Franco Fontana. Sintesi

Modena pays tribute to Franco Fontana (b. 1933), one of the city’s most important and internationally acclaimed artists.

From 23 March to 25 August 2019, FONDAZIONE MODENA ARTI VISIVE will host an exhibition, titled ‘Synthesis’, over three sites - Palazzina dei Giardini, MATA - the former tobacco factory and the Sala Grande of Palazzo Santa Margherita - tracing more than 60 years of the artist’s career and exploring his personal relationships with some of the greatest photographers of the 20th century.

The exhibition is subdivided into two sections.

The first, curated by Diana Baldon, director of FONDAZIONE MODENA ARTI VISIVE, is installed in the Sala Grande of Palazzo Santa Margherita and in the Palazzina dei Giardini. Including 30 artworks created between 1961 and 2017, the majority of which have never previously been exhibited, selected from the artist’s vast photographic archive, this section presents the synthesis - evoked in the show’s title - of Fontana’s artistic career. This core group of works comprises quintessential examples of the photographer’s signature style: urban and rural landscapes that transport their audience on a fantastical journey, from Modena to Cuba via China, the USA and Kuwait.

From the outset, Fontana sought to develop an artistic practice that embraced creative photographic imagery: his bold geometric compositions are characterised by abstract perspectives and surfaces that bear witness and give significance to their forms. The images explore a variety of themes, ranging from mass culture to leisure, from travel to speed, as an allegory of the freedom of the individual, in which the human figure is almost always absent or viewed from a distance.

Fontana’s photographs are often associated with modernist abstract painting, in which colour is a key element, while the geometric outlines of the depicted forms obscure the representation of reality. By adopting this innovative approach during the 1960s, Fontana injected a new energy and vitality into the field of creative colour photography.


The second section, curated by Fontana himself and installed at MATA - Ex Manifattura Tabacchi, presents around 120 photographs selected from the collection of 1.600 artworks that the artist donated to Modena City Council and Civic Art Gallery in 1991. These works constitute an important element of the collection’s heritage, which is now managed by Fondazione Modena Arti Visive. This section of the exhibition highlights the close relationships the artist fostered with some of the greatest names in international photography. During the mid-1970s, Fontana began to exchange prints with other artists and, over the years, amassed hundreds of works by many of the most important photographers both in Italy and abroad, including Gianni Berengo Gardin, Mario Giacomelli, Luigi Ghirri, Josef Koudelka, Arnold Newman and Sebastião Salgado, to name but a few. Drawing on the artist’s personal memories, this section testifies to both the diversity and sincerity of the relationships Fontana developed with his fellow photographers the world over, in many cases forming life-long friendships, and the high regard in which he was held by them is attested to in the affectionate, personal dedications that frequently attended the works.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue.

Franco Fontana: Synthesis has been produced in collaboration with the European Photography of Reggio Emilia Festival, the theme of which in 2019 is ‘CONNECTIONS: Intimacy, Relationships, New Worlds’.

Artist Biography

Franco Fontana was born in 1933 in Modena, where he continues to live and work. Among some of his most important solo shows are Vita Nova (New Life), Palazzo Ducale, Genoa (2014); La luz del paisaje (Landscape Light), IVAM, Valencia (2011); Franco Fontana, Museo de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires (2007); Ombre e colori (Shadows and Colours), Palazzo Reale, Milan (2004); Franco Fontana, Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna, Turin (2001); Sorpresi nella luce americana (Surprises in American Light), Galleria Civica, Modena (2000); Varivalokuvia fargfotografier (Colour Photography), Finnish Museum of Photography, Helsinki (1990). His works are held in the collections of some of the most important international museums, including Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; International Museum of Photography, Rochester, NY; Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Ludwig Museum, Cologne; Pushkin Museum, Moscow; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Metropolitan Museum, Tokyo; Musée d'Art moderne, Paris; Victoria & Albert Museum, London. He has held workshops and conferences at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, at the Institute of Technology in Tokyo, at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, and at the University of Toronto. He has collaborated with the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Japanese Culture Ministry and the French Culture Ministry.


FONDAZIONE MODENA ARTI VISIVE is an institution dedicated to the presentation and promotion of art and contemporary visual culture. Directed by Diana Baldon, it comprises Galleria Civica di Modena, Fondazione Fotografia Modena and Museo della Figurina.

Tipo di evento Mostra
Periodo 23/03/2019 al
Sede Palazzo Santa Margherita
Inaugurazione Inauguration: 22 March 2019, 6.00 pm
Preview per la stampa Friday 22 March 2019, 11am

Opening Times
From 23 March to 16 June 2019:
Wednesday - Friday: 11-13 / 16-19
Saturday, Sunday and Holidays: 11-19
From 17 June to 25 August 2019
Thursday - Sunday 17-22

Ingresso Tickets Full Price: €6,00 | Concessions: €4,00

Further Information
Tel. +39 059 2032911/2032940

Ufficio Stampa

Press Office
CLP Public Relations | Stefania Rusconi | tel. 02.36755700 | |

Irene Guzman | T. +39 349 1250956 |

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