Musée Hendrik Christian Andersen (Roma)
From the 20th of february until the 17th of may 2015
The exhibition takes its inspiration from the story of the Andersen family and from Hendrik Christian’s World Center of Communication, ultimately taking on the universal theme of Utopia. In the rooms of the house museum, Andrea Mastrovito brings back to life the sculptor Hendrik, his mother Helene, and his painter brother Andreas and his wife, the patron of the arts Olivia Cushing, by evoking their presence in the form of garden replicas of sculptural masterpieces: David, Hebe, Venus and Mercury are turned into allegories of the four members of the family.
Utopia and Nightmare alternate right from the beginning in a whole series of symbolic references. Literary connections – from Thomas More to Tommaso Campanella – and philosophical links – from Plato to Socrates – on a drawn table interact with references to the history of art. The myth of Icarus in Goya’s Proverbio no. 13 is sent fluttering by a Duchampian « bachelor » fan into an eternally sterile flight. A modern David threatens the white wings of a dove, while an eraser looms over the human illusion of measuring the world.
In the first, intimate room on this floor, the four allegories of the Andersens are still standing, even though Andreas, who died in 1902, is already shown as a statue in the family portrait in graphite on concrete. David appears here not just as the sculptural alter-ego of Hendrik, but also in the collage, in which he desecrates former presidents, including Hosni Mubarak, in a grotesque Egyptian version of Mount Rushmore.
In the second room on the left, Mercury-Andreas has already fallen, while Hendrik works briskly on an equestrian group in what remains of the drawing of the statues. In its turn, the sgraffito creates an affinity with the horses in the collage facing it. The madcap rush of Il Secolo Bravo is interrupted by a crane that removes the first jockey – an equestrian statue of Generalissimo Franco – literally depriving the following bravi of their heads.
The Colossi coupled by the drawing in this room recall the volume of the Enciclopedia Treccani on the little table by the entrance, which is open at the page on ancient Rhodes. In Hendrik’s dream, they welcomed the visitor from the ideal city, but here they crumble away like the destiny of a Hebe-like Olivia, who died shortly after her husband (1917). Also in the collage, monuments to Lenin and Saddam Hussein imaginarily shake hands as they are taken away, suggesting the perpetuation of profound bonds between the powerful in the world, irrespective of their political or religious beliefs.
In the last of the « private » rooms on the first floor of the museum, Mastrovito reverses his system of crossreferences. Here collage is no longer a window on the world as viewed by the family, for Hendrik, portrayed by his brother Andreas in the painting we see here, is facing Marat, another revolutionary, whose death appears in a pose similar to the one we see in Jacques-Louis David’s famous painting. The only Andersen to remain alive after the death of his mother in 1927 is Hendrik, and yet he appears in the collage already half-asleep.
In the last act, everything has collapsed and even the sling, a symbol of revolt, lies on the floor together with fragments of the ideal city. Its topography, recreated by the pieces on the floor, is by now indecipherable, almost as though it were an archaeological ruin. The exhibition takes its title, Here the Dreamers Sleep, from the words inscribed on the Andersen family tomb, and it ends with two collages which are again deflagrated: on the one hand the Buddhas of Bamyan, blown up by the Taliban, and on the other a group of American soldiers flaking away under the onslaught of the wind of history in their attempt to depose yet another dictator.