Pola Francesca Professore AssociatoPhilosophyL-ART/03




Francesca Pola is Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History at the Faculty of Philosophy of Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele in Milan, where she also teaches Art Criticism and Literature and collaborates on the activities of the ICONE and CRISI (as member of the Board of Directors) Research Centers and on the Editorial Team of Critical Journal of the History of Ideas.

Education and other teaching and academic activities

She holds a degree, a postgraduate degree and a PhD from the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan, where since 1999 she has held seminars and courses in contemporary art history and the interdisciplinary management and enhancement of cultural heritage. Since 2003 she has been teaching contemporary art history and communication courses at IES Abroad, The Institute for the International Education of Students of Chicago (Milan venue), with particular attention to interdisciplinary and intercultural teaching, digital and post-digital culture, as well as related innovation practices.Due to her intense intercultural activity, both at the didactic and academic and at the scientific and curatorial level (for Italian and international museums, foundations, galleries, publishers and cultural institutions), in 2016 she was awarded the title of Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer and taught at Northwestern University in Evanston (Chicago).Research activity

Her research on Italian art of the Twentieth century has been constantly accompanied by a comparative attention to the international context. Among her main lines of historical-critical investigation, we can indicate:

The Italian and international context of the 1950s and 1960s, studied in depth in particular through various publications about Piero Manzoni (all produced in close collaboration with the Piero Manzoni Foundation) and the international network of Azimut/h and the ZERO movement, which have contributed decisively to an original redefinition of international studies in this field, due to their systematization of unpublished materials and perspectives; also through monographs dedicated to its significant exponents (such as Agostino Bonalumi, Paolo Scheggi, Walter Leblanc, herman de vries, Heinz Mack) and two important documentary films (Piero Manzoni, artista produced by Good Day Films and Sky Arte HD and Piero Manzoni and ZERO published together with the book of the same title);

American art of the Twentieth century and its connections with the Italian and European context, which she developed in particular in the numerous and significant studies commissioned by the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice (among others, about Carlo Cardazzo, Giuseppe Capogrossi, the reception of Piet Mondrian after World War II, the redefinition of the idea of ​​image in the 1960s, and the in-depth historical-critical essays dedicated to works and authors of the New York School) and by Intesa Sanpaolo about the Luigi and Peppino Agrati Collection;

The art system as a complex, dynamic, multifaceted and multiform entity, with particular reference to the contexts of Milan, Rome, Turin, from World War II to the 1970s, thoroughly investigated both in their specificities and in their dialogues, through important exhibition and editorial projects focused on the research and systematization of unpublished materials, including the cycle of exhibitions and publications “MACROradici del contemporaneo” (2009-2011), created as Curator of the MACRO museum in Rome (devoted to Cesare Zavattini’s paintings, the exhibitions Vitalità del negativo nell’arte italiana 1960/1970 and Contemporanea, L'Attico gallery and Fabio Sargentini, Bice Lazzari); the impressive Torino sperimentale 1959-1969 project based on in-depth research in over 40 contemporary archives; the contribution The art context in Milan and Turin: a bipolar and ramified identity published for the Moderna Museet in Stockholm on the occasion of the exhibition and catalogue Time & Place. Milan-Turin 1958-1968 (2008); significant art documentaries (including Swinging Roma, produced by Good Day Films and Sky Arte HD and devoted to the Roman art context of the 1960s); original contributions about crucial figures of the Italian art scene such as Lucio Fontana, Mimmo Rotella, Mario Schifano;

Contemporary sculpture, with monographs about leading figures such as Pietro Consagra, Gianni Piacentino, Mauro Staccioli;

Ugo Mulas’s “critical photography”, to which she has devoted various exhibitions and essays, aimed in particular at emphasizing the originality of Mulas's photographic vision as a privileged visual interpretation of contemporary art; among these, the essay about Mulas's relationship with American art (in particular in the photographic book New York: the new art scene), and the monograph Ugo Mulas. Intrecci creativi / Creative Intersections, which is the first systematic critical investigation of his photographic interpretation of Italian art from the 1950s to his death in 1973;

Abstract researches of the Twentieth century, interpreted in an international and interdisciplinary perspective, with particular attention to Italian art of the 1950s and 1960s (with monographs on leading figures such as, for example, Atanasio Soldati, Giuseppe Santomaso, Toti Scialoja, Mario Nigro, Rodolfo Aricò, Emilio Scanavino, Piero Dorazio and extensive contributions dedicated to Giuseppe Capogrossi, Tancredi Parmeggiani, Carla Accardi), to European kinetic and programmed experiences (with monographs on leading figures such as Gianni Colombo, Alberto Biasi, François Morellet, Grazia Varisco), to the redefinition of the idea of ​​painting from the end of the Sixties (with significant contributions on leading figures such as Niele Toroni, Alan Chalrton, David Tremlett), up to their most recent multimedia evolutions (with significant contributions on younger authors such as Michel Verjux, Francesco Candeloro, Arthur Duff).

She is curator of archives of post-war Italian artists (Rodolfo Aricò, Carlo Ciussi, Mario Nigro) and develops projects for the curation and enhancement of environmental and historical-artistic sites of particular cultural value, such as the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea all’Aperto di Morterone and the project Contemporary Art at Villa Pisani.

She is member of the scientific committee of the Cesare Zavattini Archive in Reggio Emilia, of the international scientific committee of the ZERO foundation in Düsseldorf, and of the strategic committee of the Walter et Nicole Leblanc Foundation in Brussels.

Previous activities

From 2009 to 2011 she was Curator of MACRO Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome, where she developed in particular the innovative interdisciplinary project “MACROradici del contemporaneo”; she has also made significant documentary films on contemporary artists and movements, some of which co-produced and broadcast by Sky Arte HD. Her constant commitment to the study, curation and enhancement of cultural heritage has resulted in her participation in various historical-artistic projects for important collections (such as the Ca’ Granda or the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana) and in particular since 2002 with numerous activities, research, study and promotion carried out for the Intesa Sanpaolo Collection. For this, she also conceived and curated (with Zenit Arti Audiovisive) the first permanent multimedia itinerary in an Italian museum, inaugurated at the Gallerie d'Italia in Milan in 2012 (expanded in 2015); a similar itinerary was added to the Gallerie d'Italia in Vicenza since 2014. From 2015 to 2020 she has been Italian correspondent of the American magazine Artforum.

(Update july 2022)


Publications (selection)

Spaces of Light. Piero Dorazio and the International ZERO Movement, Skira, Milan, 2021.

Giuseppe Santomaso. Pittura animata, Skira, Milan, 2019.

Ugo Mulas. Creative intersections / Intrecci creativi, Marsilio, Venice, 2019.

Piero Manzoni and ZERO. A European Creative Region, Electa, Milan, 2018 (con film documentario).

Pietro Consagra. Frontal Sculpture / Scultura frontale, Marsilio, Venice, 2018.

Gianni Piacentino. Opere / Works 1965-2017, Carlo Cambi Editore, Poggibonsi (FI), 2018.

Walter Leblanc, Mercatorfonds, Brussels, 2016.

Artists Take the Lead: Strategies of Imagination in Italy, 1957-1967, in The Artist as Curator. Collaborative Initiatives in the International ZERO Movement 1957-1967, ZERO foundation, Düsseldorf e AsaMER, Gand, 2015.

Agostino Bonalumi. All the Shapes of Space 1958-1976, Skira – Rizzoli, Milan, 2013.

Una visione internazionale. Piero Manzoni e Albisola, Electa, Milan 2013.

Laboratorio Schifano, Electa, Milan, 2010 (with L. M. Barbero).

Manzoni. Azimut, Gagosian Gallery, London and Fondazione Piero Manzoni, Milan, 2011.

Torino sperimentale 1959-1969. Una storia della cronaca: il sistema delle arti come avanguardia, catalogo della mostra, Giulio Bolaffi Editore, Torino, 2010 (with G. Bertolino).

Cesare Zavattini inedito, Electa, Milan, 2009 (with G. Mastinu).

Toti Scialoja. Tempo come gesto assoluto, Gli Ori, Prato, 2008.

(update july 2022)

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