the knots of the gardens of paradise

1 april – 5 november 2023
brescia castle

curated by letia – letizia cariello and giovanni valagussa

press conference: friday 31 march 2023, 12 pm
open to the public: saturday april 1 2023, 3 pm

On the occasion of the events associated with Bergamo Brescia Italian Capital of Culture 2023, Fondazione Tassara has decided to make a part of its invaluable collection of carpets, donated by Romain Zaleski, available to the public at large to enable them to get to know and appreciate a number of artefacts that are regularly displayed in temporary exhibitions in the world’s major museums. Together with Fondazione Brescia Musei, joint promoter of the project, it has entrusted to LETIA – Letizia Cariello and Giovanni Valagussa the curatorship of the exhibition The Knots of the Gardens of Paradise, which will be held from 1 April to 5 November 2023 in the new spaces, restored and reopened to the public after around fifteen years, inside the Grande Miglio in Brescia Castle, where the Leonessa d’Italia Museum of the Risorgimento is also located, on the lower floor.

The exhibition project brings together a precious selection of 35 carpets from the Turkestan area, selected from within the extensive corpus of the Zaleski collection, which are on display to the public for the first time alongside a group of works of contemporary art associated with textiles by international artists including Alighiero Boetti and Herta Ottolenghi Wedekind, which, together with multimedia projections on a giant sail-like screen by Wladimir Zaleski, will be included in an innovative way in a single, original site-specific installation created by LETIA – Letizia Cariello. A “soft space” made of fabric, threads, tight ropes and carpets hanging like standards or banners.

Fondazione Tassara and Fondazione Brescia Musei have decided to make the entrance ticket to the exhibition free of charge in order to captivate the public at large, arouse their curiosity and enable them to discover a world the art of which has developed seamlessly over the centuries from China to Spain, where antique and contemporary art are not only in dialogue, but also come to produce a new work of art.

In parallel to the exhibition in Brescia, the second edition of Hortus Conclusus has been organized in Bergamo with the opening of three ancient Palazzos in the upper town, Palazzo Agliardi, Palazzo Terzi and Castello di Valverde, as part of the Historic Dwellings programme. Inside the buildings 13 very rare carpets will be presented, dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, the types of which take their names from important painters of the Renaissance: Ghirlandaio, Lotto and Tintoretto. So, during a number of weekends in April, May and September, on an exceptional basis, the public will be able to admire these ancient works of art inside dwellings where their owners normally live.

The two initiatives are supported by Fondazione Cariplo and the Fondazione della Comunità Bresciana.

The title of the Brescian exhibition refers to the threads of carpets knotted around the weft and warp, which re-evoke magical, paradisiacal terrains, places of the sacred and prayer, warm and comforting environments, oases in the desert. It is precisely the theme of the journey that has guided the selection – within the Zaleski collection, one of the most complete private collections in existence in the world, composed of over 1330 carpets coming from every part of Eurasia and North Africa – of 35 antique carpets, all from within a specific area. That is the immense expanse of Central Asia, in that territory that as a whole is defined as Turkestan, which stretches from the Caspian Sea to Western China and includes some of the most fascinating countries in the world for their extraordinary landscapes and uncontaminated nature, winding their way through which were the caravan routes that made up the ‘Silk Road’.

As Giovanni Valagussa, curator of the exhibition, underlines, this is «an exhibition intended to recall the thousands-of-years-old bond between East and West; to recall legendary cities such as Bukhara, Samarkand or Tashkent; the mysterious and fascinating culture of the nomads who moved through these areas without confines; but also the women of Afghanistan today, who fight for their dignity and for an equality that, absurdly, is denied them».

As LETIA – Letizia Cariello, curator of the exhibition, observes, «the precious carpets are presented not in a traditional alignment inspired by museums, but they in turn become constituent parts of a large, highly structured work of contemporary art. It is a Gesamtkunstwerk [total work of art], consisting substantially of four elements each installed inside the other to form a kind of Matryoshka offered to spectators, to invite them to become players and, finally, constituent parts of the overall installation».

The original Beauceant and Aracne installations by LETIA – Letizia Cariello, have been specially created for the exhibition. The first consists of the carpets themselves mounted on frames supported by pulleys, marine bollards and steel brackets with the aid of red sailing ropes training across the space, wrapped around the beams on the ceiling, in a game of interweavings that recalls the network of shrouds of sailing ships. The second is a kind of labyrinth that marks out the visitors’ route and winds its way through thanks to a sequence of mirror-polished steel handrails designed by the artist herself, traversed by a long red rope that guides people as though following the ancient myth of Ariadne’s thread. The orchestration of these elements draws its ideal inspiration from the Church of Santo Stefano dei Cavalieri, beside the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, the walls of which, alongside traditional elements of religious inspiration, host banners and trophies of the Battle of Lepanto.

Completing the itinerary, the giant sail-like screen with evocative images, colours and sounds by videomaker and videoartist Wladimir Zaleski, textile artefacts created by exceptional artists of the 20th century such as Alighiero Boetti and Herta Ottolenghi Wedekind, and a work by LETIA herself, Thinkerbell. This is a large brass cage, placed in the central aisle, inside which the music of Bach will be reproduced. Thanks also to the collaboration with the Fondazione del Teatro Grande of Brescia, the music will be performed live, on various occasions, by the Bazzini Consort, who will play inside the work in a peculiar combination of auditory and visual perception.



LETIA Letizia Cariello was born into a family of Neapolitan origin dedicated for more than 250 years to sculpture. After gaining a degree in History of Art at the National University of Milan, she graduated in Painting at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, where today she is Full Professor of Artistic Anatomy at the School of Sculpture. The artist’s works – drawings, installations, videos and sculptures – are currently displayed in various public and private collections, including: the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, the Mint Museum in Charlotte, the Museion – museum of modern and contemporary art of Bolzano, and the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin. LETIA Letizia Cariello is represented in Italy by the Galleria Massimo Minini of Brescia.

Giovanni F. M. Valagussa the art historian, after studying at the Fondazione Roberto Longhi in Florence with Mina Gregori and gaining his Doctorate of Research in Turin with Giovanni Romano, has occupied the professorship in History of the Lesser Arts, History of Artistic Techniques and, from 2002, of Museology continuously at the Catholic University from 1998 to the present day at the centres in Milan and Brescia. He has published numerous essays, articles and contributions, particularly on themes of Medieval and Renaissance art.



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