OLIVO BARBIERI: Images 1978 – 2014

Date: March 3rd – April 3rd,  2016 – Opening March 2nd 2016

Location: Centro Cultural Recoleta – Junín 1930, Buenos Aires

Curator: Francesca Fabiani

Promoter: MAXXI , Glocal Project Consulting and Centro Cultural Recoleta Buenos Aires.


untitledRegarded as one of the most interesting Italian photographers, Barbieri is internationally known primarily for his analysis of urban contexts carried out on more than 40 towns and megalopolis of the world during the decade-long project site specific: Roma, Shanghai, Las Vegas, Seville, Torino, Montreal, Beijng, Los Angeles, Amman, Mexico City, New York …

But Barbieri’s work is not linked just to the investigation of urban space and architecture. While these can be identified as the main subjects to which he has aimed his interest, the object of his search however has more to do with the analysis – and questioning – of the concept of perception, i.e. our ability to see and interpret reality, through the experimental use of photography itself.

As Christopher Phillips underlines in the presentation in the Site Specific 2003- 2013 catalogue: «Because Barbieri never regarded the site specific_ series as documentary in intent, instead seeing it as part of an effort to enlarge the scope of photography’s visual language, he continually sought out new means of picturing the cities… Introduction of out-of-register… solid bright color… color photographs and negative reversal black-and- white images…». Centro Cultural Recoleta in collaboration with MAXXI and Glocal Project Consulting dedicates important monographic exhibits to the great names in photography. For some decades now the work of photographers has been interconnected with the study of architectural themes, urban planning, and of “space” in a broad sense, understood both as a physical entity and as the backdrop to ongoing social and geopolitical tensions.

In this context, the Italian panorama boasts some authoritative names: photographers recognized internationally for the critical intelligence with which they view the landscape, giving us images that transcend the stereotypes and which are full of meaning. For the first time in Buenos Aires Centro Cultural Recoleta presents another great author of Italian photography: Olivo Barbieri.


«I was never interested so much in photography as in the images. I believe that my work begins where photography ends».

This seemingly paradoxical statement contains a fundamental key to access Barbieri’s complex studies. It is around this provocation that the design of the exhibit takes shape, conceived as a route along which the work of one of the most important authors of contemporary Italian photography can be read with an innovative and rationally critical angle.

The exhibit displays a selection of works – photographs and films – that illustrate Barbieri’s path from the late 1970s to today: from the first “Flippers” found in an abandoned factory as a play on decadent modern icons to the alienating nocturnal images of urban contexts in opposition to the visions of faces and landscapes from paintings preserved in museums that are even more ambiguous because of their apparent reality; from the exploration of Italian cities and suburbs of the 1980s to the repeated journey to China and far East; to arrive at the aerial views of the 1990s which are his first approach to the work on urban and natural environments that becomes a systematic project with the site specific_ series launched in 2003 and still ongoing.

The structure will be one of a great retrospective which will focus – in six sections – on the different study topics and areas around which Barbieri has developed his own artistic path. The title identifies the fulcrum but does not exhaust the topics covered in each section; it becomes a starting point to investigate various works connected to the same area of study.

Francesca Fabiani