Marco Tonelli: Ancient and Classical Heritage in Contemporary Art

Cornell in Rome Fall 2017 Lecture Series

Born in 1971, Marco Tonelli is a contemporary art critic. He teaches history of contemporary art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Foggia, Italy. Between 2013 and 2014 he was the curator of several site-specific exhibitions at the Palazzo del Te in Mantova, Italy, including those of Fabrizio Plessi, Bill Viola, Candida Höfer, Mimmo Paladino, and Bertozzi and Casoni.

Tonelli was a member of the invitation committee for the 2005 XIV Quadriennale di Roma, and editor in chief of the art and culture magazine Terzo Occhio in 2008. He received a degree in history of contemporary art at Università La Sapienza of Rome in 1996, a post-graduate in 2000, and a Ph.D. in history of art in 2004 at the Università degli Studi of Siena.

Tonelli's most recent publication is Francis Bacon: le "atmosfere" letterarie (De Luca Editori, 2014). He is the curator of the General Catalogue of the sculptures of Pino Pascali (1964-1968) and has written books and essays about modern sculpture and ancient memory. His articles have been published in magazines including FMR, Arte, Art e Dossier, Mozart, Logos, Agalma, Terzo Occhio, Look Lateral, ContemporArt, and Global Magazine. He is currently working on a book about the sculptures of Alberto Burri.


Contemporary art has many links and relationships with ancient and classical art, in so many forms (citationism, parody, irony, deconstruction, actualization) that it is impossible to synthesize them. Tonelli's approach is an emblematic one, in that it attempts to reinvent contemporary art through the art of the past, reading works of artists like Francis Bacon, Alberto Giacometti, Jeff Koons, Marc Quinn, Bill Viola, Giulio Paolini, Charles Ray, Luigi Ontani, and many others as a reinvention of the past more than an homage or debt to it.

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