Whether expressing imperial grandeur, aesthetic idealism, or artistic sensibility and restraint, Neoclassicism still has a powerful hold on Western culture. Originally inspired by classical Roman and Greek architecture and art, it has evolved into many different styles over the nearly two centuries of its history. It all began with 19th-century artists enthralled by the ruins encountered on their Grand Tours in the south of Europe. It was a fascination with all the lost beauty, the mysteriously pleasing proportions, the order, the timelessness... In a way, it was an attempt to revive what ancient artists had achieved, which was seen by many as perfection suspended between the human and the divine.
One of the most important characteristics of 19th-century Neoclassicism was its being at once traditional and novel: it was a movement that brought together elements of the ancient past to create the visual language of a new, enlightened society at the dawn of the modern era. Then, there is of course the naturalism: for the ancients, there was a continuity between the man-made and the natural, not only through animistic spiritualism but also through form. In a way, the colonnades of an ancient temple are a soft border between the building and the “landscape of the gods”, allowing the elements to permeate the building, in an attempt to capture the hidden harmony and balance between humankind and nature.
The exhibition Neoneoneo-Classic presents contemporary design that is at the forefront of visual and intellectual explorations of our times, combining tradition with innovation. It begins with the question: How can the revival of Classical ideals be applied to design, and what kind of new creative paths could this reveal? Through the work of eleven designers and artists from different parts of the world, we witness the emergence of new interpretations and meanings: different approaches to materiality, alternative readings of historicity, and even objects that become in a way sacred.
The Certosa di San Giacomo monastery in Capri becomes the perfect setting for such an exhibition. The light, the wind, the sea, the landscape enter the space, just as in an ancient temple, highlighting the monastery’s architectural simplicity: an appropriate backdrop for works that constitute contemporary interpretations of Classic architectural elements, and propose new connections with beauty, nature, spirituality, and the divine. Meanwhile, the exhibition’s title triplicates the “new”, reflecting the waves of history; the layers of inspiration, creativity, and craftsmanship; and perhaps the aura of the sublime that compels us to keep returning to Classicism time and again.