Fascist-Era Artefacts in Italy: From Iconoclasm to Critical Preservation

Carmen Belmonte

Mario Sironi, L’Italia tra le Arti e le Scienze, detail, 1935, mural painting, Aula Magna, Palazzo del Rettorato, Università La Sapienza, Rome.

Many urban projects realized during the Ventennio remain part of the Italian landscape and, together with architectural monuments and works of art, create a constellation of surviving images of Fascist visual culture in contemporary Italy. As part of the national cultural heritage these artefacts are protected by preservation laws. However, in the ambiguous process whereby Italy confronts its Fascist and colonial past, they have also become a nexus of critical debate and political struggle.

This project focuses on the cultural and material history of Fascist-era monuments and works of art, and examines their afterlife and reception in the longue durée. Taking as a starting point the iconoclasm following the Fall of the Regime the research will explore the ambiguous transition from Fascism to the Republic, the dynamics of postwar censorship, and the subsequent commitment of art historians instead to study, restore, and preserve these monuments and works of art. Probing the theoretical concept of 'difficult heritage' in relation to the peculiarities of the Italian case, the project also addresses issues of restoration, display, and critical preservation of Fascist-era artefacts currently located in public and institutional spaces investigating contemporary strategies of memorialization and the potential role of contemporary art interventions on politically-charged monuments.


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