26 January 2017
“Policemen and other photographers gave me dirty looks and didn’t let me onto mafia crime scenes: I wasn’t credible with my blond hair, clogs and flowered skirts.” These are the precise and biting words of Letizia Battaglia (Palermo, 1935), celebrated in these months by the MAXXI museum with an exhibition of over two hundred photographs, along with magazines, publications, films and interviews. Bearing witness to both the crimes of the mafia and the vitality of her native Sicily, Letizia Battaglia, as combative as her name, has been a photojournalist for the newspaper L’Ora in Palermo, a politician, a publisher and a documentary maker, as well as the first European woman to receive, in New York in 1985, the prestigious W. Eugene Smith Grant, an international mark of recognition set up in memory of the Life photographer. The exhibition at the MAXXI presents materials never previously seen and offers a powerful contextualization, in the form of a map of the city of Palermo (showing the sites of mafia attacks and the location of Battaglia’s home), to which a wall covered with front pages from newspapers of the seventies, eighties and nineties, with their sensational headlines so contemptuous of people’s lives, acts as a counterpoint. Battaglia portrays women, children and public figures, as well as the dead, the mad and disfigured bodies, with a gaze that is filled with humanity and wonder. The complexity of her poetics is explored in an installation entitled Anthologia, made up of 120 pictures printed in large format and hung from the museum’s ceiling, which visitors can walk through as if it were a monumental chessboard. Strictly in black and white, the images are suspended in space and time, like the faces that people them, from Giorgio Boris Giuliano to Ninni Cassarà, from the judge Cesare Terranova and the president of the Sicilian Regione Piersanti Mattarella to General Dalla Chiesa, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. Letizia Battaglia, with her flowered skirts, has never missed an appointment with history, and today, in her eighties now and notwithstanding the risks documented in the exhibition by a threatening letter full of grammatical mistakes, is still here to tell us the tale.
Letizia Battaglia. Just for Passion
Curated by Paolo Falcone, Margherita Guccione and Bartolomeo Pietromarchi
November 24, 2016 – April 17, 2017