…who was born in the 50’s in Western Europe. At least those of us with sufficient disposable income to afford the occasional cheap flight across the continent (and who knows how many decades that will be sustainable). But we can, and we do, take these trips that my parents would have found quite unobtainable. This time to the ‘Eternal City’ of Rome. Of course the ubiquity of such travel means that the ‘romance’ of such locations is a little tempered by the vast armies of us fetching up in places such as the Trevi Fountain.
I had planned to visit the big set piece museums of contemporary art, MAXXI, Macro and the National Museum. But once here desire evaporated. After all with several thousand years of the most creative endeavour on every street corner just strolling around is a visual education second to none. So instead it has been the most enjoyable flaneur punctuated by the occasional lunch or drink stop. Though fate always plays a part and suddenly we are at the Ponte Sisto and across the river from us is an extraordinary frieze, some 12 metres high and 500 long, by one of my favourite contemporary artists, William Kentridge. The ingenious manner in which the work was realised by washing off the grime in reverse is matched only by the freshness of the drawing despite the technical difficulties of translating small drawings up to such massive size.
‘Triumphs and Laments’ is a terrific work that animates the otherwise dismal pedestrian walkway along the Tiber that seems an interloper into the Eternal City – dirty and neglected for the most part, a stark contrast to the life of the Seine through Paris or the Thames through London. Never one to shy away from controversy in his themes the frieze takes a critical look at the history of this great city and brings visitors to a part of town that seems a world away from St. Peter’s or the Spanish Steps. And the title of the work…seems so pertinent in a world that is becoming more and more polarised.