Andrea Dall’Asta SJ

For Arte Fiera 2017, the Lercaro Collection of Bologna is pleased to host the important exhibition Bildung: Contemporary Art, between Experience and Knowledge, curated by Ilaria Bignotti and myself, and organized in partnership with Cortesi Gallery. The show presents sixteen works primarily from the 1960s, made in the extraordinary climate of experimentation that swept through Northern Europe and whose Italian hub was Milan, a city linked to the major artistic movements of the time.

Bildung is a fundamental concept of German neohumanism, the late-eighteenth-century current of thought centered on the nature and structure of humanity, the depths of which were probed by intellectuals like Schiller, Goethe, and von Humboldt. In this sense, the title of the exhibition evokes the need to find some harmony between all aspects of human nature, to form a “full human being” who can wed sensibility to reason, achieving inner freedom and forging a vital relationship with culture. This principle yields the educational model of Bildung, which sees the self as constantly yearning towards spirituality and knowledge. If the intellectuals of the Bildung tradition drew particular inspiration from the Greeks, it is because Greece is where the harmony of man was most fully achieved: recomposed through a reflection that sees art as the locus of this reconciliation. Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro, who looked at the world through the eyes of a man of the Church, conscious of his responsibility as a spiritual guide, and whose concrete legacy of thought is the Lercaro Collection, drew on Christian spirituality as a touchstone for this human self-reconciliation. Art mediates, educates, illuminates, makes us grow. Art is knowledge, a bridge to mystery, expressing the constant quest for meaning through which humans manifest their desire for transcendence and the absolute. Whereas nowadays, minds are all too often numbed and dulled by the mass media, talk-show superficiality, a useless deluge of information, these works instead raise questions, queries, doubts. Standing in opposition to all academic and formal art, they are meant to help a new world and horizon of meaning unfold: bringing to light an ongoing investigation into the mystery of man. They are an invitation to move past the surface of things, to explore the secrets of reality. In this sense, the exhibition points to a deeply human investigation. It may not be an easy exhibition; it may demand more than one visit, and should perhaps be viewed as an antidote to the general shallowness of our time. Precisely because these works are pervaded by that sense of disquiet that is the human response to the mystery of life, the concept of Bildung re-emerges today in all its surprising topicality. Because in the end, testing the terrain of true art means exploring the deepest parts of ourselves.

Andrea Dall’Asta SJ
Director of “Raccolta Lercaro” Museum

Text for the exhibition
BILDUNG. Contemporary Art, between Experience and Knowledge
curated by I. Bignotti and A. Dall’Asta SJ
in partnership with Cortesi Gallery
Raccolta Lercaro, Bologna
January 26–March 19, 2017