereas the relation of art with the concept of dwelling, as a place of safety and shelter but also as a communication channel with the outside world, is the kernel of Worlds of Living in; always referring to space, but with the meaning of  “something different” from reality, is the investigation conducted in The Other Space chapter, which analyses the worlds created by art as escape-ways, new possible horizons in opposition to what surrounds us; Self-Experience: Testing the Limits gets to the heart of the knowledge of one’s own limits and of the boundaries between oneself and the other, attempting to define what makes us human and how we would like to be in the near future; with The World in Our Head the exhibition closes the circle, bringing evidence of how the source of our ideas, Reason included, and of the knowledge of the surrounding reality is and remains our mind, also for the artist.


The Council of Europe and the European exhibitions

The object of the series of art exhibitions of the Council of Europe, which started in 1954, is to get people to appreciate art as one of the greatest expressions of European culture and common values and to promote it.

Italy has already played host to three important exhibitions organized through the initiative of the Council of Europe: the third one was The XVII Century in Europe – Realism, Classicism and  Baroque (Rome, 1956); the fifteenth was Florence and Tuscany of the Medici in sixteenth-century Europe (Florence, 1980) and the twenty-eighth was Universal Leonardo (Florence, London, Oxford 2005-6).


Public Program

To go into the main themes of the exhibition, The Desire for Freedom. Art in Europe since 1945 will be accompanied by a series of collateral activities that will study in depth the key themes of the exhibition: meetings with prominent cultural figures, a filmography and meetings on contemporary music.



The version printed in Italy of the exhibition catalogue puts together 178 works of art, with introductory essays to the various sections by Horst Bredekamp, Eva-Maria Engelen, Étienne François, Marie Luise Knott, Bettina Rolke, Mikhail Shishkin, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Heinrich Wefing, Sophie Wolfrum and others; the digital version also includes a detailed commentary on each single work, many videos and various search functions. More than 90 authors coming from all over Europe and from a wide variety of academic disciplines, ranging from anthropology and sociology to political science, from law to history of art, contributed to the catalogue.

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