Cross the Streets - Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome



curated by Paulo Lucas von Vacano
Open to the public: May 7 – October 1 2017
MACRO – Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome
MACRO Sala and Sala Bianca – Via Nizza 138, Rome

Cross the Streets is a multimedia exhibition that masterfully historicizes the street art phenomenon, the most globally influential art movement of the last 40 years. For the first time in Rome, a counterculture—by now part of the mainstream—enters a museum, the MACRO Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome. The exhibition will be on display from May 7th  to October 1st 2017.

Promoted by the Municipality of Rome and by the Department of the Cultural Development – Superintendant Capitolina for Cultural Affairs, the exhibition is conceived and produced by Drago, together with nufactory (promoter and producer of the Outdoor festival), the ABC Project of Lazio and with the organizational support and Museum Services of the Zètema Culture Project. The exhibition is endorsed by CONI.

The project was inspired by fundamental concepts of Paulo Lucas von Vacano’s research on the Street counterculture and all of its derivatives. As he explains in the exhibition catalogue, “the street watches [and] the street governs [...]. Choosing creativity instead of crime is a stance that encourages art, music and sports. The revolution occurs when the street enters the museum and the museum becomes the street. Those who survive the streets, rule the world!”

Street art is a unique avant-garde that unifies youth, minorities, and  the marginalized in an era of globalization. Cross the Streets at the MACRO will present a comprehensive introspection on street art through a kaleidoscope of urban art movements, including graffiti, stencil art, pop-surrealism, photography, and film. Street art in its various forms, from graffiti writing to mural painting, has a deep impact on the collective imagination. Originating as an underground movement of youthful protest, street art has positively invaded advertising, the fashion, film, and music industries, and the world at large. Cross the Streets aims to express the power of this complex and fascinating movement, highlighting its pioneers and its influence on daily life. The show will also examine street art’s role in inspiring fashion trends and the history of Roman graffiti.

The exhibition is conceived by Paulo von Vacano and produced by Drago. It fills the entire MACRO museum and includes over 180 works.

The section “Street Art Stories” details the birth and evolution of street art through a myriad of different artists who have contributed to the show with their unique styles and mediums. Entering the area, visitors are welcomed by a 14 meter site-specific installation by one of the biggest names in street art, WK Interact, whose investigation of the urban lifestyle in his art has given life to a post futuristic scene. Next, one encounters walls “conquered” by the mosaics of Invader, the French street artist who’s iconic, pixelated work is inspired by 8-bit video games. The artist invaded Rome’s streets in 2010.

The enormous Middle East Mural (over 10 meters) produced by Shephard Fairey aka Obey the Giant— the American street artist best known for his Obama Hope poster— will be shown for the first time in Europe, alongside a diverse selection of thirty of his works, selected from different stages in his career.

Adding to the atmosphere is the exposition Keith Haring Deleted, care of Claudio Crescentini, that presents a series of photographs by Stefano Fontebasso De Martino. The photos (from the MACRO – CRDAV collection) are a testament to the murals painted by Keith Haring on the Palazzo delle Esposizioni of Rome (1984) which were later whitewashed for political reasons. Also by Stefano Fontebasso De Martino, are photographs (1984-86, private collection) of another operation by Keith Haring in Rome on the transparent panels of the bridge where the A line Flaminio-Lepanto metro crosses the Tiber river. This artwork was also “deleted”.

An immense portion of wall (5 x 10 meters per artist) is designated for street art icons whose works in a range of techniques from dripping to stencil and poster to canvas, add to the exhibition. Produced specifically on-site for the occasion of Cross the Streets, each original work characterizes its author’s style through the artistic medium of their choice. Artists invited to create works hail from all over the globe. To name a few;  Mirko Reisser (DAIM) – the German street artist who revolutionized graffiti writing and is known as the King of 3D painting, Chaz Bojorquez – the tattoo idol known as the godfather of Cholo Writing, a form of West Coast calligraphy-style graffiti, and Evol – famous for his miniature and elaborate urban landscapes. Among the Roman artists are, Diamond, known for his distinct style— a cross between Art Nouveau and old school tattooing—Lucamaleonte, master of stencil, and JBRock, who is presenting a collection of posters originating from his street interventions.

Other artists on display are Mike Giant, Sten and Lex, Will Barras, Cope2, Doze Green, Roa, Swoon, Fafi, Koralie, Miss Van, Hyuro, Jeremy Fish, Microbo, Bo130, Galo, 2501, Moneyless, Giacomo Spazio, Solomostry. The viewer is then guided into a whole new artistic realm dedicated to pop-surrealism in street art that includes the works of Ray Caesar, Mark Ryden, Marion Peck, Camille Rose Garcia, Kazuki Takamatsu, Yosuke Ueno. The surreal setting also hosts wacky, eye-catching sculptures (called toys) by Ron English, the American artist who explores brand imagery and advertising through diverse channels, including comic book collaging.

Another area dedicated to street photography exposes the sharp images of acclaimed photographers Estevan Oriol, Glen E. Friedman, Ed Templeton and Boogie.

A second exhibition, “Writing a Roma, 1979-2017”, curated by Christian Omodeo, the founder of Le Grand Jeu (the French urban art bookshop),  is dedicated to the relationship between Rome and Writing. The show focuses on graffiti writing in the Roman sphere through a timeline beginning in December 1979 when the Medusa Gallery presented the first graffiti exhibition outside of the U.S. On display, are a rediscovered group of works by Lee Quinones and Fab 5 Freddy—thought to be missing for forty years— that open a window onto the generations of local graffiti writers who have turned Rome into a capital of international graffiti writing. The exposition also pays tribute to the trains of Rome’s metro system. No other city in the world can compete with Rome’s impressive number of graffitied trains. Unlike in other European cities, trains in Rome were not wiped of their graffiti tags, but rather left untouched for thirty years, free to flash their bright messages in transit. Accompanying the works of Quinones and Fab 5 Freddy, are pieces by Napal and Brus, Jon and Koma, Imos, the photographer Valerio Polici, and the crews TRV and Whystyle.

Nearby, an area called “Milestones” narrates the story of street art by outlining the groundbreaking events that mark the history of the movement. Among these are the exhibitions of Studio 14 and International Poster Art in the early 2000s, as well as, the project Izastikup, the birth of the Outdoor Festival, and “Fuck You All”, a 1998 Glen Friedman exhibition (works from which are being lent by the curator Rita Luchetti Bartoli).

The logo of the exhibition has been designed by Deep Masito, frontman of the roman rap group, Colle der Fomento, and among the most gifted Lettering artists today.

The entire exhibition has been set up by Studio Ma0, a team of architects founded in Rome in 1996. Over the years, Studio Ma0’s work has expanded to incorporate multimedia installations in keeping with the company’s mission to connect architecture and media.

Ma0’s design brings the street art language into the museum. For Cross the Streets, the MACRO is filled with portable and impermanent items, from traffic signs brought in off the streets and into the museum’s great hall, to the very scaffoldings which have been used to transform the huge space into a fascinating urban scene. The exhibition’s design incorporates all the components belonging to the street art movement in a way that is thought-provoking and quintessentially modern. Many of the materials used will be recycled as part of future building projects, which makes Cross the Streets the most significant production to be designed by Ma0. The intention of the design is to reflect a constructive process in which waste is minimized and the life of the materials used does not end with the exhibition but continues elsewhere.

A Cross the Streets catalogue will also be produced by the publishing house Drago. The catalogue will contain colour photographs of every item on display accompanied by texts and behind-the-scenes details on the operations of the curators and museum staff. A fanzine will be published for the occasion of Cross the Streets, containing interviews, reportage, and advertising in reference to the agencies partnered with the project, as well as related activities and services.

A presentation of the new book The Street is Watching, published by Drago, will take place during the exhibition. The Street is Watching is one of the most comprehensive anthologies of street art photography ever assembled (440 pages). It records over 50 years of street art history and includes the works of over 100 artists, such as Mary Ellen Mark, Martha Cooper, Bruce Davidson, Jim Goldberg, Nan Goldin, and Ryan McGinley.

Parallel to the exhibition, between June and October, there will be a series of lectures organized by the Superintendant Capitolina for Cultural Affairs on topical issues related to street art and urban art, such as, issues of ownership, rights of the artist, legality and conservation, as well as iconography, semiotics in graffiti writing, and the relationship between the artist and the spectator. Moreover, as Rome is a city with 40 years of urban art heritage, an open invitation to participate in the exhibition through the sharing of Roman street “stories” has been issued to all the municipalities of the Rome Capital.

On the 20th of May, the artist JBRock will perform a rare demonstration of art sharing during the special event “The Moleskine Black Wall”. The mural, entitled “Moleskine, il tuo universo” (Molskine, your universe), will be produced on a wall composed of 960 classic Moleskine notebooks. These very notebooks, dubbed Black Books, belong to graffiti writers who use them to prepare their works through sketching. Each Black Book will be tagged with a QR code. Every single Black Book will be available for purchase by the public on the Moleskine e-store. The proceeds ofthe Black Books sale will go to charitable causes. The live performance of JBRock will be filmed by the television company Amanita Production.

Cross the Streets includes a program of six evening events and a movie screening. Beginning on May 14th, the Sky Arte Arena program will present a series of screenings dedicated to street art in the Odile Decq auditorium at the MACRO. 10 screening events will take place in collaboration with the channel Sky Arte, presenting films such as Banksy’s Dismaland the Official Unofficial Film, Graffiti a New York, Ronnie Cutrone – Everything is a Cartoon to Me. Entrance to the movie screenings is free for those who purchased an entrance ticket to the exhibition.

The exhibition will kick off with an inauguration party on the evening of Saturday, May 6th at 20:30 (open to the public with purchase of entrance ticket) celebrating the Rap, Hip Hop scene and its leading figures. The event will be Block Party themed, in honor of the opening of Cross the Streets and the 10th anniversary of GRAFFDREAM, an international point of reference for Writing and Aereosol Art. Promising to be a legendary evening, the inauguration party will offer over four hours of dancing, live performances, and throwback music selected by experts of the Italian music scene. The result will be a  musical excursioninto African-American music. The stars of the event will be: DJ Double, the official DJ of Fabri Fibra, and Macro Marco, the “King of Clash” and winner of the  Red Bull Music Academy Culture Clash. The sounds of Rome Zoo DJ’s, the famed Roman hip-hop/rap group, will be covered by the expert digital skills of DJ Stile & DJ Baro. Special guests include, AlienDee aka “The Humanoid Beatboxer”, arguably the best European beatboxer, and the artist Katzuma aka Deda (once the lead rapper of the band Sangue Misto). Katzuma, with a new funk-house project has collaborated on stage and off with the musicians, Kraftwerk, Moodyman, John Morales, Fred Wesley, and Egreen, one of the hottest names in the underground Italian rap scene, famous for his hardcore attitude and energetic performances.