Postcard from Nervi, Genoa, Italy: Two modern art museums near the seaside

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

With one wall depicting sweets and attention lavished upon a good child and another the unpleasantness awaiting a naughty boy, Antonio Rubino (1880-1964) transformed a child’s room into illustrations seemingly plucked from the pages of a collection of nursery rhymes. The 1921 bedroom with a “City of Dreams” is but one of the unusual galleries encountered in Wolfsoniana, located in the seaside suburb of Genoa, Nervi. Here, among other things, we learned the Battle of Flowers is not unique to San Antonio; Ventimiglia is known for its Battaglia di Fiori.

The collection of art dating from 1880-1945 in this new museum reflects the interests of Miami-born Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. He opened the first museum showcasing his passions in 1995 in the Art Deco District in Miami Beach. As Wolfson became increasingly attached to Genoa, he moved some of his immense personal collections there. He considers himself, according to the Wolfson Collection website:

…a conservationist because of my desire to discover, but not possess. The challenge is to save endangered objects that are ignored or not held in admiration by others….

Before I decide to buy an object I think whether it belongs to the narrative or not. Truth and beauty don’t interest me particularly. I am interested in the language of objects….

It is the goal of my collection: “to make people think.”

…but I’m not interested in what you think: I shall simply be happy to have stimulated the birth of an idea within you, of a souvenir, a dream.

Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.

Nearby in the 15th-century Villa Saluzzo Serra, the Galleria d’Arte Moderna focuses on artwork from the beginning of the 19th century to contemporary. The base of the museum’s holdings came from Prince Oddone (1846-1866) of Savoy’s collection. The avid collector, a son of King Vittorio Emanuele II (1820-1878), was sickly and died at the young age of 19. The City of Genoa actively acquired art between 1912 and 1950 from the Venice Bienniale and Rome Quadriennale exhibitions, and some of Wolfsoniana’s overflow is on display in the villa as well.

Art you must see at SAY Sí

More than 200 small-scale works of art that you have never seen before hang on the walls of the galleries at SAY Sí.

Oda al Otoño by Guillermina Zabala

Oda al Otoño donated by Guillermina Zabala

Here are some of the reasons you need to make time this week to view these pieces:

  1. These original works of art are by more than 200 different artists, some you might know, some awaiting your acquaintance.
  2. There is no charge for enjoying this artwork this Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  3. By Saturday, March 23, this opportunity will be lost; most of these works of art will never be seen in public spaces again.
  4. If you fall in love with any of this art, you can own it.
  5. If you fall in love with a piece of this art before Wednesday at 7 p.m., you can pay a small fee over its value to purchase it before others have an opportunity to outbid you.
  6. You might even get a bargain; bidding opens at a fraction of the value of the finished work, and people get distracted (Jump to Numbers 16 and 18.) In many cases, opening pricing probably does not even cover the cost of framing. But that is not the point; all proceeds benefit SAY Sí, serving San Antonio’s youth via a year-round, long-term, non-profit multidisciplinary arts program providing students opportunities to develop artistic and social skills in preparation for higher educational advancement and professional careers.
  7. Sure you possibly can get a bargain by waiting until the last minute, but pick up a pencil and bid. Bids attract bids; re-read No. 6.
  8. Where else can you get to know the work of so many talented area artists so quickly? The works in the show are good. The artists’ reputations are at stake, so they submit some of their best work.
  9. Many of the artists participating in this show normally work in a much larger format. This means, they often create a smaller piece just for SAY Sí. This also means, you might have the opportunity to collect something by an artist you love but cannot normally afford to buy in large-scale.
  10. Established artists donate to this show because they believe in offering a hand up to the young and talented. Re-read No. 6. So bid.
  11. Artists get nothing in return. In fact, the IRS only lets an artist deduct the cost of materials as a charitable donation; for example, the cost of the piece of paper and the frame. So bid, they deserve bids as nods of appreciation of their talents and their contributions.
  12. If you invest in a small piece of art, it might make you rearrange your collection at home. Rearranging your art makes you notice and appreciate it all anew.
  13. Attend the closing silent-auction party from 7 to 10 p.m. on Friday, March 22. You can offer additional bids, and there will be beer, wine, food, friends and fun.
  14. Many of the artists attend the closing auction, so you can meet and visit with them.
  15. If you don’t fall in love with a piece of art, maybe you will fall in love with an artist. Sure, artists have their quirks, but they make life interesting.
  16. Visit SAY Sí before Friday night because there is no way you will be able to view and ponder more than 200 works in even the entire 135 minutes before the last wave of the silent auction bidding closes. During those minutes, you also will be eating, drinking and chatting with friends, both old ones and newfound.
  17. If you cannot preview this show in person in advance (See No. 16.), you can view the works online (Hint, this doesn’t seem to download properly until you nudge it with an additional click.).
  18. You should bid early, because you might get distracted during the party and not be able to make your way back to your favorite piece (Refer to 13-16).
  19. You should bid early and often (Refer to 6, 7 and 11.).
  20. Sure, there are many more reasons, but aren’t the 19 above enough?
El West Side, papel picado by Kathleen Trenchard

El West Side, papel picado by Kathleen Trenchard

This posting represents my act of contrition. Although I have contributed to this auction in the past, I somehow let life’s distractions interfere this year.

But don’t you let life’s distractions make you miss this show at SAY Sí. Whether you fall in love and bid or not, you will enjoy the art.