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Art dealer Lucio Amelio's adventure

by Ada Masoero

Twenty years after gallery owner Lucio Amelio passed away, the art dealer is in the spotlight again in Naples with an exhibition at the Madre, the city's Museum of Contemporary Art.

In Naples, Amelio (1931-1994) worked from 1965 to his death, helping breed a generation of great contemporary art collectors. It is thanks to him that the Capodimonte Museum managed to obtain - among other works - the Alberto Burri’s Great Black Cretto (cracked painting), 1978, which was donated to the museum by painter himself, as well as Andy Warhol's Vesuvius.

The exhibition path begins and ends with the projects for the museum and cultural center for contemporary ar that Amelio intended to open in the monastery of Santa Lucia al Monte, and embraces works by Lucio Fontana, Piero Manzoni, Paolo Scheggi, Alberto Burri, Renato Barisani and Bruno Di Bello (from the second half of the 1960s).

The exhibition continues with works by Jannis Kounellis, one of the leading figures in the Arte Povera movement, of which Amelio went on to be a promoter, both back at the time and in the 1970s.

The section on the 1970s also features previously unexhibited works by James Lee Byars, who was recently rediscovered in the US as well.

Amelio later gave up the basic, stripped-down aesthetics of the 1970s and adventured into painting. It is here that Andy Warhol made his entrance: at this time, the art dealer reached the climax of his career, bringing together two opposite figures (and philosophical approaches) such as those of the American pop artist and of Joseph Beuys, the most radical exponent of the deeply European idea of an art that is deeply immersed in society.

In 1980, Amelio had them meet at a party at the City Hall Café in Naples, which is where Warhol’s portraits of Beuys originated.

On show are also works that the two artists created after the earthquake (the “Fate Presto - Hurry up” triptych by Warhol and the “Terremoto in Palazzo - Earthquake in the Palace” installation by Beuys), in addition to a piece by Nino Longobardi entitled Terrae Motus, which is today pat of the Madre Museum's collection, and a seminal work by Tony Cragg (whose second show ever was held at Amelio's) made of salvaged wood.

Also included are works by Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, Jasper Johns, Gilbert & George, and Ronnie Cutrone.

(Lucio Amelio. From the Modern Art Agency to the genesis of Terrae Motus (1965-1982). Documents, works, a story..., Naples, Museo Madre, until March 9, 2015).