Motherhood exhibition opens on Expo sidelines


MILAN, Italy — They called it “The Great Mother,” but organizers of an exhibit focusing on motherhood opening this week on the sidelines of the Milan Expo world’s fair may just as well have been called “Mamma mia.”

Curator Massimiliano Gioni said there was some irony in the choice of theme “because motherhood and the mamma is part of the Italian stereotype, and we wanted to play with that.”

“The more you dig into the idea of motherhood in the 20th century, it is the place where many battles have been fought,” Gioni, who is artistic director at the Nicola Trussardi Foundation that organized the show as well as the New Museum in New York, said by telephone from New York.

The exhibit, which previewed Tuesday, features 400 works by 139 artists, including Cindy Sherman and Yoko Ono, and focuses on motherhood as a form of nourishment to accompany the Expo theme of feeding the planet. Gioni said the show contains many examples of women playing with the image of what motherhood is supposed to project.

“It is not a gallery of beautiful Madonnas and stereotypical mothers, but a much more complete history of the 20th century,” he said.

The exhibit at Palazzo Reale follows the blockbuster Leonardo exhibit that closed in July with more than 230,000 visitors and is Gioni’s first big group show in Italy since he curated the 55th Venice Biennale contemporary art show in 2013. “The Great Mother” closes Nov. 15.