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May 21, 2023

A major exhibition exploring Willem de Kooning’s passion for Italy is due to open next year in Venice, coinciding with the 2024 Biennale. The show, organised in partnership with the New York-based Willem de Kooning foundation, will run at the Gallerie dell’Accademia from 16 April to 15 September.

According to a gallery statement, the exhibition will be the first to explore the impact of De Kooning’s two stays in Italy, in 1959 and 1969, on his work. “The art he created in Italy and the influence of Italy on his subsequent paintings, drawings and sculpture in America have never before been thoroughly explored,” the statement adds.

The impact of his Italian sojourn is examined in works dating from the late 1950s to the 1980s. The exhibition curators are Gary Garrels, who resigned from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2020, and Mario Codognato, the director of the Anish Kapoor Foundation.

According to the Willem de Kooning foundation website, in 1959 the artist was in Rome, at Afro Basaldella’s studio, and “painted experimental black-and-white works on paper known as the Romes” and “Met Alberto Burri and Cy Twombly”. In 1969, he “travelled to Spoleto and Rome. In Rome, [he] modelled his first 13 sculptures in clay at the foundry of sculptor and friend, Herzl Emanuel, who cast and editioned them in bronze.”

Previous important De Kooning exhibitions include a touring retrospective presented at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Tate Gallery in London from 1994 to 1995. In our article rounding up critics’ reviews for the show, we noted that “the inclusion of works from all stages of his career is considered by some critics to have exposed the weaknesses of the pictures created by the artist in the last eight or nine years of his working life”.

The auction record for the artist meanwhile stands at $68.9m (with fees), the price paid for Woman as Landscape (around 1954) at Christie’s New York in 2018. Last year, the work Untitled (around 1979) fetched $34.8m at Sotheby’s New York. The Dutch-US artist, who is closely associated with Abstract Expressionism, died in 1997.

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