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Pordenone Montanari, a new name in Italian art history?

by 23 August 2010

A new name in Italian art history? Pordenone Montanari has attracted attention recently, possibly more for the romance of the story than for his art.
Pordenone Montanari is 73 years old. He studied Philosophy at University and trained in sculpture at Brera Fine Arts Academy, Milan, and had a sell-out exhibition in 1986, when paintings were bought by the Credit Commerciale Bank, Société Générale, and Banca Rosenberg. However after this, he retired from public life and sought to focus on his art. For eighteen years he has been living as a recluse, making paintings and sculptures.

Virtually his only contacts with the outside world have been mediated by his wife, who has been supplying him with food and materials over all this time. Inside his 19th century villa in Piedmont, Italy, he accumulated hundreds of landscapes, figure paintings and still life compositions, which remained a secret even to the people living in the same village. It was only when Montanari and his wife decided to sell the four-floor villa which had become too large for them. Three years ago, a local resident, Cinzia Albertini, discovered stacks of the artist’s finished canvases when she enquired about a ‘for sale’ sign in front of the artist’s villa. Since then, having bought the house, she has built up a friendship with Montanari and his wife which, over time, has led to an introduction to DAR Capital Group, through Indian businessman, Raja Khara, who lived in the area. Khara was amazed by all the artworks that covered the walls, in the form of canvases, frescoes, works on paper and board, and – in the garden – a mass of sculpture in wood and stone. Khara subsequently purchased the rights to the artist’s work.

Montanari was not really interested in all these deals, and in fact was rather annoyed at having lost two hours’ painting time during discussions with Khara. The latter, with Arun Rangachari, chairman of investment brokerage company Dar Capital (a boutique investment advisory and private equity firm with business interests in India, the Middle East and Africa), arranged to build a studio for the artist near his old home, and together they plan to create a foundation.
British art critic Edward Lucie-Smith judged the work to be interesting and began work on organizing exhibitions. In September, Montanari’s work will be on show at the Istituto di Cultura Italiana in London, from September 21 to October 6, 2010. A series of over 50 of Montanari’s witty, modernist works, will be on display. This will followed by other exhibitions in Italy and Russia. The London exhibition will be co-curated by Dr. Rossana Pittelli from the Italian Institute, and by Edward Lucie-Smith, who has spent time at the villa where Montanari lived.

“Montanari is a surprising discovery and a real addition to the history of 20th century Italian painting,” says Lucie-Smith. “He has produced work that does not fit the profile most art historians have of painting from this time. His links are essentially with the grand highway of High Modernist figurative art. He is unique as an Italian figurative painter of his generation because he is in full dialogue with the major masters of Modernism. Yet he is at the same time fully respectful of Italian Renaissance and Baroque traditions,” added Lucie-Smith.
Arun Rangachari said, “It is rare to find such an impressive portfolio by a relatively unknown artist now in his seventies. We are proud to own several series of paintings by Pordenone Montanari and are delighted to accept an invitation from the Italian Cultural Institute to exhibit a selection of these in London.”

As regards the artistic quality of the works, we look forward to seeing them “live” – the only way of truly appreciating them. Montanari has been compared, as regards style, to modern masters such as Picasso, Matisse and Modigliani, though of course he was working in a period – the last twenty years – in which art has been moving in totally different directions. Possibly the importance of his work will me more in terms of the market than of art history. Whatever, Montanari himself will not be particularly interested. He won’t be in London for the show, because he’ll be getting on with more work…

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