Franck Goddio
Robert Wilson
Press Office
    Cities and sunken treasures | Visit | Catalogue | The Hilti Foundation | La Venaria Reale

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Visit through the exhibition. Design by Robert Wilson and music by Laurie Anderson

In accordance to his poetics, while designing “Egypt. Sunken Treasures” at the Reggia della Venaria Reale, Wilson has decided to focus on the structure of the space and on the emotional impact resulting from it; this artifice by paradox enables the art work to be properly shown, lit and emphasized. By manipulating the existing space in different ways, the exhibition design tells a story, stages its own play, invites the visitor to observe the artworks from new, surprising points of view.

The visit through the exhibition spaces of the Stables and the Citrus Greenhouse is structured as a journey through 10 different environments that are connected by a geometric symmetry. The names of the environments are kept in English; in fact, the strong emotional impact and immediate semantic perception they offer is an integral part of the artist’s work as well.
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Room I A Prologue

This space is the exhibition entrance, and will be hosting a visual installation (videos, pictures, drawings), providing the public with all necessary historical and geographical information before entering the exhibition.
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Room II A Ocean Corridor

A long and narrow dark corridor, a sort of decompression chamber where the wonderful spaces of the Reggia della Venaria Reale’s gardens are cancelled, lights denied, all colours merge to become pitch-black. The darkness of side walls opens into a long slit at eye level, running from the entrance to the end of the corridor, with the images of underwater explorations. The soundtrack that includes crashing ocean waves accompanies the public during this passage ending in front of a huge stone: the monumental Stone of Ptolemy VIII Euergetes II, one of the most extraordinary monuments found in the city of Heracleion and a typical example of the dynasty’s royal propaganda.
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Room III A Contemplation Space

This room suddenly overturns the previous space features: a big room, all white and fully illuminated, hosts just one little precious object on a pedestal. The object is a canopus vase; the vase lid has the shape of the head of Osiris, and its surface is decorated with sacred scenes. The object, symbolizing the mystery of embalming practices, epitomizes at the same time faith in eternal life after death. The sound becomes soft, meditative.
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Room IV A Sunken Forest

The room is open, without any ceiling, the music is triumphant: statues and very large stone pieces fill the space as trees of an underwater forest. This set up allows the public to wander through the artworks and be confronted by their huge scale. From this room onwards, the objects found in the three cities are presented according to a thematic approach; however, the public is still able to recognize their provenance.
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Room V A Treasures Honeycomb

The space is once again changed and the visitor is now dealing with objects of very small dimensions. The room is a sort of underwater honeycomb where the long sides are dedicated to containers and vases, the short ones to coins and jewellery. The sounds of hammering or chiselling remind us of the workshops of mysterious sculptors.
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Room V B Sphinx Box

While going towards this room, the solidity of the honeycomb turns into the evanescence of a transparent gauze that contains all the dignified and mysterious sphinxes guarding the Naos of the Decades, one of the most important pieces of the exhibit.
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Room IV B Liquid Space

Once again the visitors go back to a choreography in circles around a forest of aquaria, immersed in the transparence of the Liquid Space environment, where the objects are visible from both sides of the high and geometric vertical structures.
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Room III B Waves Power

The shapes are once again soft and sinuous, alike sea waves. Six containers made of transparent gauze present in succession the last object selection.
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Room II B Coral Tunnel

The space squeezes again into the long tunnel leading to the exit, the walls of which look like a dark coral reef. Here, visitors can discover the objects through the portholes in the walls, that open up like mysterious eyes of a coral reef.
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Room I B Queen’s Dream

The last image that accompanies the visitor towards the exit is instead mysterious and rarefied. The last room houses the most sensual and moving sculpture, the statue (unfortunately headless) of a woman who seems to rise from the waters after a ritual and mysterious bath. Her posture reminds those of the Egyptian queens; however, her dress, with the appealing “wet draping” technique, corresponds to a typical Greek aesthetic. The representation of this goddess or queen is surrounded with mystery: a personification of Isis-Aphrodite and, at the same time, a portrait of controversial, eccentric queen Arsinoe II? This enigma and the rarefied space around the statue exalt the charm and beauty of this extraordinary artwork.
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