Building an International Identity
257 Conclusion A 1998 retrospective exhibition titled Arte Italiana 1945-1995: Il Visibile e L’Invisibile held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, suggests that Arte Povera and subsequent twentieth-century developments in Italian art have been absorbed into the canon of major international art movements. This is not news, but more specifically, a distinctive character of Italian art that has also been reg- istered in the larger cultural context appears to be its enduring relationship with the national past and historical, cultural environment and with this, the observa- tion that the avant-garde was never really so avant-garde. Midori Matsui writes that the current trend of retrospectives points to a “leveling-out” of the avant- garde and its “transformative potential” (69). She states that “Arte Italiana” reinforces this fact by emphasizing the formal continuity of the Italian avantgarde at the expense of its moral passion and historical impetus. This exhibition never- theless lets younger audiences appreciate the transformations of avantgarde problematics as the history of inheritance, departure, subversion, and sublimation of its past. (69) There are still advocates of the notion that Arte Povera represented a rupture with tradition and had achieved a definitive break with its history, such as Szee- mann, who placed Mario Merz among artists who in his estimation had made this break. He states, Mario Merz belongs to the Italy and to the innovative art of the late Sixties, which in this country had finally succeeded in canceling the nostalgia of historic and artistic treasures and palaces, of elegant...
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