ITALIAN ARTS & DESIGN: THE 20TH CENTURY at Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen's Park), to January 7. $ 18, stu/srs $15, Friday after 4:30 pm $5. 416-586-8000. Rating: NN Rating: NN
The anticlimactic Italian Arts & Design show at the ROM is like a cold espresso after a morning jog. The exhibition's ambition is to show everything, but unfortunately, it explains nothing.
Nearly 300 Italian works are crammed together in four chronological sections covering the early 20th century to the millennium. The show promises to illustrate how different zeitgeists in Italy gave form to great works of art and design but fails to deliver on this huge aspiration.
The spectator is never told the connection between the grander story of design and the individual pieces. For the aficionado who wants to know details about a particular necklace, the materials of futuristic chairs or watersheds in television design, the ROM is the place to be.
Although the organizing principle of the show is coherent, to the naturally curious lay person, the information is limited rather than generous.
The show contains some thought-provoking and truly sensational pieces, like Renato Bertelli's sculpture of Mussolini. Its simple form idealizes the notorious fascist dictator, making him appear both fascinating and menacing. The curvy, sexy Vespa scooter is another high point. It is the icon of Italy's cultural success moulded in chrome and steel. These moments give clarity, but they don't reduce the disappointment.
This show missed a major opportunity.