Emilio Isgrò, Colui che sono, 2020,
acrylic on canvas, on panel, installation (4 elements)
Ambassadors Hall, Quirinale, Rome
On the occasion of the entrance of Isgrò’s Colui che sono (2020) in the permanent collection of the Quirinale, Italy’s Presidential Palace in Rome, we invite you to discover this work in which the artist, following his practice of cancellatura, erases the racial laws, published in 1938 by the fascist regime.
“When I received the invitation to attend the Quirinale at the same time there was a heavy air in Italy. There were days of exasperated anti-Semitism, with dark threats made against many of our fellow citizens simply because they were Jewish. I was struck, in particular, by the ferocity reserved for Senator Liliana Segre, a courageous woman who, by fighting for the Jews, was in practice defending the dignity of all Italians immune from the racist disease. This, moreover, in a country that has never fully come to terms with its worst past. I decided to ‘cancel’ the racial laws passed by Fascism in 1938, abusively assuming the symbolic privilege of healing, in the name of art, the wrong that our persecuted brothers had suffered after having made a decisive contribution, since the Risorgimento, to the formation and growth of modern Italy.”
” For this reason, I have deliberately avoided pietistic or compensatory tones, as I did years ago with the work The Bees of the Torah and with the case of the Scrolls of the Law designed for the Livorno synagogue, where I depicted the Jews as busy bees collecting pollen from flower to flower, from culture to culture (yesterday the cultures and flowers of the Mediterranean, today the flowers of the entire world), to transport it from country to country. All the way to the most precious flower: the unique God of the three monotheistic religions. This time too, with the erasures done in a liberating red, I preferred to give our ‘elder brothers’ (as John Paul II called them) an almost joyful, indeed glorious, image. I remembered the Pentateuch, where God declares to Moses that he calls himself ‘I am who I am’, perhaps to signify that what has no name is infinite. Like love. But it could not be enough, since, re-reading those infamous laws, I realized that the original text of the Official Gazette (‘He is a Jew who is born of a Jewish mother’) could become, by way of deletion, a more icastic, peremptory: ‘He is a Jew who is’, automatically matching the ‘I am who I am’ pronounced by Yahweh on Sinai, according to a line of contiguity with the One God that justifies the title of ‘elder brothers’ given by Pope Wojtyla.
If Benedetto Croce felt the need to write an essay to ask himself ‘why we cannot but call ourselves Christian’, at this point, perhaps, we should write another one to ask ourselves ‘why we cannot but call ourselves Jews’.”
Emilio Isgrò, 2021
VIDEO – Italian President Sergio Mattarella’s allocution on the occasion of the official inauguration of Emilio Isgro’s installation in the Quirinale, Rome (January 27, 2021)
VIDEO – About the Quirinale Collection, Rome