Kunstmuseum Schloss Derneburg is pleased to announce an exhibition by Francesco Clemente opening on 17 June 2023. The show features a seminal group of 12 self-portraits in which Clemente depicts himself as each of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles. In this series, Clemente’s legacy of self-portraiture and spirituality manifests within a biblical narrative. Francesco Clemente: Self Portraits as the Twelve Apostles is presented alongside The Passion, a group exhibition that examines the use of Christian iconography in contemporary art, while paying homage to Schloss Derneburg’s long ecclesiastical history.
Francesco Clemente was born in Naples, Italy in 1952. Employing a unique visual language, he is one of the most recognized figures of the Neo-Expressionist movement of the 1970s and ‘80s. Clemente’s fifty-year career began with studies in Rome, where he connected with mentor Alighiero Boetti and was introduced to the work of Arte Povera artists. In 1973, Clemente made his first visit to India, later establishing a studio in Madras and re-locating to New York in 1982. Combining influences from his own Southern Italian upbringing with a deep interest in non-Western cultures such as the study of religious text and folk traditions in India, Clemente’s commitment to the figure in varied media is recognized for its spiritual symbolism and ephemeral sensibility.
Exploring themes of identity and of the self, Clemente has routinely considered his own portrait since 1979. The group of paintings which comprise ‘The Apostles’ were first presented at the artist’s exhibition in 2011 at the Uffizi gallery in Florence. In his self-portraits, Clemente adapts the canonical attributes from key figures in the New Testament, and quoting the theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, declared “a flame of love for oneself and for the world.” The history of Schloss Derneburg first as a monastery and then as an artist’s home and studio provides a unique context for this exhibition. By the 12th century Derneburg had become the home of various religious orders, beginning with canons of St. Augustine who established an abbey in 1143.
In Self-Portrait as St. Matthew (2011), Clemente’s face is framed between extended red wings, and his arms crossed in prayer. In Self-Portrait as Judas (2011), Clemente depicts himself facing frontally as Jesus, and again in profile as Judas, whispering into his own ear. Completed this year, Self-Portrait as St. Thomas, Revisited (2023), reinterprets a painting of the same title as a ghost image of the first, in which red and gold outlines define a sinuous inspection of a doubting figure - a finger placed within the deep cut of a human’s torso in homage to Caravaggio.
The Apostles are presented alongside Clemente’s earlier painting, For an History of Women (2009), which centers on a celestial orbit of floating nuns. In a shifting of perspective, the nuns gaze is both downward and outward by nature of the painting’s orientation. The clandestine grouping is overlayed with the stenciled brand names of mood stabilizing medications, including Prozac, Oxycontin, Adderall and Ritalin. Each figure’s clasped hands resemble the hands of The Apostles, emphasizing their importance as a means of worship and supplication. The composition suggests a reverence for history painting and spiritual contemplation, while referencing the coping mechanisms of a modern world.
Francesco Clemente studied architecture at the Università degli Studi di Roma, La Sapienza in Rome in 1970, before turning his focus instead to art. In 2002, Clemente was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His work has been presented at numerous international institutions, including Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Royal Academy of Arts, London; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Bologna; Guggenheim Museum, New York; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; Sezon Museum of Art, Tokyo and Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. His work is featured in institutional collections, including the Albertina Museum, Vienna; Art Institute of Chicago; Miami Art Museum; Kunstmuseum Basel; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao and New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Clemente lives and works in New York, Chennai (formerly Madras), and Varanasi, India.
This exhibition is organized in collaboration with Vito Schnabel Gallery.
For more information and images, please contact the Hall Art Foundation’s administrative office at firstname.lastname@example.org.