Palazzo Monti, Brescia, Italy

Palazzo Monti is an artist residency program based in Brescia, housed in a palazzo dating back to 1200. Palazzo Monti, launched in March 2017, is an Artist Residency program located in an eight centuries old palazzo in the city of Brescia, Italy. The building also hosts Edoardo Monti’s private collection.

The project is completely independent from any institutions and funded by the Monti family. Artists are selected anonymously by the Board whose members are based in New York, London, Seoul, Paris and Brescia. The program is open to all international artists and offers the opportunity to explore different mediums. The residency program is working with a diverse range of local artisans, which gives the opportunity to explore new productions.

The Palazzo is an incubator for creativity and productivity, offering artists a chance to find inspiration, forge new relationships and create collaborations. Built in the XIII century, the residence is conveniently located at a short distance from Milan, Venice and Florence, offering resident artists the chance to visit culturally rich cities for research and inspiration. Decorated with Neoclassicist frescos from the late 1750s, the Palazzo provides an inspiring setting to create contemporary art.

The artist in residence will be provided an apartment, a studio and a gallery space.

The Building
Just over a year old, Palazzo Monti warms its idyllic 13th-century residence to emerging and established artists as a unique retreat amidst a charming northern Italian city near Milan–Brescia. For artists and guests alike, a residency equals valuable time and space for creativity and cultural exchange, but it could also transpire as an inspiring escape in novel, far-flung destinations: Villa Lena is a rustic 19th-century villa in a bucolic part of Tuscany; Casa Wabi, a Tadao Ando-designed concrete oasis, sits on a remote beach in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Palazzo Monti in Brescia offers a well-situated environment near Lake Garda and Lake Iseo, and a short drive to neighboring city Bergamo, majestic marble quarries, museums, and wineries amongst well-preserved Roman and Medieval architecture and ruins.

Edoardo Monti, founder of Palazzo Monti, encourages his guests to envision his mother’s former childhood residence as their own Neoclassical fresco-filled home-away-from-home. The palazzo is an 18-room estate with seemingly infinite corridors leading to rooms inlaid with warm cotto (cooked clay) tiles and hidden passageways to other floors. Eyes are naturally led above to the Roman and Greek mythology fresco scene ceilings that crown each airy room. And the walls of the grand marble and stone staircase–the jewel of the palazzo–are entirely covered in more flourishing frescos. At just the right moment of the day, the light reveals a delicate chiaroscuro effect on the trompe l’oeil paintings.

The rooms, although elaborate with frescos, are left almost bare to allow guests to partake in its evolving décor and rotating art exhibitions in the context of Brescia’s historic, artisan environment: classic public squares, old stone fountains, and traces of beautifully mismatched architecture aggregated from centuries of building practices. Collaborating closely with his artists- and designers-in-residence, Edoardo commissions art and furniture to be created from local resources and produced with the area’s most talented artisans– a union ripe with significant cultural exchange and lasting working relationships between locals and residency guests.

Upon the news of a much anticipated Ritz Paris auction after a four-year long renovation, Edoardo traveled immediately to procure special pieces that could promote a dialogue with the guests-in-residence, their practices, and contributions to the palazzo: a silk double canapé striped in thick bands of cream and gold, a convertible triple canopy bed in blush velvet from the Imperial Room, and one of the glass vitrines that once welcomed guests at the hotel’s entrance hall. The idea being that each artwork and piece left behind will contribute to the palazzo’s ever-evolving narrative as a collaborative home-away-from-home for the artist’s retreat.

For an artist’s retreat at Palazzo Monti, little is required, one will realize. A few simple, high quality pieces go a long way, especially if they are made by hand–pairing well with the region’s longstanding artisanal legacy. True for many evenings in Italy and at the palazzo, large Italian family-style dinners are as frequent as the daily aperol spritz or two to cool off from the heat. To prepare for them, go early to the local market, point to your desired produce, and carry them gracefully in a Filt net bag or a slender Palmgrens wicker market bag (also great for newspapers).

Artist’s residence
Young international artists and designers live side by side in Palazzo Monti, in the historic city centre of Brescia. A permanent hotbed of creativity

A marble staircase and frescoed vaults. A noble residence in a thirteenth-century palace. A bold choice, with a feel that is international but rooted in the territory, and for that reason one that’s unique and difficult to replicate. Here the activity is feverish. In the year and a half since it opened, Palazzo Monti has welcomed hundreds of artists with different solo and group exhibitions, but also concerts, performances, dinners and studio visits.

Young people from 42 countries, from Brazil to Australia, stayed for about six weeks each in a room-atelier: painters, sculptors, photographers, but also designers. They included Sabine Marcelis, Guillermo Santoma, Soft Baroque and Fredrik Paulsen, who left lamps, chairs and tables as furniture for the building. One of the latest, the young Ilaria Bianchi who worked on the topic of the divider, created delicate structures, sprouted from the encounter with the rooms’ frescoes, but also with local artisans.

The project has brought life back to the family building. It’s a workshop that is permanently open, even to the city. It gathers together artists, ideas and works. And it’s beginning to attract an international audience, from talent scouts to gallery owners and collectors. The programme is free, all participants have to do is donate a piece they created within its walls. “The atmosphere is convivial”, says Edoardo Monti, with eyes that sparkle with enthusiasm. “The common areas, like the large dining room, also welcome artists at work on a rotating basis. Daily conservation thus turns into exchanges and collaboration. That’s why we receive a thousand requests a year. And word of mouth is growing.”

Ground floor

Permanent collection
A big celebration of Palazzo Monti’s first two years. We presented part of the collection built with artworks donated by past residents and part of Edoardo Monti’s private collection, a solo show of Lady Tarin and a performance by Fabio Tavares.

The artists on display include: Chloe Wise, Matthew Stone, Kyle Vu-Dunn, Antonio Fiorentino, Brad Greenwood, Oscar Giaconia, Laurel Johannesson, Ryan Hewett, Ilaria Bianchi, Davide Ronco, Antonia Showering, Nadav Gazit, Sinead Breslin, Loribelle Spirovski, Tom Polo, Daniel Martin, Stefano Perrone, Emilio Villalba, Ayako Hirogaki, Joel Muggleton, Angelo Iodice, Heather Chontos, Alberto Torres Hernandez, Pablo Limón, Finbar Ward & Rosie Reed, Beatrice Modisett, Francesco De Prezzo, Kadar Brock, Curtis Santiago, Peter Evans, Bea Bonafini, Nick Rose, Frederik Nystrup Larsen, Liza Lacroix, Caroll Taveras, Chyrum Lambert, Matheus Chiaratti, Savvas Laz, Soft Baroque, Fredrik Paulsen, Andreas Senoner, Mimi Hope, Kate Dunn, Logan Sibrel, Francesca Longhini, Anna Freeman Bentley, Cristina Getson, Nicolas Sala, Alessandro Alghisi, Leonardo Anker Vandal and more.

Upper floor

Palazzo Monti presents “Ossessione”, group show that exhibits works by Ornaghi & Prestinari, Alessandro Piangiamore, Gianni Politi, Benni Bosetto, Federica di Carlo, Antonio Fiorentino, Marco de Sanctis and Federico Tosi, curated by Edoardo Monti. Everything began during one of the many visits to Gianni Politi’s studio in Rome.

Frieze initially drawn by one of his large abstract works, collage of canvas on canvas. A portrait of his father, inspired by a 1770 work by Gaetano Gandolfi, only later, during a studio visit in Rome. The portrait of the father, which Gianni has been reproducing for years, was the seminal concept that gave life to obsession. This fixation contaminates, research and look for contemporary Italian artists, bring to Palazzo Monti into a large collective, whose practice can be defined with: repetition, contamination, control, superstition, order and symmetry, accumulation and pure obsession.

The works of Ornaghi&Prestinari, both made for the exhibition, talk about control, order, symmetry. Confronting themselves with the potential of materials and techniques, the duo is always experimenting while working with ancient and complex practices. In Culla, a gutter becomes a container to house a sleeping head in a congestion of laurel leaves, an emblem of victories and honors. With New, an old, yellow page is painted with watercolor and white pastel, giving it a new opportunity. The slogan, within a typical advertisement shape, manifests the regenerating intention of the artists. Federico Tosi’s practice investigates the origins of matter, combining mathematical laws and creativity. Slime Lapse, a large pencil on paper that appears, changes and develops as you approach the work, also created for the exhibition, shows the artist’s interest in primitive nature, fractals and symmetry. For Federico, every object has needs, every material carries along a lot of information that, engaging with the creative idea, generates interactions between signifiers and their meaning.

Antonio Fiorentino contaminates, creates, destroys. He conducts an alchemical practice, expressing himself through the language of different disciplines such as chemistry, physics, metallurgy. In Dominium Melancholiae, a metal plate is immersed in a solution of water and lead acetate. The union of these elements gives life to a chemical floral composition that covers the entire surface of the slab with unpredictable and delicate branches, which continue to grow during the period of the exhibition. The result is in fact a “landscape” of autonomous forms in continuous change that gives life to a generative process that cannot be interrupted, but tends inexorably towards growth. Alessandro Piangiamore accumulates, collects, preserves. In the series “La cera di Roma” Alessandro makes slabs of wax by melting and combining candle stubs used by various Roman churches. For the collective there are two concrete slabs from the Ieri Ikebana series, where chance is a determining aspect for the formal outcome of the works. By pouring cement on a composition of fresh flowers, the unpredictable end result shows a contrast between the fragile and ephemeral nature of flowers and the hardness and persistence of concrete.

Two works by Benni Bosetto are on show, whose practice is strongly influenced by ritualistic-functional components. To the terracotta sculpture Castirella, part of a series of 16 different sculptures that contain a therapeutic cure against a series of contemporary pathologies, are given the function of demonstrating the presence of an alternative possibility to a scientific / technological reality in crisis and with no way out. The drawing made with quick strokes on fabric, which represents an anthropophagic ritual, anticipates Benni’s thought and accepts error, does not need color or specific support, hence the choice to use only the essential, ink and a fabric found. Cassandra’s window by Federica Di Carlo is part of a body of work inspired by the legend of the priestess of the temple of Apollo. The artist imagines Cassandra staring out of a window and prophesying with her eyes portions of altered, polluted sky with reddish color and iridescent clouds. Desperate, she angrily detaches the window but laying it on the ground, she realizes that the apocalyptic scene of the future persists on the glass. Distraught, she writes by hand on the wooden side of the window her ineffable condition: “In vain did the God ensure that I prophesied and from those who suffer and find themselves in misfortune, I am called wise; but before they suffer, to them I am crazy.“

Marco De Sanctis, with works created during his residency at Palazzo Monti, inaugurates a new cycle of interventions on pre-existing paintings. He works on canvases by minor artists, destined to perish over time in attics and cellars, repairing and cleaning them with obsessive care and finally eroding, until he reaches the canvas, words that describe the intimate meaning of what they represent. Accumulating these canvases, Marco composes a poem that gives the title to the work. By destroying, he creates words, sentences, poetry. Sealing the works in plexiglass, he physically and ethically protects the canvases from oblivion to which they would otherwise be destined.