Rome Travel Guide

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Murales Italian Style: Rome's Street Art Brought to You by Wunderkammern

Russian artist Alexey Luka painting his  multi-story work in Torpignattara, thanks to Wunderkammern and the Russian Embassy. See the finished work, below.
By Spanish artist Escif, "The Right Ear."
Just a great painting, building-high, on the proper
side of the building too.
Wandering the streets of the near-in 'suburb' of Torpignattara, as we have many times, we are constantly delighted by the street art that seems to mysteriously appear where one least expects it.  Most of this street art consists of large works sponsored by the trendy, yet earnest Wunderkammern Gallery, located in the heart of Torpignattara.

The professionally executed 'murales', as the Italians call large wall paintings, stand in contrast to the neighborhood's historical reputation as an impoverished hotbed of crime and, now, the media claims, degraded by an influx of immigrants, Bangladeshi in particular.  
At opening for 2501 (aka Jacopo Ceccarelli) in Wunderkammern's
Torpignattara gallery.

Torpignattara indeed is changing, and rapidly.  An industrial and working-class neighborhood once filled with immigrants from Italy's Southern and Central areas, Torpignattara's population started to decline in the 1980s due to poor housing and high crime rates - until the Bangladeshi (now numbering 5,000) and other immigrants moved in. 

The area has the lowest percentage of college graduates of any in Rome, and the exodus of Italians preceded the influx of international immigrants.  But residents remain unrealistically nostalgic about the "old" Torpignattara, before part of it became "Banglatown." Sociologists describe it as a "re-urbanization," rather than a "gentrification."  There is less crime now than before the Bangladeshi moved in. One could even say it is being cleaned up by the immigrants.  It is an area that continues to be separated socially into different districts.  We found the Bangladeshi merchants concentrated in one section. Another section is the rapidly gentrifying - in the true sense of the word:  Pigneto.  

So how to explain these gorgeous paintings?  They are almost all the result of the intervention by Wunderkammern, which 7 years ago located its gallery here, moving from the charming medieval town of Spello, just south of Assisi in Umbria.  

Change seems to go with the territory for Wunderkammern.  The German word refers to the Victorian "cabinet of wonders," and Wunderkammern is such a cabinet, but one going well beyond its "cabinet doors."  It's a first- rate gallery with artists' works that sell into the 6-figures of Euros.  So it could be located in the center, it could ignore the streets outside its doors. In fact, it does the opposite.
Jef Aerosol's "Tom," near Wunderkammern's gallery space.

As Co-Director Giuseppe Pizzuti told us, "We usually ask artists that we work with and that we invite for a show to Rome to leave a sign of their staying and to realize an outdoor work." Wunderkammern selects the sites.  Pizzuti continues, "Usually we are inspired by outdoor spaces that we see while riding the streets of our neighborhood. Whenever we find a wall that is inspiring for us, we try to obtain an authorization from the people living in that building."  I asked him how receptive the building owners are to the request.  "At the beginning it was not always so easy," Pizzuti said.  "Right now people are calling us to 'offer' their walls to us to have our artists work on them." 
Found this one just walking around Torpignattara,
By Parisian artist Ludo, untitled.  

Of course the 'murales' in Torpignattara can be viewed simply as part of a world-wide trend.  Berlin, London, Los Angeles - all cities famous for their street art.  Torpignattara's 'murales' differ from the concentration of murales in the neighborhoods of San Basilio and Tor Marancia, where large blocks of 8-10 story public housing buildings have created vast 'canvasses' for multiple works close together.  Hitness did 6 of these facades in San Basilio and Tor Marancia's housing project features about a dozen works from international artists, all done in 2015.  By contrast, Torpignattara's walls are varied.  There's no single big block of public housing featuring facades like those in San Basilio and Tor Marancia.  As the neighborhood is described in the book Global Rome, the housing is of varied ages and types, from farmhouses dating from the "agro Romano" to some multi-story block housing.  As a result, the works are more surprising and mysterious to the walker.  And they come in all different sizes.

A C215  (French) work next to the bar across from
Wunderkammern's gallery.
Agostino Iacurci, Clear Sky on the Pink House
One can see Wunderkammern's intervention as changing part of the fabric of this community, most recently under some siege from racists who would limit the percentage of children in the schools whose heritage is non-Italian - even if those children were born in Italy and speak only Italian.


Luka's finished work (at dusk; so the colors aren't true in this photo).
When we were here, there were Rom around having collected detritus and
headed back to, we assume, their camps in cars and with their kids' bikes.

Besides a trip to Wunderkammern, which we highly recommend, one can check out the street art with the new app, streetartroma. We don't recommend the city's tourist map, yes, of street art; it's close to unintelligible.

We do recommend Jessica Stewart's book: Street Art Stories ROMA.

Wunderkammern: 124 via Gabrio Serbelloni.  From Termini, the 105 bus or the tram on via G. Giolitti. tel. Tel: +39 - 0645435662
Cell: +39 - 3498112973 
email:  wunderkammern@wunderkammern.net
A stupendous piece by Nicola Verlato, born in Verona, now from Los Angeles.
It portrays Pierpaolo Pasolini's death.  That's Petrarch and Ezra Pound below (we
needed the explanation from the streetartroma app).  This does not appear to have
been sponsored by Wunderkammern, but clearly the location and its existence
owe much to the gallery.
Generally open Wednesdays to Saturdays 5 - 8 p.m., when there is an exhibit, or by appointment. .  Check the Web site.  Current exhibit is on until 25 July, 2015.

An added attraction is the osteria, Betto e Mary, a few blocks
from Wunderkammern.  One of the cheapest, and most authentic, Roman
trattorie - complete with any kind of animal innards cooked any way
you want them.  This is just one of their several large spaces.
via dei Savorgnam, 99. +39 06 6477 1096.



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