Operation 24 Pages: A Public Art Intervention in 1970s Italy

Fernando De Filippi, F. 115, 1973, 12 sheets of paper, installation documentary photograph Operazione 24 Fogli: Dissuasione Manifesta, part of exhibition Volterra ’73, July 15–September 15, 1973, Volterra, Italy Courtesy of Archivio Crispolti Arte Contemporanea, Rome, Italy

In 1973 the art historian and curator Enrico Crispolti commissioned eight artists—Fernando De Filippi, Umberto Mariani, Ugo Nespolo, Fabrizio Plessi, Sergio Sarri, Francesco Somaini, Valeriano Trubbiani, and Emilio Vedova—to create posters that he installed in pre-existing advertising spaces in different cities across the Italian peninsula. The title for this disseminated and decentralized exhibition was Dissuasione Manifesta: Operazione 24 fogli (Manifest Dissuasion: Operation 24 pages), and, between 1973 and 1979, Crispolti installed it in Volterra, Macerata, Fano, Milan, Capo d’Orlando, Como, and Salerno. The goal was to infiltrate the pre-existing system of commercial advertisement with art. The posters acted as agents in a covert curatorial operation, disrupting mechanisms of communication and objects of consumption. They also questioned the status of the art object, here displaced to a non-traditional art setting.

Operation 24 Pages at Providence College Art Galleries historicizes, contextualizes, and represents this subversive Italian intervention in an exhibition that includes original posters, urban installation photographs, and archival material. It reveals how the 1970s art posters drew connections and blurred boundaries between the art institutional sphere and the outside environment, the elite status of art and commodity culture, and the different registers of media communication and control. Ultimately, Operation 24 Pages questions how the historic Italian exhibition framed the display of art as a liberated visual form of expression in the public realm that sought to infiltrate the experience of everyday urban life.

Exhibition at Providence College Art Galleries, on view December 5, 2018 – March 20, 2019

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